School Board Lobbys For Amendment 8, Against Strict Class Size Law

August 27, 2010

Public schools throughout Florida started the first day of school Monday under a law that will only permit so many students in an individual classroom, while the Escambia County School Board held a special workshop at Northview High School to push for a change.

Lawmakers and school administrators are pushing a proposed constitutional amendment that would relax the class size requirement put into the constitution by voters in 2002. As of Monday, individual classes were capped at 18 students for kindergarten through third grade, 22 in fourth through eighth grade, and 25 in high school, with the limits having been phased in since the amendment was passed.

The proposed amendment on the November ballot would allow class sizes to be calculated in a more lenient fashion. If passed, the class size would be calculated at a grade-level average, not an individual classroom cap, allowing some classes to go above the limit.

“Please, please help us by getting the word out that Amendment 8 is a yes; please help us help the students,” District 5 School Board Member Bill Slayton (pictured right) said Thursday during the board workshop at Northview High.

The school district is facing several financial “pressure points”, according to Superintendent Malcolm Thomas, for the upcoming the 2011-2012 school year. Coupled with declining property values made worse by the oil spill’s impact on coastal property and the class size amendment, the district will no longer receive federal stimulus dollars — which currently funds $13 million in teachers’ salaries.

“The last pressure point is class size,” Thomas said. The district has added 489 teachers and spent about $26.4 million for their salaries despite 3,200 fewer students since the class size regulations went into effect in 2003-2004. For the current school year, Escambia County added 49 teachers, spent $2.9 million and put another $1 million in reserve to ensure class size compliance.

The change has been felt by students in other ways — smaller classes have been eliminated with students taking courses online, part-time teachers have hired, multi-level classes have been combined into one, some teachers are paid to work through their planning periods and class choices have been reduced.

“We are not going against the will of the people of Northwest Florida,” Slayton said, adding that local voters were against the original amendment that he described as a way for south Florida schools to reduced class size at the expense of the state.

“I don’t like it, but it is the law,” said Board Member Jeff Bergosh. “We’ve got to hope the voters will pass the amendment.”

Board Member Linda Moutrie agreed, saying that people should get out and vote “yes” on Amendment 8. “That’s what you can do for your community,” she said.

Administrators across the state say the hard caps are too cumbersome and allow for no flexibility. They say they fear schools will either be in violation of the law or face financial consequences if all of their classrooms are at maximum capacity and a new student moves into the district. They also say that with the economic downturn, schools just can’t afford to implement the class size requirement as originally envisioned.

The Florida Education Association has filed a lawsuit to toss the proposal from the November ballot, arguing that it is misleading. Arguments in circuit court are slated for September 8. If the court rules in favor of the FEA, it is likely that the state could appeal immediately to the Florida Supreme Court for final judgment. Until then, the group is mounting a public campaign against the amendment.

Pictured top: Escambia School Board members (L-R) Gerald Boone, Patty Hightower and Linda Moultrie and School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas listen to an audience member Thursday evening during a board workshop at Northview High School.  Pictured top inset: Board Member Jeff Bergosh, left, listens as Bill Slayton asks for support for Amendment 8. Pictured bottom inset: Century resident Lina Showalter addresses the board. photos, click to enlarge.


14 Responses to “School Board Lobbys For Amendment 8, Against Strict Class Size Law”

  1. wanda shipman on September 8th, 2010 7:25 pm

    I will vote, YES to amendment 8. My vote will hopefully prevent all these unnecessary and unessential revisions of which students are being subjected to at our schools.

    Does anyone here have children in school and have seen the impact first hand??? I have two children in elementary and every school year there are at least five or more interruptions, month after month, with taking children out of established classes in order to make a new class with a new teacher because 1 individual class was over 1 child.

    Many children have to start new in the middle of the school year with a new class and new teacher ,but at least the “approved” amount of children are in every classroom. Not to mention, new teachers must acquire how your child works and see what learning angle he/she thrives in learning. I am a parent who looks into the teaching styles of teachers due to being a parent of a Especial Learning Child, and I request a teacher for the next year but this is a waste if classes are just being split every month to make a new classroom.Also,many parents try their best to not move residence,especially when the school year has already started, as to not interfere with our children schooling, but this law is acting as if we are doing just that.

    My children and I feel the numbers should be calculated at a grade-level average and be up to the principal of the school if a new class should be created, not an individual classroom number. Yes, this will allow some classes to go over a few students, but no more than a certain limit and it will be regulated by the school board.

    Vote YES on amendment 8 in November 2010.

  2. Mike T. on August 30th, 2010 5:51 pm

    I will vote no too. My kids have had wonderful teachers so far, but why in the world would I want to make their jobs more difficult? If Malcom and the school board want to save money why don’t they stop putting flat screen tv’s and “smart boards” and expensive macbook laptops in all of the classrooms? 70% of the teachers at Warrington Middle school fled after last year and this was Malcom’s brainchild. It is to the point that I am starting to believe the opposite of anything he says is more likely to be true. Same with Bergosh.

    Malcom and Bergosh are both contractors from my understanding. That may explain the emphasis on construction over education. Just a thought.

  3. David Huie Green on August 30th, 2010 7:32 am

    ” let the lose ends drag………..”

    Not griping or arguing or anything but wondering at the expression.

    Please expound on its meaning

    David the curious

  4. smitty on August 29th, 2010 5:41 pm

    its a shame that cuts cant come from other places maybe instead of visiting schools and looking pretty Mr. T could put a pen in hand and do a little pencil and paper pushing help with the work load so we dont have to have so many asst. superintendents…they wont have to cut very much if they do what they want to do with the insureance every year it gets cut every year we hold our head high because we work for the school district,you are about to triple peoples insurance premiums how in the world do you exspect a person on 30 hrs a week at 7.48 an hr to have a pay check leftover. that cut is a utility bill,someone groceries, someones car payment. For goodness sake stop messing with the insurance. We got a raise and now you are wanting to raise the premiums. know how many where i worked said they will stand in the welfare got it work for 4 hours doing 6 hrs worth of work only to clear a couple dollars. not right look else where…rezone use the darn schools we have stop building a new school fix the ones we have it wont be any more expensive.leave the teachers alone……go back to the basic education music,football,etc. can be learned after school years.get real

  5. Century girl on August 29th, 2010 3:57 am

    It is interesting to see the political spin given by Malcolm Thomas and the others trying to tell us “why” this is good for our children… If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funny.

    Enlarging the classroom size due to Financial problems, will not be “helping” the kids. Closing a perfectly GOOD building and spending about twice the budgetted amount to get Bratt ready for the 09 school year may be part of the problem. Not to mention Carver-Century is still costing the taxpayers, power is still on, expenses go on and now they’ve put one SMALL headstart class in there only.

    Maybe Malcom and the school board members need to ask “WHY”. Is the enrollment decreasing in Escambia Cty??? Population is decreasing as well. The people are tired of the poor quality of education, the over taxing in property taxes, etc. POOR LIFE quality– The northend of the county is just still getting left out! Affordable High speed Internet STILL not available in many, many areas. Area public transportation, no storm shelters the list goes on.

    If the political heads would begin to start listening to the voters ,the people that put them into office, maybe they could begin IMPROVING life quality in Escambia county.

    How is enlarging a class going to make it better for the children? Come on people, VOTE NO on Amendment 8!

  6. school employee on August 28th, 2010 5:56 pm

    Please vote no so your child can get the attention he or she needs. Think of 25 6 year old children with one teacher. .This is the leaders of tomorrow vote no.

  7. anydaynow on August 28th, 2010 4:29 pm

    All I ever hear from republicans anymore is what they don’t wanna do, what they can’t do and what they are not gonna do.

  8. my own two cents on August 28th, 2010 10:45 am

    I will be voting “NO”. I already am hearing that teachers are having a hard enough time with the class sizes they have now. The classrooms are not getting any larger either. Either way I am sure that faculty or staff will be cut.

  9. Unemployed Teacher on August 27th, 2010 10:14 pm

    My concern is always for the children and to make sure they get the best education possible. If I didn’t have a passion for teaching, I would not do it! I definitely do not teach for the pay because the people at the district make more than teachers, but they want to tell us how to educate the students!

    As I stated earlier, do your research before you listen to me or anyone else when voting on this amendment.

  10. interested reader on August 27th, 2010 6:54 pm

    I will be voting NO on amendment 8. Please, think of a teacher with 18 third graders and no help. They have all the children they can handle by themselves. Same goes for other grades. FCAT has changed the way school is taught and it is impossible to expect a teacher to be able to handle more than they have now. Cut out the extras and let the grade limits stay the way they are.Mr. Thomas and the school board are supposed to be helping the children not causing more problems. Please talk to the teachers and find out how this will impact the children. They should come first. NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND is not just a slogan.

  11. David Huie Green on August 27th, 2010 2:14 pm

    “Yeah, forty-nine teachers were added to the district, but it does not state how many teachers are without a job!”

    Education isn’t a jobs program–or at least it shouldn’t be. The purpose should be to educate children, not to employ all possible teachers. They probably NEED more teachers, are likely REQUIRED to hire more teachers, but the reason is-and should be-for the benefit of the children.


    “when he said that he expected a school to make an “F” for their school grade does not sound like a positive person”

    If he had good reason, maybe he was just a realist.

    David meditating on
    fell/failed, chose/choose
    and the foolishness of making
    every little detail part of our
    Constitution in the first place

  12. Concerned parent on August 27th, 2010 1:33 pm

    Why on earth would I vote to increase class size???? The teachers already can’t pay attention to the number of students they have now. I couldn’t care less if “extra classes” are cut, so they miss band/shop/home ec…. as long as the basic classes are taught and not to a mob of students crammed into a closet. If they would quit letting kids from other districts go to schools they don’t belong in, maybe the class size wouldn’t be a problem!!!

  13. Taxpayer#2 on August 27th, 2010 12:47 pm

    Vote YES!….YES!…………..and YES!
    Just use common sense, and let the lose ends drag………..

  14. Unemployed Teacher on August 27th, 2010 9:45 am

    Yeah, forty-nine teachers were added to the district, but it does not state how many teachers are without a job! Malcolm Thomas fell to state this issue! Wow, how could people vote for someone like him that does not care if teachers have a job or not for the upcoming year! I will be voting NO on this amendment and I hope others will see the real reason why Malcolm Thomas want a yes vote on this amendment! Plus, when he said that he expected a school to make an “F” for their school grade does not sound like a positive person that should be the superintendent of the district!

    More classes can be added for students to chose from at Northview, they just do not want to add because then they will have to hire more teachers! I am not trying to tell people how to vote…just do a little more research on this amendment before listening to me or Malcolm Thomas/school board members.

    God Bless!

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