Teachers launch campaign against Amendment 8 with Sen. Alex Villalobos as chairman
We've heard quite a bit about the effort to "right size" Florida's class size amendment. Now comes the opposition with a new campaign, backed by the Florida Education Association and led by state Sen. Alex Villalobos, a Miami Republican who consistently has voted against efforts to alter the 2002 voter mandate.
"The people of Florida want to do that (lower class sizes), and our job is to govern by way of assent of the people. It's not the other way around," Villalobos told the Gradebook. "In 2010, the Legislature will have to start paying for smaller class sizes. Look, this isn't my opinion vs. your opinion, or what the UTD or the FEA has to say. The Florida Supreme Court in 2002 in their advisory opinion ... says, and I quote on page 584, 'Although, as a result of the amendment, the Legislature may choose to fund the building of new schools to achieve the maximum classroom size set as a goal of the proposed amendment, this is not the only method of ensure that the number of students meets the numbers set forth in the amendment."
The class sizes set forth are goals, not hard caps, he said.
"I'll further read: 'Rather than restricting the Legislature, the proposed amendment gives the Legislature latitude in designing ways to reach the class size goal articulated in the ballot initiative, and places the obligation to ensure compliance on the Legislature, not the local school boards,'" he said.
He added, "This is all about priorities. If you think funding the Game and Fish Commission is more important than funding education, that's fine. That's why you live in America. But I don't think that. ... I think our obligation as a Legislature is to do what the people of Florida told us to do."
Villalobos plans to tour the state pushing hard to keep the class size rules as they are, as the voters of Florida decided in 2002. The campaign will launch a website, www.noon8fl.org, later Thursday. We'll bring you the senator's full comments on Saturday in our weekend interview.