Tallahassee, Florida --
Back in 2002, Florida voters passed a sweeping mandate to reduce public school class sizes, but now, 8 years and 18 billion dollars later, the class size amendment is under fire. It’s a drive that doesn’t come without some stiff opposition.
Whether it’s math or English, history or geography, there’s no need to take a count.
Under the Florida Constitution, every class has its limits.
If Amendment Eight were to pass, those limits will be higher than they are not, an effort to save money.
A coalition of principals and teachers, including high school English instructor Karen Aronowitz, are launching a campaign dubbed ‘No on Eight’, calling the amendment unfair to Florida’s students.
“Kids need time on computers; when there aren't enough stations, somebody's waiting. When children are performing a science lab, there isn't enough equipment for all of them; one kid does an experiment, another watches an experiment. That's not the kind of quality education that our students deserve.” Aronowitz explained.
Thanks to the class size amendment, it’s up to the state, and not local school districts, to foot the bill for smaller classes. The coalition estimates it will cost around 350-million dollars more to fully comply. With Amendment 8, they say that mandate would disappear.
350-million dollars may not be much, but with a budget deficit that could top 3-billion in the year ahead, its money the state just doesn’t have. For that reason, Amendment 8 bakers argue passage is critical. What’s more, David Hart with the Florida Chamber of Commerce is skeptical a more intimate learning environment makes for a better student.
“There's very little connection between the size of a classroom and the outcomes you get from your student achievement, particularly in the higher grades.” Hart said.
Under Amendment 8, the hard caps on class sizes would jump from 25 to 30 kids. Not a dramatic increase, but for Karen, it’s a tipping point she’s not ready to re-visit.
“Kids accidentally brush against another, and the next thing you know, an argument's broken out.”
That’s why she’d rather have an argument now about an amendment with big consequences.
On October 6, the Florida Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case aimed at disqualifying Amendment 8. If the Justices rule in favor of the plaintiffs, the amendment would be considered void, no matter the outcome of the election.
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