Amendment 8 Fails; Class Size Rules Stand

November 3, 2010

Florida voters Tuesday narrowly struck down a lawmaker orchestrated attempt to alter the laws dictating how many kids can sit in a Florida classroom.

Amendment 8, a proposal that would have tweaked the existing class size law to eliminate the hard classroom size caps set in place by voters in 2002, garnered 54.6 percent of the vote, short of the required 60 percent for proposed constitutional amendments to be enacted.

The vote means that caps on school classroom sizes that voters put in the Constitution eight years earlier will stay in place. The 2002 Constitutional amendment caps classes at 18 students in kindergarten through third grade, 22 in fourth through eighth grade, and 25 in high school. The limits have been phased in since the amendment was passed. The hard numerical caps went into effect this year.

But shrinking class sizes is pricey — it requires putting more teachers in the classrooms. And lawmakers have struggled to give schools the amount of money needed for them to adequately meet the caps.

Districts began clamoring for flexibility to meet the caps when the economy spiraled downward and lawmakers couldn’t budget the necessary dollars to keep pace. The cost has been a major concern since before the original amendment was even passed. Its highest profile opponent back in 2002 was then- Gov. Jeb Bush, who said the cost of it would “blot out the sun.”

The proposed amendment would have allowed schools to calculate the class size at a grade wide average, rather than at the individual classroom level.

The state teachers’ union has staunchly defended the original class size provision, arguing that the softening of the law is merely the Legislature backing out of a promise to fund the schools to meet the hard caps. The group challenged the proposed amendment in court, but the Supreme Court ultimately ruled to keep it on the ballot.

The group has argued that there was no need to amend the Constitution and that flexibility could be achieved via statutory changes.

By Kathleen Haugney
The News Service Florida


17 Responses to “Amendment 8 Fails; Class Size Rules Stand”

  1. Smitty on November 4th, 2010 6:20 am

    In response to the $7000.00 per child that the state gives for each child, don’t be misled, this is not just for teacher pay. This has to pay for every expense the school incurs. Transportation, ( drivers and fuel), insurance, teacher and employee befits($$$$$$), utility bills(thousands a month) supplies and books, technology, and any thing else the school and children require. IF,,,IF its $7000.00 per child this is still a tight budget per school. To me, it’s not always the quantity of the classroom but the quality of the teacher. My child has been in a class of 12 with a teacher and a tuter in the room and came home with an F, then he’s been in a class of 30 and made Bs and Cs. Principals and administrators are not idiots, they are not going to put to many on a teacher, or in critical grades, like kindetgarten,1st , 4th, 7th and 10th, that could be detrimental to the student, teacher or schools’ performance. This amendment would have only raised the amount by 3 students per class, and could have saved the taxpayers a lot of money. There will always be a need to hire more teachers, but look out for more school closings and consolidations, and oh yea, more taxes.

  2. Oversight on November 4th, 2010 5:38 am

    I attended one of the school board/district’s public meetings and it was said that Escambia County already meets the mandates of class size. So what’s the issue here? Well remember the money that’s already earmarked for maintaining class size – it could then be used for some other project like the purchase of an old Gulf Power building and moving the district offices into Brownsville. What’s the overall size of the school district’s budget – $540+ million? $4 million is a drop in the bucket.

  3. Melody on November 3rd, 2010 4:10 pm

    As a middle school teacher I have had class loads of 198+. Imagine the grading! More than 3 hours for every assignment! I asked an administrator how to find the time, and I was told to do more “group work.” This year my class load is much better. Thank you, Florida, for letting me teach. I can’t help but wonder if the lawmakers aren’t afraid the “lower class” won’t start to catch up to their “charter schools.”

  4. interested reader on November 3rd, 2010 4:06 pm

    Re: Dave Murzin- William, perhaps you could print the names of all the politicians, including school board, who endorsed this amendment so we would know who NOT to vote for next election.

  5. North End resident on November 3rd, 2010 3:27 pm

    Sounds like we still have politicians to vote out of office!! How dare someone use our children and grandchildren to achieve their own personal/political goals.
    All those involved should be supporting the fact that during a recession, creating jobs (teachers) improves the economy and smaller classrooms means better education for our children.
    Most of the Lottery money goes to colleges which many children in our public schools will never GET to see! If you are that bad off then use your political pull to get more lottery money going to our schools! Leave our public schools alone!!!! Better yet, why don’t the public officials take a pay cut and use that money to hire more teachers.
    First you consolidate schools in the northend and now you want to overcrowd the classrooms at the expense of lowering our children’s quality of education. Go find someone else to rip off because we have had enough!

  6. Proud to be a silly.... What am I? on November 3rd, 2010 2:55 pm

    In the beginning of the year of my fourth-grade class there were 16 people, 1 came, 1 left, so now we just have 16 kids. 6 Under the limit!

  7. shae on November 3rd, 2010 2:53 pm

    Several really good friends of mine are teachers. This year, Florida educational Budget cut out teacher aides in the class rooms. So the teachers are already over worked and underpaid trying to accomplish the impossible with what has been put on the teachers already. Can you imagine what it would be like with even more students in the class rooms? Or, imagine a majority of the teachers walking out. So Glad this amendment didn’t pass!!!!

  8. Retired Teacher on November 3rd, 2010 1:21 pm

    Until this year when hard caps on class size became mandatory, schools averaged class sizes to meet the requirements. I taught through those years and can tell you that averaging means classes of 12 students where each child is given personal attention and classes of 38 students where no teacher can teach to individual needs. This is what Ammendment 8 would have made law. If someone can explain how that kind of “equality” is beneficial for all students, I’d love to hear it.

  9. Poorteacher on November 3rd, 2010 12:20 pm

    I remember signing the petition way back when the original Class Size Amendment was just a dream. The school year had just ended, and I had been made to teach two Geometry classes full of 10th, 11th and 12th graders. When I say “Full” I mean one class had 38 and the other class had 39. I actually was a little relieved because until they “leveled the classes” I originally had 45 and 44.

    Can you IMAGINE being in high school and taking a Geometry class with that many kids in it? It was definitely a disservice to those students – even though I tried my best. I’m glad that they didn’t get rid of the class size amendment, the teachers and students REALLY need it to stay just like it is.

  10. Dave Murzin on November 3rd, 2010 12:17 pm

    William, perhaps you could do a story on the true cost of “the Class Size Amendment” and why passing Amendment 8 was so important. The State of Florida sends almost 7,000 dollars per child to the Escambia County School District for public education. The defeat of this amendment will mean that the Escambia County School District will spend around 4 million dollars on BUILDINGS, not TEACHER PAY. Sure, more teachers means more dues for the Teachers Union, but that doesn’t mean students will get a better education because of it.

  11. Sheila on November 3rd, 2010 12:01 pm

    Thank goodness this amendment was not passed. My daughter who is a teacher was hired because of the reduced class size requirement… without that requirement, she would not have gotten a job and she has been looking for a full time teaching job in south florida for over 3 years with no luck. With all the budget cuts, she could only find substitute work and was going to give up her dream of teaching for good or possibly move to another state where they value education more than Florida…. I just hope they don’t put it on the ballot again in another 2-4 years… Let’s pray that education starts to come first with our voters. Take the budget cuts elsewhere (how about salaries of government officials .. cut those)…

  12. interested reader on November 3rd, 2010 10:15 am

    Thank you Lord, and thanks also to all who voted for our children. Take the money needed from somewhere else and don’t take it from our future, the children. There is enough wasted money in Fl. to educate every child in the state but scare tactics almost caused another big loss for our most precious resource.Voting NO on 8 was a step out in faith that the money will be there. Govt. can find money to fund their “pet” projects. Take that money and put it to good use, our school system.

  13. Layne on November 3rd, 2010 8:36 am

    Surprisingly, this vote should not have gotten as many “yes” votes as it did. Education needs to be funded correctly at the state level. LEGISLATORS – Stop playing games with our childrens’ education. FUND EDUCATION PROPERLY. Schools & districts should not be penalized financially for not meeting class size. They should be given additional funding from the state to meet it.

  14. bama boy on November 3rd, 2010 7:07 am

    Well…I will say this I voted NO because the people are sick and tired of the govt trying to reword something the voters have already spoken about in 2002. The problem is its time to cut administration in the school system and quit paying administrators as much as they are paid to do nothing!! We are sick of it!

  15. Still Bill on November 3rd, 2010 6:22 am

    The Florida Supreme Court has already ruled that the legislature can add the needed flexibility via statute — in fact, the legislature has already done so for charter schools. They have refused to cut the public schools the same slack because they wanted the Class Size Amendment to go down to defeat. Maybe now they’ll face up to reality and make the needed changes.

    They’ve tried everything to get rid of this amendment, and nothing has worked, so the Department of Education tried to make it unworkable, the legislature refused to grant the needed flexibility via statute, and they waited for the voters to react.

    The Class Size Amendment was a slap in Jeb Bush’s face, and he’s been campaigning against it for 8 years now. It hasn’t blotted out the sun yet. A not-quite-Floridian like Jeb should just back off and let the citizens of Florida have their way.

  16. Lauren on November 3rd, 2010 6:07 am

    The overflow of kids can be sent to the great Florida virtual school. They will be able to take a class and it cost the state very little. Taking a virtual class is important for students since they need to learn these computers skills anyway.

  17. Tina on November 3rd, 2010 5:11 am

    Why is it when it is for the good of our children, that there is never any money??? We find money for hundreds of thousands of dollars for new buildings in the state capitol! We find hundreds of thousands of dollars for overseas visits! Yet, we want to lower class sizes and there is no money??? The results speak for themselves!!!!

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