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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Should state BOE 'campaign' for new class-size amendment?

TAMPA -- Should the Florida Board of Education be campaigning on behalf of the class-size amendment headed to voters this November?

That was one discussion during the morning's Board of Education meeting at Tampa's Airport Marriott Hotel.

Board member Roberto Martinez urged Department of Education officials to take an active role in dispersing information about the real-life ramifications should the amendment to revise the class-size laws change.

"This thing is doomed to fail," Martinez said, urging the department to undertake the "Herculean strategy" of backing the amendment. "It needs to be a campaign strategy in order to convince 60 percent of people that it is worth passing."

The legislation would ask voters to stop the class size amendment at the school average, rather than going to classroom counts as current law requires. It would set caps on each class that are higher than the current level of 18 in pre-k-3, 22 in 4-8 and 25 in 9-12.

Sixty percent of voters would have to approve of the amendment in order for it to become law. A recent Mason-Dixon poll showed just 44 percent of respondents favored the proposed changes.

Critics of the current law, passed similarly by referendum in 2002, say implementing its final requirements would come at the expense of other educational programs.

An attorney for the board told members that it is within their rights to disseminate factual information about the class-size amendment.

"It's a delicate balance," said board attorney Deborah Kearney. "Certainly, its important for this board to provide information...It's another thing to start spending a lot of money to start politicking."

"Who's going to help me walk that line?" asked board Chairman T. Willard Fair.

"I would be the one to help," answered Eric Smith, the state's commissioner of education.

Rebecca Catalanello, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 11:02am]


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