Amendment 8 should come with one of those endless TV disclaimers. Both sides are gearing up, spending big bucks and are fully convinced that they are “right.”
Just as they did with the Lottery, the Florida legislature has manipulated the voters of this state. School Boards against teachers’ unions, high school parents against elementary school parents– we all know the drill. Divide, confuse and conquer.
Parents of high school students are living the nightmare of seeing their children sold short. These kids work hard. They need rigorous classes that require mastery to win a seat in a competitive 4-year college. By not funding these classes, the state is aiming its meanest fast ball directly at our children.
Florida has a $70 billion dollar annual budget. It is unacceptable to tell a student that instead of Chemistry IV, he’ll have to sit in PE for a year, crippling his chance of getting into the college of his choice.
This “tipping point” is meant drive parents directly to the polls and vote yes for Amendment 8. Who can blame them for doing whatever it takes to provide relief for their children and their schools?
Conversely, parents of elementary students all over Florida recently attended Meet Your Teacher events and were thrilled to see smaller class sizes. They love seeing 1st and 2nd graders get the attention they need from their teachers. These parents are less inclined to vote for Amendment 8. They like keeping classes small. They don’t buy the need for change. Voting no on Amendment 8 seems logical.
One thing is crystal clear: if the Florida Legislature had made public education their paramount priority all along, none of this discussion would be taking place. We are in this space because the folks that we’ve elected refuse to do their job as described in Article IX, Section 1 of the Florida Constitution.
Before you vote, please get the facts. Most people’s view of Amendment 8 depends on their student’s grade level. Either way, a vote yes or a vote no is a vote of no confidence in our lawmakers’ commitment to obey the state constitution.
√ Increases class sizes, still capped at no more than 6 additional students in core courses.
√ Less stress on districts to come up with funds to hire more teachers.
√ Some electives will be saved, giving hope to parents of high school students.
√ Allows “flexibility” in certain situations to prevent some redistribution of students.
√ Reduces funding stream – raising class size is also about reducing the legislature’s financial obligation to districts.
√ Dollars that would have gone toward the lower class size numbers will no longer be designated for public education.
√ There is no plan to keep this money, close to $1 Billion dollars, in public education.
√ Exempts Florida public charter schools from having to meet class size or pay penalties, creating two classes of public schools.
√ Denies “Flexibility” to the majority of public schools and applies prohibitively expensive penalties yet gives “Flexibility” to public charter schools allowing them to maintain school-wide averages and pay no penalties.
√ Electives are not subject to class size and will likely swell to 70 or 80 students.
√ Places superintendents, principals and school board members in the compromising position of lobbying and influencing voters.