Sen. Don Gaetz and Rep. Will Weatherford Unveil Proposal to “Right Size” Class Size Amendment
Proposal Would Place Update to Class Size Amendment Before Florida Voters
Tallahassee – Aiming to “right size the class size amendment,” Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and Rep. Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel), today announced their proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution to update the 2002 class size amendment.
Instead of the hard, inflexible class size caps instituted by the 2002 amendment, the Constitutional amendment proposed by Sen. Gaetz and Rep. Weatherford would implement class size caps as a school average and provide flexibility for schools to add 3 seats in pre-K to 3rd grade classrooms and 5 seats in grades 4 through 12, if necessary, to meet unforeseen enrollment changes.
“Our proposal does not change the class size targets voters approved in 2002,” said Sen. Gaetz who previously served as a school superintendent in Okaloosa County. “This proposed amendment charts a course forward that is fiscally sound and sustainable; respects the role of local educators to make staffing, operations and other decisions; and keeps class sizes at a level where teachers can teach and children can learn.”
It would require a 3/5 vote of the Legislature to put the Gaetz/Weatherford Constitutional amendment to “right size class size” on the ballot in November. It would require approval of 60% of voters to become law.
In 2002, 52% of Florida voters approved the Class Size Amendment. Since then, the state has invested $16 billion to meet the amendment’s requirements. As a result, the average class size in Florida’s schools has fallen significantly.
“Since the 2002 amendment passed, Florida has diligently worked to meet the spirit and intent of the law. The days where teachers had to practice crowd control as a rule are a thing of the past in schools across Florida,” said Rep. Weatherford. “This class size referendum will allow voters to review the historic progress that has been made and weigh the challenges we face with the flawed 2002 approach of hard caps, inflexible rules and top-down micromanagement of local schools.”
Under the 2002 Class Size Amendment, hard classroom caps of 18 students for grades PreK-3; 22 students for grades 4-8; and 25 students for grades 9-12 are scheduled to take effect at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year.
There currently are 825,000 student stations sitting empty in Florida. Those stations are in every district and at every grade level. Sen. Gaetz and Rep. Weatherford noted the problem with the implementation of the 2002 amendment are the expensive and chaotic logistical problems the hard class size caps would create across the state.
Some of the most daunting problems being forecast with the full implementation of the 2002 amendment include:
* Massive busing
* Disruption in student learning
* Double sessions
* Inability to hire enough qualified teachers
* Elimination of local flexibility
Sen. Gaetz and Rep. Weatherford say their proposal would reduce the number of problems with the final implementation of the 2002 Class Size Amendment while respecting the intent of those who voted for the amendment.