Thursday, April 08, 2010

Class Size Modification Wins a Place on the Ballot

Class Size Modification

Wins Place on the Ballot


          A constitutional amendment to allow local educators and parents limited flexibility in meeting class size mandates passed the House of Representatives today .  The measure has already been approved by the Senate.


          The House vote was 77-41 with both Democrats and Republicans in support.


          The proposal, sponsored by Senator Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and Representative Will Weatherford  (R-Zephyrhills), would maintain the small class sizes guaranteed by the Florida Constitution but would permit them to be calculated on a school average.


          "Representative Weatherford's leadership made the difference in gaining legislative approval," Gaetz said in praising the House sponsor.  " He is a strong and effective partner and it's a privilege to work with him."  Four previous attempts to modify the class size amendment failed.


          Senate Joint Resolution 2 now goes to the voters at the November 10, 2010, election.  Sixty percent of voters must agree in order for the modified language to be added to the Constitution.


          Under an amendment passed by voters in 2002, class sizes are limited to 18 students in kindergarten through third grade, 22 students in fourth through eighth grade and 25 students in high school core classes.  The limits have been phased in, first using a district-wide average and currently a school average. 


If the Gaetz-Weatherford proposal is not adopted by voters, every classroom in every public school in the state would be held to an inflexible limit.  Principals, teachers and parents testified before the Legislature that "hard caps" would cause disruption in the learning environment if classes have to be split mid-year when students move in and out of the neighborhood.


The Department of Education estimates that SJR 2 will save cash-strapped schools at least $350 million next year.  Florida taxpayers have already spent $16 billion implementing the class size mandates passed in 2002.


          SJR 2 is supported by the Florida School Board Association, the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, the Florida Association of School Administrators, the Florida Chamber of Commerce  as well as many teachers and parents. 


          The Florida Education Association, the state teachers union, is the only organized group to oppose the modification.


          Gaetz said he was urged to take on the issue by school officials, classroom teachers and parent leaders in Northwest Florida. 



For more information about this or any other issue, please contact Senator Don Gaetz, by e-mail at, by letter, 4300 Legendary Drive, Suite 230, Destin, FL 32541or call 1-866-450-4DON toll free from anywhere in Florida. 

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