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Class size amendment stays on ballot

Thursday, October 7th, 2010 by Dara Kam

A proposed constitutional amendment that would water down class size limits will remain on the ballot, the Florida Supreme Court ruled today.

Lawmakers placed the measure, Amendment 8, on the ballot to give school districts more flexibility meeting the constitutional restrictions on class sizes approved by voters in 2002. The proposal would keep class size limits at the school average level rather than require each class to comply with the limits.

The Florida teachers’ union argued that the measure is really intended to decrease the amount of money lawmakers must spend on public education.

Today’s unanimous decision upheld a lower court ruling.

Supremes to hear arguments on class size amendment on Oct. 6

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

The Florida Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a proposed constitutional amendment watering down class size limits on Oct. 6.

A circuit court judge rejected the Florida Education Association’s challenge to the amendment, placed on the ballot by the legislature, earlier this month. The FEA appealed.

The high court tossed three other amendments proposed by lawmakers, ruling that they were confusing to voters.

Senate passes watered-down class size amendment

Thursday, March 25th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The Florida Senate passed a proposed change to the constitution that would keep the class size limits at the school level instead of the classroom level as the constitution now requires.

In 2002, voters changed the constitution to cap class sizes at 18 for kindergarten through third grade, 22 for grades 4 -8 and 25 in high school.

The joint resolution would hold those caps at the school level and put new caps on the number of kids in classes by adding three students to PK-3 and five for students in grades 4-12.

Sen. Alex Villalobos, the lone Republican who opposed the measure, delivered an eloquent speech to a rapt chamber before the 26-12 vote was taken. He said the voters put the restrictions in the constitution because they wanted them.

“We didn’t get elected to come up here to have a nice chair or go to parties or have a bunch of lobbyists tell us how good we look or how smart we are or how witty we are,” Villalobos, R-Miami, said. “I believe the public is really sick and tired of politicians. We come up here and we pontificate all the time and it’s almost like we know better than anyone else. We don’t.”

Should class size limits be watered down?

Monday, February 1st, 2010 by Dara Kam

Legislative leaders-in-waiting Sen. Don Gaetz and Rep. Will Weatherford are heading up a GOP initiative to water down constitutional class size limits approved by voters.

Gaetz, R-Destin, and Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, sponsored a constitutional amendment lawmakers are expected to put on the ballot this year that would undo some of the class size restrictions voters approved in 2002.

Floridians have already spent $16 billion to shrink class sizes but plummeting property tax collections – which pay for public schools – have sent lawmakers scrambling to foot the $22 billion-a-year tab for education.

Gaetz and Weatherford, who are expected to lead their chambers in 2012, will reveal details of their proposal at a press conference tomorrow morning.

Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for U.S. Senate, recently said that he supports undoing the class size restrictions, which have been been introduced gradually and which school officials say costs too much and doesn’t benefit student achievement.

U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, a Democrat is also running for the U.S. Senate seat Crist seeks, was the force behind the class size amendment in 2002 while he was in the state Senate.

He isn’t backing down from the limits, which are set to go into full effect by the end of this year.

“Eight years later, Tallahassee officials have not relented in trying to water down hard-fought class size limits while refusing to tackle the special interest bidding that is alive and well in the state capital, ” said Kendrick Meek, who served as Chairman of Florida’s Coalition to Reduce Class Size in 2002.

“Florida families cannot be shortchanged. They simply ask that their children not be packed into overcrowded classrooms. Instead of focusing on misguided priorities, Florida needs a long-term perspective to secure a better future for our children. Implementing the class size limits without delay is critical so our teachers can teach in classrooms where our students can learn. Moreover, it is important to note that our state needs to invest now in its human capital in order to reverse the tide of joblessness for tomorrow’s workers,” Meek said in press release.

Do you think the constitutional limits on class sizes should be lowered?

  • No (71%, 52 Votes)
  • Yes (29%, 21 Votes)

Total Voters: 73

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