State Rep. Bill Heller, D-St. Petersburg, the ranking member on education policy in the Florida House, said in a press release on Tuesday, “Amendment 8 comes at the worst possible time for our public schools. Per-student funding is at its lowest level since the 2005-2006 school year.”

“The Class Size Amendment has saved public education from massive cuts during these difficult times.”

Heller added, “Public education received almost $19 billion since 2002 thanks to the Class Size Amendment. Of that, $16 billion went to hiring new teachers, buying classroom supplies, upgrading classroom technology and other things needed to teach students in a more individualized and supportive environment.”

Heller writes that a 2009 “University of London psychology and education professor found student performance in math and reading improved in smaller classes, especially in the earliest grades, and that children were more engaged and less disruptive in smaller classes. Minorities did especially well in smaller classes.”

A Miami-Dade public high school teacher who asked to remain anonymous tells The Florida Independent that “lower classroom sizes makes for a more intimate environment where students can get a little more individual attention.”

“The legislature, the state, should fully fund education and not leave that solely to the individual school districts,” the teacher says. “They chose not to approve the additional funding required to fund this amendment, hence all the chaos at the local level with students being shuffled around, and substitute teachers earning sub salaries are teaching classes full-time. Without more money going to education, individual schools districts can’t really hire more teachers, build more classrooms, etc.”

The Consortium of Florida Education Foundations, which supports Amendment 8, cites a “Harvard study [that] showed [class size reduction] does not improve student achievement.”

This Harvard University study on the impact of universal class size reduction in Florida indicates that class size reduction “alone does not favor student improvement, it goes along with increased resources and quality teachers.”

The study analyzes the district-level implementation of the policy (2004–2006) and school-level implementation from 2007 through 2009.

It adds that “results of both analyses suggest that mandated CSR in Florida had little, if any, effect on student achievement in math and reading in fourth grade through eighth grade,” but

the findings reported do not apply to all aspects of Florida’s CSR policy, particularly its coverage of pre-kindergarten to second grade and grades nine to 12. It may well be that the policy had a larger effect on these grades. And it remains a possibility that the resources provided to districts and schools as a result of the CSR mandate had positive effects on schools in this study.

“If anything class sizes should be even smaller, closer to 10 to 12 students per class,” another Miami-Dade middle school teacher who asked to remain anonymous tells TFI. “This would allow teachers more opportunities for individualizing instruction, having more in depth assignments, more time to get to know the students and keep in contact with the parents. All of these things mean a better quality education for students.

This teacher adds:

Amendment 8 proponents argue we’re in a financial crisis and can’t afford CSR but we need to find the funds, cutting from the bureaucracy, increasing taxes on the upper two tax brackets, etc. Also keeping and creating jobs has a positive multiplier effect on the economy because people with jobs spend the money they get and it goes back into improving the economy more.

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