Staff Photo: Michelle Floyd
Science teacher Derek Kreider and his new high school students have enjoyed the new classrooms at Peachtree Academy. In the science department, students have desks, lab space and cabinetry to conduct classroom experiments.
In 2002, Florida voters passed a mandate to reduce public school class sizes. Today critics say the state can't afford to build new classrooms and hire new teachers. That's why they want you to vote yes to Amendment 8.
Whether it's math or English, History or geography there's no need to take a count. Under the Florida constitution, every class has its limits.
If Amendment 8 were to pass, those limits will be higher than they are now. It's designed to save money. But today, a coalition of principals and teachers, including high school English instructor Karen Aronowitz, are launching a campaign dubbed 'No on 8', calling the amendment unfair to Florida's students.
“Kids need time on computers,” Aronowitz said. “When there aren't enough stations, somebody's waiting. When children are performing a science lab, there isn't enough equipment for all of them; one kid does an experiment, another watches an experiment. That's not the kind of quality education that our students deserve.”
Thanks to the class size amendment, it's up to the state, and not local school districts, to foot the bill for smaller classes. The coalition estimates it'll cost around $350 million more to fully comply.
With Amendment 8, they say that mandate would disappear.
$350y million may not be much. But with a budget deficit that could top three billion in the year ahead, it's money the state just doesn't have. For that reason, Amendment 8's backers argue passage is critical.
What's more, David Hart with the Florida Chamber of Commerce is skeptical a more intimate learning environment makes for a better student.
“There's very little connection between the size of a classroom and the outcomes you get from your student achievement, particularly in the higher grades,” Hart said.
That’s where under Amendment 8, the hard caps on class sizes would jump from 25 to 30 kids. Not a dramatic increase, but for Karen it's a tipping point she's not ready to re-visit.
“Kids accidentally brush against another, and the next thing you know, an argument's broken out,” she said.
That's why she'd rather have an argument now about an amendment with big consequences.
The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments aimed at disqualifying Amendment 8 Wednesday. If justices rule in favor of the plaintiffs, it would be considered void, regardless of the election's outcome.