by Lucia Baez
In 2002, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment to limit class size. They did not overturn it in 2010. How can we have classes with 45 students when the limit is 25? Is there some sleight of hand going on? Well yes. The Miami Herald reported that electives were exempt, and some classes like AP became electives. Classes that had been limited to twenty five students increased. With the severe funding cuts over several years, districts have had to somehow manage to do more with less. They looked at the flexibility given to charters and wanted some for themselves.
Charter schools could average class size across the school. So, some classes could be large and others small. With the help of the legislature in 2013, districts could do the same if they called their schools ‘schools of choice’. Now a bill has been filed to legitimize the practice. SB 818 was recently filed by Senator Garcia. It is curious that it is possible to circumvent the constitution when it is convenient.
A teacher and League member from Miami has written a letter. See what she has to say. Her tone is gentle; her message is strong.
Hello, dear elected officials and public education advocates
I HOPE this message finds you well.
SB 818 introduces a loophole to previous class size amendment bills by recalculating class size to mean a “school average” of teacher to student ratios. Funding issues have been cited for the justification of this loophole as class size has systemically been implemented without proper infrastructural support throughout the entire state.
Our Miami Beach Senior High PTSA has looked further into this issue, and they find that school districts across the state, including Miami-Dade County Public Schools, have quietly re-classified traditional schools as “schools of choice” to take advantage of a 2013 law allowing schools of choice to calculate class size on a school wide average. This has resulted in severe over-crowding in traditional public schools. The 2015 bill, SB 818, is attempting to solidify those gains by allowing districts to calculate class size on a school wide average across the board.
Their final consensus:
the language in the “schools of choice” amendments implemented across school districts is not about saving money on penalties or flexibility. The language is about saving billions on teacher salaries by crowding students into fewer classes. Their investigation was documented by multiple media sources including the Miami Herald
The ask: We would like you to join us as Miami Beach constituents in YOUR district, as educators, and as citizens fighting for a better Florida, to engage your networks to inform the public of the detrimental effects of SB 818 to our public school system. We need as many people on board telling legislators that we respect students’ rights to a safe and quality school system and that we demand a public school system that is able to meet students’ needs in each and every neighborhood in our counties.
Please, contact our PTSA President Emeritus Mrs. Kayla Rynor, who has been championing this effort, at firstname.lastname@example.org
to collaborate with our PTSA and work together to move more people to action. She is looking forward to hearing from you, and can answer any further questions regarding evidence against SB 818 and why this matters.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter.