TALLAHASSEE — A proposal critics say lets state lawmakers off the funding hook for a 2002 amendment to limit class size remains on track to go before voters in November, following a circuit court ruling Friday.
Leon County Circuit Court Chief Judge Charles Francis ruled that Amendment 8, a legislative attempt to eliminate strict enrollment caps, was neither misleading nor ambiguous and can be included on the ballot.
The amendment was challenged by the state's largest teachers union, which argued that voters would be largely unaware that the proposal could result in reduced funding for public schools. In a 10-page ruling, Francis disagreed.
"The court finds the ballot and title summary are very clear and unambiguous as to what the amendment purports to do in reference to the changes in class size," Francis wrote. "It revises them as plainly and simply as the title so indicates."
The Florida Education Association, which filed suit to strike the issue from the ballot, plans to appeal, according to a statement issued by its attorney shortly after Francis released his ruling.
"The Legislature tried to 'hide the ball' from Florida voters by misrepresenting the chief purpose of Amendment 8 — which is to reduce the state's obligation to adequately fund public schools," union lawyer Ron Meyer said.
If approved by 60 percent of voters in November, the proposal would allow school officials to use averages instead of class-by-class totals when complying with class-size requirements. Currently, the caps are 18 students in kindergarten through third grade, 22 in grades 4-8, and 25 in high school.
Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, argued that strictly adhering to the more inflexible caps would necessitate cuts elsewhere.
U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, who spearheaded efforts to pass the 2002 cap, in a statement said the Republican-led Legislature's proposal is an affront to the voters who only eight years earlier made it clear they wanted more money spent on schools.