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October 21, 2010

Commentary: Class Size Amendment

Class Size-CommentaryThis amendment proposes to revise the requirements for class sizes in public schools. State Representative Scott Plakon (R), District 37, comments in favor while Seminole Education Association president Gay Parker comments in opposition. Feature length – 9:31



Scott Plakon (R) of the Florida House of Representatives District 37 and Gay Parker, president of the Seminole Education Association present the opposing sides on the issue of Amendment 8 to revise the requirements for class size in Florida’s public schools.

If 60% of Florida’s voters agree on November 2, Amendment 8 will replace the original class size amendment passed in 2002. Current maximums in the classroom will be revised and more flexibility will be given to school administrators to adjust the number of students in each class as long as they stay within a school-wide average for students in all classes.
According to the Florida Department of Elections the summary of Amendment 8 on the ballot reads as follows:

The Florida Constitution currently limits the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher in public school classrooms in the following grade groupings: for prekindergarten through grade 3, 18 students; for grades 4 through 8, 22 students; and for grades 9 through 12, 25 students. Under this amendment, the current limits on the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher in public school classrooms would become limits on the average number of students assigned per class to each teacher, by specified grade grouping, in each public school. This amendment also adopts new limits on the maximum number of students assigned to each teacher in an individual classroom as follows: for prekindergarten through grade 3, 21 students; for grades 4 through 8, 27 students; and for grades 9 through 12, 30 students. This amendment specifies that class size limits do not apply to virtual classes, requires the Legislature to provide sufficient funds to maintain the average number of students required by this amendment, and schedules these revisions to take effect upon approval by the electors of this state and to operate retroactively to the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year.

Proponents claim the flexibility provided by this amendment would prevent situations where the addition of a single student into a school could require the addition of a new teacher or a reshuffling of students to accommodate the rigid maximums in the current law. They say this would also save money in hiring and building new classrooms for small increments of new students in a school population. Also, that it would prevent the tax increases or program cuts that the old amendment would need to meet its requirements.

Opponents protest that a new amendment is not necessary. Court rulings have already given the legislature the power to allow flexibility that would prevent the dreaded consequences of adding a single new student into a school. This is sometimes referred to as the 19th student quandary. They see amendment 8 as a dangerous attempt to water down the classroom caps that have been so effective in allowing teachers to give more attention to smaller groups and thus improve achievement. They charge that this is a ploy to avoid fully funding the important limits on class size in the existing law.

Each side has allies. Those in favor include the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, former governor Jeb Bush, current governor Charlie Crist and candidates Alex Sink and Rick Scott. The opposition includes Florida’s teacher associations, the state PTA , the AF of L-CIO and government employee unions.

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Gay Parker, president, Seminole Education Association (photo - CMF Public Media)
Gay Parker
president, Seminole Education Association

transcript | website

Scott Plakon
Florida State House of Representatives

transcript | website

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