Wednesday, March 25, 2009

March 25: Leave Class Sizes Alone

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The theme for fighting the actions of this year's Florida Legislature seems to be "Leave It Alone."

The latest battlefront for that motto is class sizes.

In 2002, Florida voters approved a constitutional measure to limit class sizes.

Now, State Representative Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel (west-central Florida), wants a new ballot measure that, in typical Florida House Republican fashion, messes with the numbers.

CS/HJR 919 would have voters go to the polls next year to decide on a measure that would have the class size limits be based on the "average number of students at school level" instead of the maximum number of students. The House Education Policy Council is hearing the bill as this is being written.

Weatherford and others who support this measure have both short memories and a disregard for parts of the state larger than Wesley Chapel, population 5,700 as of the 2000 Census (but growing). There's Miami, population 362,400 in the same census, and Tampa (303,000).

It was the larger communities in this state that were fighting for the class size ballot measure, which has eased overcrowding in schools across the state. Smaller class sizes generally lead to more attention and better grades for students, and if Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist have gotten to thump their chests over education improvements in Florida, the lower class sizes are a big reason why.

Bush, Weatherford and others in the G.O.P. have squawked about funding the measure, but it's been worth the results. The Florida Legislature should keep hands off the class sizes. As this year's motto goes, Leave It Alone.

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