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Court will hear debate over class size and so will most voters

2

October

Classroom by classroom, Florida public school districts continue the march to reduce the number of students and finally meet the mandate voters approved eight years ago.

Their deadline: Oct. 15, when the fall student counts take place.

But first, the Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday on Amendment 8, a ballot measure that would ask voters to reconsider the caps set by the 2002 class-size amendment.

The state's teachers union is challenging the language in Amendment 8, calling it misleading and unclear. Ron Meyer, an attorney for the Florida Education Association, says it also fails to tell voters that it could potentially change the way public education is funded.

Read the full story on the class size amendment case and get more info on the challenge in this Q&A:

The court case

The case of Florida Education Association vs. Florida Department of State heads to the state Supreme Court on Wednesday. The union seeks to have Amendment 8 ballots discounted, so the results are never released. The state contends that the amendment is valid and should remain before voters.

Among the arguments:

Florida Education Association: "The ballot title of Amendment 8 is misleading in that it purports to be a revision of class-size requirements for public schools by permitting class sizes to be averaged at a schoolwide level rather than at a classroom level. However, the amendment in reality reduces the funding required to be provided by the state of Florida to local school districts to ensure smaller class sizes."

Department of State: "First, the appellants' funding reduction claim is pure speculation based on meaningless calculations that lack any record support. Second, the current language of the class-size amendment, by its own terms and in the view of this court, fixes no prescribed or funding rate, formula, or level that the Legislature must meet or that is threatened by Amendment 8. Third, the fiscal impact of a legislatively proposed amendment is not required in the ballot title and summary."

Sources: Briefs filed by both sides in the case of Florida Education Association et al. vs. Department of State

What's on ballot

Amendment 8 would ask Florida voters to reconsider the limits set forth in the 2002 class-size amendment, so schools would be allowed to exceed the individual classroom cap if their average class size remains at the 2002 approved level of 18 (Grades K-3), 22 (Grades 4-8) or 25 (Grades 9-12). The Florida Legislature has proposed these changes, with the support of the state associations of school boards, superintendents and school administrators. The Florida Education Association and the Florida PTA are opposing the effort. The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether voters should consider the question during oral arguments on Wednesday.

Here's the ballot title and summary:

Revision of the Class Size Requirements For Public Schools: 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.

[Last modified: Saturday, October 2, 2010 10:55pm]

    

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