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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Senate class-size proposal advances



A push to amend the class-size requirements is gaining steam, passing the Senate pre-K-12 policy committee today, one day after Wesley Chapel Rep. Will Weatherford's version passed a House committee.

The Senate effort is led by Jacksonville Republican Stephen Wise, who said "most all the parties believe this gives us the right flexibility to manage class size."

SJR1828 would have Florida voters reconsider the 2002 voter-approved class-size amendment and stop the state's reduction effort at the school average. The proposed 2010 ballot measure also would set a cap for student enrollment per classroom slightly above the average. Under the amendment as approved in 2002, schools otherwise would have to start counting students in every core-curriculum classroom for the 2010-11 school year.

Bernie Schultz, first vice president of the Broward Teachers Union, nervously stood before the committee and gave a ground-level view of class size.

"Right now, everyone has a chair, everyone has a textbook and learning is happening," she said.

Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, thanked Schultz for her testimony saying it shows "we've got the results in the bag. Sen. Wise's bill protects the results."

Only Schultz said she felt her words "were turned around a little bit."

Several people spoke during the meeting, including a UCF student, a Weston principal and representatives of teachers, superintendents and school boards.

During debate, several members made passionate speeches. One senator remained silent, listening intently, taking it all in. At last, the former teacher, principal and school board member spoke.

"Leave the class size amendment alone," said Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, one of the original proponents of class size in the Legislature. "The people of Florida have spoken. And they spoke loudly. I think we need to leave it just the way it is."

Shortly after, Wilson was the lone nay vote.

-- Amy Hollyfield, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:17am]


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