School Climate & Safety

Class Size Proposal Heading to Fla. Senate Vote

By The Associated Press — March 05, 2010 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A ballot proposal that would ask voters to loosen class size limits is headed for a floor vote in the Florida Senate where it appears to have enough votes to pass.

Similar measures have failed there in years gone by, but support has grown as the Legislature has faced growing revenue shortfalls and budget cuts over the past three years.

The proposed state constitutional amendment received final committee approval in the Senate on Thursday. The Ways and Means Committee’s 15-8 vote was largely along party lines with Republicans in favor and all except one Democrat, Sen. Gary Siplin, against.

The measure (SJR 2) sponsored by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and a similar proposal filed in the House by Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, would revise a state constitutional amendment voters approved in 2002.

Even if it goes on the ballot and voters approved it by the required 60 percent in November, the revision would roll back but not stop the 2002 measure from going into full effect this fall, setting limits of 18 students for kindergarten through third grade, 22 for fourth through eighth grade and 25 for high school.

That citizen initiative got on the ballot through a petition campaign led by Kendrick Meek, now a Democratic congressman from Miami who is running for U.S. Senate, and the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union.

Proposed amendments to weaken the limits have passed previously in the House only to fail in the Senate. The last time the Senate voted on such a measure, it fell four votes short of the 24 needed to pass in the 40-member chamber.

This time, two Democrats, Siplin of Orlando and Sen. Jeremy Ring of Margate, are co-sponsoring Gaetz’ amendment. Also, two Republicans who opposed the 2006 proposal, Sens. Evelyn Lynn of Ormond Beach and Rudy Garcia of Hialeah, voted for the proposal in committee Thursday.

That’s a four-vote swing — the margin by which the 2006 proposal failed.

Weatherford’s version (HJR 7039) has not yet had a committee hearing in the House.

Republican politicians and many school officials have long argued the 2002 amendment is too expensive — it has already cost $16 billion to phase in — and will cause too much disruption when fully implemented. Supporters say smaller class sizes have led to improved academic performance reflected by higher scores on standardized tests.

“This money will be taken away from the classroom and used to build buildings for the 19th student or whatever,” said Sen. John Thrasher of Jacksonville, who also chairs the Florida Republican Party.

The revision would require that the limits be met only on a school average basis instead of in each classroom. That’s the current requirement under the phase-in of the 2002 amendment.

The proposed change also would cap individual classrooms at no more than three children over the average limit for kindergarten through third grade and by five for the other grades.

Ron Meyer, a lawyer for the Florida Education Association, said the union agrees more flexibility is needed, but he argued that can be done by passing a law, not changing the constitution.

He told the committee the Florida Supreme Court already has reviewed the existing amendment and ruled the limits are goals, not requirements. The only requirement is a clause pertaining to the legislature, Meyer said.

“What is says is you, the Florida Legislature, have the obligation to make adequate provision — read that as money — because that’s what it’s about,” he said. “You have the obligation to fund so that these goals can be met.”

Thrasher disagreed, arguing that the constitution says “we shall not exceed” for each of the limits. The 2002 amendment uses the word “shall” only in the phrases “the Legislature shall make adequate provision” and “the Legislature shall provide sufficient funds.”

Related Tags:

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety What the Research Says A Hallmark of School Shooters: Long History of Social Rejection
New research finds that shooters in K-12 schools are more often "failed joiners" than loners.
5 min read
Butler County Sheriff Deputies stand on the scene at Madison Local Schools, in Madison Township in Butler County, Ohio, after a school shooting on Feb. 29, 2016.
Sheriff deputies were on the scene of a shooting at Madison Local Schools, in Butler County, Ohio, in 2016.
Cara Owsley/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP
School Climate & Safety 4 Myths About Suspensions That Could Hurt Students Long Term
New longitudinal research shows that longer in- and out-of-school suspensions have severe consequences for students.
5 min read
Image of a student sitting at a desk in a school hallway.
School Climate & Safety Photos The Tense and Joyous Start to the 2021 School Year, in Photos
Students are headed back to school with the threat of the Delta variant looming. How is this playing out across the country? Take a look.
School Climate & Safety Former NRA President Promotes Gun Rights at Fake Graduation Set Up by Parkland Parents
A former NRA president invited to give a commencement address to a school that doesn’t exist was set up to make a point about gun violence.
Lisa J. Huriash, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
2 min read
David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, speaks during the CPAC meeting in Washington on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2010.
David Keene, the former president of the NRA, promoted gun rights in a speech he thought was a rehearsal for a commencement address to graduating students in Las Vegas. The invitation to give the speech was a set up by Parkland parents whose son was killed in the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP