Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Education on Top of Priority List; Poll Finds Floridians Want Public Schools to Be the Legislature's No. 1 Issue, and Class-Size Amendment Has Strong Support

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Education on Top of Priority List; Poll Finds Floridians Want Public Schools to Be the Legislature's No. 1 Issue, and Class-Size Amendment Has Strong Support

Article excerpt

Byline: LILLY ROCKWELL and J. TAYLOR RUSHING, The Times-Union

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida voters want their public schools unharmed, their class-size amendment untouched and their tax dollars unused for sports stadiums, a new Times-Union/South Florida Sun-Sentinel poll finds on the eve of the Legislature's return to Tallahassee.

Education landed on top of a list of priorities for the Legislature, as ranked by 600 likely voters in a statewide poll commissioned by the two newspapers, followed by the economy, health insurance and growth-management needs. Likewise, the poll found 59 percent of voters sticking to the class-size amendment they approved in 2002 and disagreeing with Gov. Jeb Bush's opposition to it.

The numbers do not surprise Mery Martinez of Jacksonville, one of several Northeast Florida residents who link a stronger education system to a stronger economy.

"We are producing students into the workforce who are not meeting the standards they need to be employed, and it's because they're not getting the attention they need," said Martinez, 35, a native of South America. "If we had less students, the teachers could focus and do their job and these students could get their real-life skills. That amendment should stay in place."

The poll had a margin of error of 4 percentage points and included a list of 10 issues to choose as the top priority for the Legislature. Thirty-four percent named public schools/education, followed by 12 percent who mentioned the economy and another 12 percent who named health insurance.

Voters also spoke strongly on the Florida Marlins' request for $60 million in state tax money for a new stadium. Eighty-two percent said the Legislature shouldn't approve such a deal, followed by 15 percent who said they should and 3 percent who were unsure.

But the poll's support for the class-size constitutional amendment, approved by 52 percent of state voters in 2002, represents the highest hurdle for Republican leaders. The amendment capped class sizes at 25 students in high school, 22 students in fourth through eighth grades and 18 in kindergarten through third grade.

Jacksonville resident Richard Neil, 53, agreed that schools should be a top priority and the class-size amendment should stay. …

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