Florida Legislators, Teachers Debate Class Size

The plan is being pushed by Republicans in the state Legislature, but this time one very vocal opponent is going to stay out of the negotiations.

Efforts to repeal the class size amendment failed in the Florida Legislature this year, but the repeal is being pushed again from the highest levels of leadership.

Allan Bense, Florida House Speaker, says, “Teachers need more pay. Some of our buildings are getting old and worn out, but we’re putting all of our eggs in one basket, that’s the class size issue.”

By 2012, class size must be limited depending on the grade, to 18, 22 or 25 students with no exception. The leadership plan now calls for freezing class size as an average county wide, but allowing some variance in individual classes.

Rep. Joe Pickens is pushing the plan.

Rep. Joe Pickens, (R) Palatka, FL, says, “No one class could deviate from that 18-22 or 25 by more than five, for instance, or four or six.”

For the last four years, Jeb Bush has been the most vocal of class size opponents. His presence has polarized the debate. So now the governor says he’ll no longer lead that parade.

Marshall Ogletree with FEA United says, “I think that might be a good idea.”

The Florida teachers union is skeptical, but is for the first time listening.

Marshall Ogletree adds, “You know, we’re committed to having a dialogue. We don’t know if we can go for any change in the amendment, however.”

The teachers will likely get offered big raises to go along with the GOP plan, but for now they say raises are just one part of the equation, and until they see substance they are sticking with the amendment the way it is.

In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Democrats in the Legislature said it’s time for the GOP to stop whining about the class size amendment and obey the Constitution.