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Saturday's Letters: For students' sake, don't change class size limits

First-grade teacher Michelle Romero goes over subtraction problems with her students last month at Sand Pine Elementary School in Wesley Chapel. The class is at the limit of 18 students.

EDWARD LINSMIER | Times

First-grade teacher Michelle Romero goes over subtraction problems with her students last month at Sand Pine Elementary School in Wesley Chapel. The class is at the limit of 18 students.

Is adhering to the class size amendment a logistical nightmare? Yes. But did they make it work? Definitely they did.

Teachers at our school empathized deeply with our assistant principal in charge of masterminding all the student schedules; we consider him a hero for seemingly almost magically fitting all of the pieces of the crazy jigsaw together for the sake of the children. And it will be less of a logistical nightmare as the years go on, this being the inaugural and therefore most frazzling year.

Unsurprisingly, none of my students' parents have yet complained that their classes are too small. In fact, this is the first year many of us teachers have felt we have been able to give children the one-on-one attention they need in order to learn best. With fewer students, there has been a marked decrease in classroom disruptions and discipline referrals. Kids aren't on each others' nerves because they are jammed elbow to elbow anymore. The atmosphere is upbeat, friendly and relaxed.

The myth of "What about the 19th student? He'll be turned away, scarred for life!" is a sentimental fallacy designed to get people to vote against the class size caps. Think logically. If the school is at capacity, parents moving to a neighborhood will be able to find that out and take their child to a school in their area where there are vacancies. At hotels, most travelers wouldn't go into a lobby that has "No Vacancy" posted.

Also, if you peel back the top layer of yet another emotional appeal — that the class size amendment will cost close to $40 billion — you will see how it covers up how the money is being spent: more teachers for your children. Who in their right mind wants less? Too few teachers spread too thinly means less qualified, more harried educators. No parent wants that for their child.

In November, voters should weigh which is more important: the state's pocketbook or the education and futures of our children. The former can be replenished; the latter is forever unrecoverable.

Sarah Lehrmann, Clearwater

Too easy to amend

Your editorial on the unintended consequences of the class size amendment from a few years ago points out the larger problem: It's too easy to amend the Florida Constitution. Our Constitution is now so large it's a national laughingstock. Pregnant pigs?

Class size limitations, as with most of the amendments that were approved by statewide vote, should be legislative. That's the kind of thing we hire these guys for. If they won't do their job, for whatever systemic reason, let's deal with that.

Ernest Lane, Trinity

Unintended consequences

Over the past 30 years I have agreed with the Times' position just about every time. However, on this question I definitely cannot agree, based on my 44 years of experience as a classroom teacher.

There are just too many unintended consequences associated with the passage of this amendment. I will speak directly to one that I experienced in every school district in which I taught in four states.

In Florida, the FCAT system mandates that those subjects tested must be the primary concern. If schoolwide class size averages are used, then every math, English, reading and science class on the high school level will be filled at or below the average, while every foreign language, social studies and elective class — those not FCAT tested — will be above the average. And every teacher in those latter classes will have four to five more students in each of their five classes to instruct and evaluate. That defeats the purpose for which the amendment was initially passed in 2002.

I suggest that this issue can be resolved successfully with the expenditure of adequate revenues to meet the mandated class sizes, such as capturing some of the $26 billion in exempted sales tax money, specifically for this purpose.

Wallace F. Witham, Belleair Bluffs

Ask any teacher

In 2002, by a more than 52 percent vote, Floridians did the best thing ever to improve education. They voted to limit class size so that no class would have more than 18, 22 or 25 students depending on grade level. The Times supports using schoolwide averages.

Ask any teacher or student if class size matters. Please listen to them. The 2002 vote limits numbers for each class, not a school average. If your student has an oversized class for the benefit of other classes, what good does that do your student? School averages and increased limits should be defeated. Protect your student against overcrowded classes.

Henry L. King, Clearwater

A step backward

Loosening class size caps is a dangerous step backward. It was voted and enacted to provide a stable educational environment.

Florida has had over seven years to implement an amendment passed in 2002, in an era of high population growth. Now, in negative or stagnant growth, there is an 11th hour begging for more leeway through proposed Amendment 8.

Reasons given are disruption, expense and lack of improvement in student performance for size reductions already made. Other arguments feed on people's emotions that their child, the one exceeding the law's requirements, will not have an opportunity for education.

But these issues are the very reason the 2002 class size amendment was approved. And the consequences of a school system failure to meet the law's requirements will not be "corrected" through Amendment 8. Even with such "adjustment," there would still be portables, multigrade classes, new teachers and students turned away or redirected to other learning options.

Amendment 8 proponents cannot show that their plan addresses any of their arguments against voted-passed legislation.

Steve J. Sarang, Clearwater

The people have spoken

The people of Florida spoke on class sizes. It was the state government's job to get it funded. We had two governors, the most damaging being Jeb Bush, who opposed the class size amendment from the beginning. Bush made sure there was funding for vouchers and charter schools, and he made sure that public schools would be underfunded.

Come to my school and see what we as teachers can do with 22 students in a middle school classroom. The teaching techniques I employ now I could not do with 27 students. I do not have the room, and five more students per class would decrease my opportunity for individualized attention for students by 8.8 minutes per class.

Today's students do not come from the Ward and June Cleaver household. Today's students require much more individual attention.

Jay Pritchard, Redington Beach

Prescription for abuse | Sept. 26

On pill mills, don't lump all together as 'doctors'

Your front-page articles on drug mills are useful and timely. However, you owe it to your reading public to present a full picture of who these illicit prescribers are.

There are two types of prescribing physicians in Florida, doctors of medicine and doctors of osteopathy. We M.D.'s and the Board of Medicine acknowledge our bad apples and will deal with them.

If they are D.O.'s (doctors of osteopathy), the bad light should shine on them equally and their disciplinary Board of Osteopathy.

It is not sufficient to refer to them merely as doctors. There are chiropractors, naturopaths, even dentists — all "doctors" who have found ways to misprescribe.

Your fact table should include this breakdown of the 159 cases, as well as the percentage of offenders of the total licensed by each board.

It is important for patients to know such things about physicians and physician groups to whom they trust their health and lives.

Woods Rogers III, M.D., Tampa

Put money into rehab

I think all the angry mothers like myself should form an organization like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. Perhaps a good name would be FADDD, or Families Against Drug Dealing Doctors.

It sickens me that these doctors just get a slap on the wrist and are allowed to continue prescribing these drugs in their pill mill offices. Meanwhile, the addicts are the ones who pay the highest price, with their lives many times or the accumulation of points in jail for the crimes they commit to get the drugs.

I'm not making excuses for those addicted, but these are not drugs that were easily obtained before these doctors and their other nonmedical clinic backers decided to get rich fast and disregard the reason to practice medicine in the first place: to save lives.

If I had my way, the offending doctors would all be in jail and the cash taken from their offices would fund a much-needed rehab for those addicts who can't afford the help they need.

Trish Masi, St. Petersburg

Constitution's limits | Sept. 26

Core principles ignored

The commentary on the tea party that you reprinted from the Economist gets many of the details correct but misses the whole point of the movement.

Even before the tea party movement had a name, the impetus for it was already brewing during the tenure of President George W. Bush. Numerous conservative commentators were criticizing the reckless spending and federal overreach of his administration, and remarking that it seemed to make no difference whether we elected a Democrat or Republican.

With President Barack Obama in power, matters reached critical mass, as an unrestrained Congress ignored the voices of Americans who objected to a complete government takeover of our personal decisions, including health care.

We do not, as the article suggests, view the Constitution as a panacea for all our ills. But we do see the abandonment of its core principles as posing a very real danger to the nation.

The article says that the original Constitution represented a centralization of power in response to the failed Articles of Confederation. That is true only in part. The fact remains that the federal government is the creation of the states, not vice versa. The states are not the servants of colonial lords in Washington. On the contrary, the 10th Amendment restricts the federal government to specific, enumerated powers and expressly forbids any other powers to the federal government.

Robert Arvay, Tampa

Bike crash victim a top researcher | Sept. 28

Widen the sidewalks

As a former colleague of Kay Ishizuka at USF Health, I feel a deep sense of loss with her tragic death while riding home on her bicycle.

I also rode my bike daily from Temple Terrace until my retirement a few months ago. If there is anything to be learned from this accident, it is that bicycle lanes are not safe for bikers. This is especially true when approaching an intersection, where bike lanes cut between a right-hand lane and a turning lane.

In my opinion, bikers should share the sidewalks with pedestrians. There may be some minor collisions, but nothing of the magnitude of a car-bicycle crash, which often results in a fatality. In retrospect, I wish that the bike lanes were never added in the USF area. Just widen the sidewalks.

Ken Keller, Temple Terrace

Rubio has to face this mess | Sept. 24, editorial

Crist signed the bill

In this editorial attack on Marco Rubio, your favored Charlie Crist gets little mention, although he signed the transportation bill containing the court-building bond authorization. What? Crist can't read?

Rather than beat on Rubio, why not insist that a grand jury find out the name of the clerk who put that item in the bill at the last moment? Then, follow the string back to the originator and take it from there.

That this bond authorization for a courthouse could be placed in a transportation bill underscores the problem with accepted legislative procedures.

Russ Locascio, Safety Harbor

Governor's responsibility

Crist has to face this mess also!

Certainly Marco Rubio and his minions have a lot to answer for in regard to the $48 million "Taj Mahal" and the $6 million Ray Sansom airplane hangar. These are only two examples of the total disregard for what is right or wrong that has so many Americans disgusted with our state and national elected officials.

But what about Gov. Crist? He has the moral and ethical responsibility to use his constitutional power of the line-item veto to prevent such atrocities.

M.F. (Ted) Wilson, Tampa

Saturday's Letters: For students' sake, don't change class size limits 10/01/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 1, 2010 4:50pm]

    

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