Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kill Class-Size Amendment, Then Please Leave Us Alone

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kill Class-Size Amendment, Then Please Leave Us Alone

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage, Times-Union columnist

The class-size amendment to the state constitution must keep Gov. Jeb Bush awake at night.

He's probably still trying to figure out how voters overwhelmingly re-elected him in 2002 and then slapped him in the face at the same time by also passing the class-size amendment that he campaigned so hard against.

Bush now wants voters to have another shot at it and, in truth, the class-size amendment has never been a good idea.

One flaw is that it's a one-size-fits-all solution when different schools and different students have different needs.

Another is that the tremendous amount of money needed to implement it, from building more schools to hiring more teachers, could be better spent on more meaningful ways to improve our schools.

But the proposal Bush made this week to lessen the impact of the amendment has problems as well.

As it stands now, the amendment's requirements for smaller classes are ratcheted up over time.

Currently, class sizes are calculated on a districtwide average. In the 2006-2007 school year, class sizes would be averaged for each school. Then in 2010-2011, every classroom would have to meet the caps included in the amendment.

It's those last two requirements that have Bush and school superintendents especially nervous. They believe it may very well be impossible to build enough classrooms and to hire enough teachers to meet those caps.

Bush told reporters this week that he is launching a campaign to have voters change the amendment so that districtwide averages would be the permanent measure for class size.

The problem with that approach, of course, would be that classes in overcrowded schools in high-growth areas could have too many students in them to be effective, but the district could still meet the class-size requirements by balancing those off with smaller classes in schools in older neighborhoods. …

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