Thursday, September 30, 2010

What you may not have heard about Amendment 8

Many parents and educators are receiving information from school districts and public officials about the requirements of the current class size amendment and the changes that have been proposed by the Legislature. The following has been approved by Ronald G. Meyer, Esq., FEA Legal Department, for distribution to FEA members and non-members at worksites and official school district functions.

8 Things You Should Know About the Proposed Changes to the Class Size Amendment

1.    Every year since voters approved smaller class sizes in 2002, there has been an attempt by the Legislature to change it.  Amendment 8 is the latest in a long line of these efforts.

2.    The state PTA and parents and classroom teachers are opposed to changing the current class size amendment.

3.    The current Class Size Amendment is working for Florida.  Class sizes are smaller and student performance is on the rise.  The changes that have been proposed by the Legislature would increase the number of students per classroom by an average of 20%.

4.    The proponents of changing the current class size amendment say it will save $350 million to $1 billion.  This could mean the amount of money the State is required to provide to local public schools will be reduced and public school classrooms will be allowed to become more crowded.  We believe that our local school districts will receive less state funding to use for smaller class sizes.

5.    Local school boards are not required to cut programs or raise taxes to comply with the original Class Size Amendment.  In 2002, The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the current Class Size Amendment "places the obligation to ensure compliance on the Legislature, not the local school boards."

6.    Many people do not know that flexibility in class size can be achieved through statute without changing the Florida Constitution.  In 2002, the Florida Supreme Court said that, "Rather than restricting the Legislature, the proposed amendment gives the Legislature latitude in designing ways to reach the class size goal."  In 2008, the Florida House agreed that amending the Constitution is not necessary and passed a bill allowing for flexibility in class size by statute.  The Florida Senate allowed that bill to die.  This year the Legislature again proved that they can provide the needed flexibility when they granted an exemption from class-size compliance to charter schools.

7.    The current class size amendment does not require school districts to close school enrollment, rezone schools, bus students, or hold double sessions.  The Florida Supreme Court has said that the class size limits are goals and that the Florida Legislature can provide the flexibility to deal with the so-called '19th child'.

8.    The Legislature did not provide the funding it is constitutionally required to provide to implement smaller class sizes this year and is now threatening to fine the school districts for not complying.  School districts across the state have already banded together to sue the Legislature if the State attempts to fine any school district for not meeting the class size goals because they know these fines would be found blatantly unconstitutional.

Thanks to LCEA President B Grassel for distributing this message. Please share it with others. Thank you.

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