Class Size Debate Continues

By: Whitney Ray Email
By: Whitney Ray Email

Tallahassee, FL - Leon High Principal Rocky Hanna had to change some students’ schedules and shift some teachers around, but he made it to the magic number for high school classrooms.

The strictest phase of class size took effect in August, which means no more than 25 students per high school classroom, 22 in middle school and 18 in third grade and below. Hanna once supported Amendment Eight to loosen the restrictions, but now that he’s two months into the final phase of class size, he says smaller classes are workable.

“It took a lot of planning, but we were able to make it work, and if we were able to make it work then every other school in the state of Florida should be able to accomplish the same thing,” said Hanna.

But statewide the mandate is underfunded by 350 million dollars and some school administrators are considering extreme measures to meet the restrictions.

In some districts plans are being hatched to bus students between school zones to make class size work. Amendment Eight would give schools more flexibility to meet the mandate. Florida TaxWatch says it would also save a billion dollars a year.

“What this allows us to do is to spend that money, not on these facilities, not on bureaucracy, but take that money and pay for good teachers, good principals and good academic instruction,” said Dominic Calabro, CEO of TaxWatch.

But opponents of the amendment say there’s no guarantee the money would go back into the classroom, and the amendment is really about eliminating the legislature’s constitutional obligation to finance smaller classes.

The Florida Education Association will argue in front of the Supreme Court tomorrow in an attempt to get Amendment Eight kicked off the ballot. The FEA says the ballot language is flawed because it talks about classroom flexibility but doesn’t mention the legislature’s obligation to fund smaller classes.

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