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[UPDATE] The Class Size Debate - Amendment Challenge Rejected

By: Mike Vasilinda Email
By: Mike Vasilinda Email

[UPDATE] 10/7 3:34 --

The Florida Supreme Court has rejected a teachers union's challenge to a ballot issue that would loosen the state's class size limits.

The unanimous ruling came Thursday (Oct. 7), just a day after the
justices heard oral argument on Amendment 8.

They ruled its ballot summary accurately describes what the
Legislature's proposed state constitutional amendment would do.

The Florida Education Association had argued the summary was
misleading because it failed to say the proposal would reduce state
spending to ensure that class size requirements are met.

The union wanted the high court to prevent votes from being
counted as it would have been too late to take it off the Nov. 2
ballot.

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Tallahassee, FL - Florida classrooms had to meet strict new limits this school year. Amendment 8 is the GOP-led legislature’s attempt to make it easier on schools by counting class size averages at the school level rather than individual classrooms.

Opponents of the amendment told the state’s high court that what voters will see is misleading, because it does not tell them it could reduce the amount of money going to schools.

“They’re being told you can put more kids in a class, they’re going to count them differently, but they’re not being told they’re losing money,” FEA attorney Ron Meyer said.

Justices asked tough questions of both sides.

“Where do we draw the line when we propose a constitutional amendment that takes away some constitutional right,” Justice Fred Lewis said.

Afterwards supporters of the amendment said the idea there would be less money was itself misleading.

“Again, this gives the local school districts the flexibility and it gives the legislature the flexibility on how to spend taxpayers’ money,” David Hart with the Florida Chamber of Commerce said. “It can absolutely still go to education.”

But the teachers opposing the amendment are sticking by their guns, saying 25 years of history prove them right.

“I have no faith that the Florida legislature is going to redirect that money into education,” Florida Education Association President Andy Ford said.”They’re going to use that money for something else. They always have.”

A narrow majority, just 52.4 percent, of Florida voters approved the class size amendment in 2002.

The high court is expected to rule quickly. Thursday is a regular release date for opinions, but the class size decision could come at any time.

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Amendment 8 would allow more students into each public school
classroom.

This year, each core curriculum classroom must have no more than
18 students in pre-kindergarten through third grade; 22 in fourth
through eighth grade; and 25 in high school.

Amendment 8 would raise the cap to 21 in pre-kindergarten
through third grade; to 27 in fourth through eighth grade; and to
30 in high school.

The Legislature's Republican leadership says the measure is
needed because the lower limits are too expensive.

Opponents say children learn better in smaller classes. They say
the Legislature has chosen not to adequately fund the class-size
requirements.


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