Amendment 8: Relaxation of class-size requirements
Can existing class-size rules, set in 2002, be eased by changing the per-class maximum calculations to school-wide averages?
This amendment would raise the maximum allowable number of students per class by changing the calculation from per-class maximums to school-wide averages.
The change would allow a school to be over the average in one class provided that excess is balanced by another class at that school with fewer students than the allowable average. Backers say the change would save millions of dollars and give individual schools a measure of flexibility not present in the current law. Opponents say voters clearly wanted to cap class sizes at the levels they passed into law in 2002, and that students and teachers benefit from smaller class sizes.
The current class-size caps were voted into law in 2002 by 52 percent of the voters. The limits were to be phased in over several years and put into full effect at the start of the 2010-11 school year. The state estimates it spent about $16 billion the past several years preparing to implement the caps, mostly on classroom teacher salaries and benefits. Another $2.9 billion is being proposed for class- size reduction funding for the 2010-11 school year.
Supporters of Amendment 8 say the millions saved could go to teacher raises instead. Gov. Charlie Crist, school superintendents and school board associations are backing the change. Strapped for money in a down economy, they are wary of the costs associated with hiring more teachers and finding more classrooms to accommodate the limits set to become effective. They complain that the inflexibility of the current law means more portable classrooms and more busing.
Opponents argue that the voters made it clear in 2002 that they wanted to limit class sizes. Smaller classes make a better learning environment, they argue. The statewide teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association, opposes the bill. The union is calling on the state to fulfill the constitutional mandate and implement the limits approved at the ballot box.
Title on Ballot: Revision of the class-size requirements for public schools
Official Summary: 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 three, 18 students; for grades four through eight, 22 students; and for grades nine 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 four through eight, 27 students; and for grades nine 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.
Arguments for: The cost to implement the current requirements is simply too high in today’s poor economy. The state can’t afford to build more classrooms and hire more teachers. This amendment would provide needed flexibility that does not exist in the Constitution as amended in 2002.
Arguments against: The state’s voters made it clear in 2002 that they wanted to limit class sizes. Smaller classes make a better learning environment.