The St. Petersburg Times is reporting that voters appear to have rejected Amendment 8, the legislature’s attempt to overturn a ballot measure originally approved by Floridians in 2002 that placed a hard cap on class sizes. Early returns are indicating that the amendment has not met the required 60 percent approval needed to become law, and opponents of the legislation are already claiming victory:
“Amendment 8 is going down, baby,” said state Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, a leading opponent. “The Legislature has tried time and time again to tell the people they’re wrong (about the original 2002 class-size amendment) and they weren’t.”
Schools districts have had a difficult time meeting the original caps imposed in 2002, which had been championed by the teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association, and a bipartisan coalition that included state Sen. Villalobos as its chairman, because the legislature failed to provide the more than $350 million in funding included in the first class-size reduction amendment.
Rocky Hanna, principal of Leon High School in Tallahassee, recently told The Florida Independent how his school had been able to meet the cap of 25 students per core high school class with no additional funding and without having to cut any programs, teachers or extra-curricular activities.
Originally a proponent of Amendment 8, Hanna became the face of opposition once it became clear the legislature was not going to approve the final round of funding necessary for districts around the state to meet the caps without the kinds of wrangling teachers and administrators at Leon High underwent this past summer to successfully reach the reduced class sizes:
What’s disappointing and amazing to me is that here you have school administrators and boards that will admit the legislature didn’t get the final round of funding, they’ll admit the legislature could have provided some flexibility on their own given the financial situation in the state, they admit the legislature was the ones that created the harsh fines that we’re now having to face across the state. They admit those things, but they still support the amendment.
Should Amendment 8 fail, the legislature will be forced to fully fund the original classroom reduction law.