[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.

----------------------

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.

-----

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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  • by teacher Location: Florida on Oct 8, 2010 at 05:56 AM
    JoBeCo (continued) Our graduation rate was higher 10 years ago because our expectations we not unrealistic. I have teacher friends who talk about finding new jobs everyday because things are beyond rediculous. It's such a shame that PHENOMENAL TEACHERS are leaving what they love to do because they can't take the pressure anymore. Putting more kids in every classroom is NOT the answer. You're going to be left with sub-standard teachers teaching your child because the great teachers will decide that enough is enough! JoBeCo, you clearly do not know what goes on in today's classrooms. Maybe you're a politician yourself? I beg you to spend some time in some classrooms before you push this crazy amendment. Protect your teachers so that they can protect and actually teach your children. Afterall, we are paid to teach... not to babysit.
  • by teacher Location: Florida on Oct 8, 2010 at 05:44 AM
    JoBeCo, I invite you to my classroom anytime. Co-teacher??????? Are you kidding??? No, I have no co-teacher. I have no "aide". I have no secretary to take parent phone calls, answer parent and administrative emails, and create the endless data reports on student progress. Oh yes, the endless progress monitoring reports! We are in the 7th week of school and are already putting kids in the "danger zone" because we fear that they may not make at least a 3 or move up a level on FCAT... based on the 4 progress tests they have taken already. The expectations and accountability that we face in our public schools are completely overwhelming for both teachers and students. My "danger zone" students don't get to go to PE because they have to stay in with me to do remediation work. Don't they need the same amount of fresh air and exercise as everyone else? And it's also funny that you mention the graduation rate being higher 10 years ago. I graduated 10 years ago and guess what? We had NO FCAT.
  • by J. B. Location: Tallahassee on Oct 7, 2010 at 09:30 PM
    If you believe education is the key to Florida's future, vote no on Amendment 8. It is simply a ploy by the state legislature to avoid putting money into our schools and instead fund their various pet projects, i.e. Sansom's airport hangar and the $48m courthouse.
  • by Parenting Location: Florida on Oct 7, 2010 at 06:02 PM
    The Florida PTA, Child Care Directors, & NAACP oppose this. First, the "savings" will take the form of firing teachers, which will further inflate elective classes, as schools adjust to the school-wide average with fewer teaching units. Second, CORE classes will increase to 21 in k-4, 27 in 5-MS and 30 in HS. More kids in CORE classes with the issues and challenges we face CANNOT be good for students. Why do these Legislators who sponsor Amend 8 all send THEIR kids to private schools? Also, the Legislature can fix the "flexibility" issue through statue, which is what they did for charter schools. There is abigger agenda at stake here. Lastly, FL ranks 39th in per student funding in the U.S., though we're the 4th largest state. We rank dead last in per capita income funding of education. This Amendment will CLEARLY lead to a further decline in our already embarrassing level of funding.
  • by rob Location: tally on Oct 7, 2010 at 12:07 PM
    Lower numbers do not equate to better students...and the proof is in the last few years. More students were graduating 10 years than today. The main problem is parents not wanting to do their job as parents and teachers not having the ability to remove unruly students from class or being able to move them to another, better fit, school. You can throw money all day long at education...but it will not solve the real issues that plaque schools. Schools are not just babysitters, if you kid cant control themselves, keep them home or in private school. My tax dollars that go towards education is meant to help students learn, not just to babysit! Its time the federal govt removes itself from education and let the private industry take it over...
  • by JoBeCo Location: Bradfordville on Oct 7, 2010 at 10:03 AM
    Dear “teacher”: We mustn’t forget, a limited Class size is the law already in Florida, this amendment is not doing away with it, or will it get anyone out of having to meet the 18 student minimum, it is about giving those at the school and county level the discretion to make that decision not those in Tallahassee. If you’re an elementary teacher in Florida and have 27 students in your class, than that is a problem; you have a co-teacher don’t you? As the law is now, 18 students in elementary is the Florida constitutional requirement. If you have it your way and keep things the way they are (a “no” vote is for more of the same), you'll still have the same problem and there won't be any flexibility if your administration decides to do what is mandated in the constitution. If this amendment fails, with the economy the way it is, if you think it’s bad now it will only get worse b/c we’ll be hiring more teachers, building more schools and dumping money unnecessarily into areas we shouldn’t
  • by TRUTH Location: FL on Oct 7, 2010 at 09:59 AM
    GIVE THE KIDS VOUCHERS AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR WILL TAKE CARE OF OUR CLASS SIZE ISSURES AND WE WILL HAVE ROOM TO SPARE AND NO NEW OR HIGHER TAXES!!!!!
  • by teacher Location: Florida on Oct 7, 2010 at 08:07 AM
    As a 4th grade teacher, I can tell you that you need to vote NO on this amendment. I had 26 students in my classroom in the beginning of this school year. We were physically squeezed in there like sardines. It is nearly impossible for me to meet the needs of every student when my classroom is overflowing. How can I teach effectively when I'm still waiting on that extra desk to shove in a corner for the new student to cap us off at 27? The lower the numbers the better your child's education. Period. Now that we have created a new class and my numbers are back down to 22, my instruction is 100% more effective and the students are happier because their teacher is more available to them.
  • by JoBeCo Location: Bradfordville on Oct 7, 2010 at 06:24 AM
    The opponent’s to this amendments argument is perpetuated on their belief that “their” money for EDU will be lost... the reality is the money spent now and in the future belongs to us the tax payers. Andy Ford and the Union want to see more teachers and more classrooms, if we keep things as they are now they will get just that…. This amendment is simply asking for flexibility, how irresponsible is it to have to go out and hire a new teacher, find another classroom (or worst build one) and all that goes with it (not to mention the disruption for the other students) just because a 19th student shows up in an elementary school.(singular example) This is a self serving effort by the unions… the Superintendents get it, the School boards get it and most teachers not in the pocket of the union get it…. The voters need to use this opportunity to bring sensibility into our schools, and let the local governments, not the state have the final say, and amendment 8 would do that. My motto this e
  • by Albert Location: Tallahassee on Oct 7, 2010 at 03:20 AM
    Why would a chamber of commerce head be concerned about class size UNLESS he sees money coming his way. Vote NO on all admendments.
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