The Florida Legislature and all the gubernatorial candidates are seeking to roll back the class size amendment with their own amendment eight. They say a roll back will give districts more flexibility and lessen potential penalties given to districts that don’t fully comply. This is them being disingenuous at best and insulting at worse but regardless begs the question, do our representatives present and future in Tallahassee think we, the citizens of Florida will believe whatever they tell us?

Our own senator Wise who is no friend to North Florida’s children as shown by his recent support of increased voucher programs; he said he supported them because enrollment in private schools is down throughout the state and where that’s’s true in most places it’s not true in the district he represents as it has dramatically risen here, had an equally inane reason for supporting the roll back of the class size amendment. He said if a new student came in after the year started, schools would have to hire a teacher just for that student. Senator Wise instead of having one class of 25 and one of one, why don’t we have two classes of thirteen. After reading this I couldn’t also help but wonder how he would do on the enhanced graduation math requirements, despite the fact many of our students can’t master the current ones, that he supported.

It’s true the present economy is rough and revenues are down, but let’s think back to 2002. 911 had happened the year before and Florida along with the rest of the country was still in a full blown panic. People weren’t travelling and people weren’t spending money either. Instead we were glued to our television sets listening to stories about anthrax, terror alerts and weapons of mass destruction. The economy was not exactly setting records then and hadn’t been for some time. Does anybody remember the March-November 2001 recession? Furthermore the start of the smoke and mirror housing boom was still two years away. Despite the weak economy the citizens of Florida, along with almost the full backing of the legislature at the time, voted for the class size amendment.

The legislature wanting to roll back the amendment is just another example of how short sighted they are. The economic down turn didn’t happen overnight but they act like it caught them off guard. The reason I believe they are so concerned is because now they will have to close loop holes and tax breaks for certain businesses which are campaign contributors. I know it’s not because they care about the children of Florida because if that was the case they wouldn’t have cut so much from education over the years.

I am not sure if the general public is aware of the following but they are all directly controlled by the state legislature. Florida is currently ranked 50th out of 50 states in per capita funding for K-12 public education and 39th in per pupil funding. In 2006, we spent $7,400 per pupil today we spend $6,400 per pupil (The national average is over $10,000.) and Florida ranks 16th in the nation in spending on corrections. I mention the last part because I believe if we spent more on education we could spend less on prisons and all society would benefit.

Yes, we are having tough economic times but it’s wrong to point to 2002 and say, the economy was so much better back then. Also when the residents of Florida passed the amendment they knew it was going to cost money and voted to pass it anyway. In effect they told the legislature to do their job and find the money to pay for it, perhaps they can ask all the new yacht owners they gave a huge tax break to during this past legislative session to chip in a little more. Or maybe it’s time the government did it’s job and provided for our children rather than just special interests and their big donars. If you agree please contact them and let them know.

Chris Guerrieri

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