Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Feb. 10: Don't Tinker With Florida Class Size Law

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Studies about the benefits of smaller classes are clear. So was the will of Florida voters in 2002, when they approved an amendment mandating smaller class sizes.

Now, some members of the Florida Legislature are trying to tinker with that amendment. They might combine it with a provision that would provide a penny sales tax increase for Florida schools. That's a mix that would never pass muster with the Florida Supreme Court if it was proposed by an outside group, rather than state lawmakers, since it would deal with more than one issue.

Legislators use the current budget crisis as an excuse. But the truth is that a number of lawmakers, many of them in the Republican Party, never wanted the class size amendment, and they've pounced on the crisis to justify their current actions.

They forget that putting more students into classrooms would require more resources - and thus, more money - to help them. A penny sales tax increase wouldn't cover that.

Of course, once the class size provision gets loosened, in typical government fashion, there's nothing that says it won't be loosened even more.

The legislature would do better for schools by saving budget money in other areas. As for class sizes: Lawmakers should leave them alone.

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