I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Class Size Town-Hall Meetings Draw Very Weak Attendance

The Escambia County School District recently hosted two "Town Hall" meetings on the subject of school class size reduction (The 2010-2011 School Year is the final year of the phased-in approach to implementation of the 2002 Voter approved Class Size initiative).

Members of the public were invited to join District leadership in a discussion on the challenges facings schools regarding implementation of Class size this year at the classroom level. At the first meeting last week at Northview High School, just 7 members of the general public attended the meeting-and three of the seven left early. Last night, only three members of the public attended-while 26 district administrators and employees were on hand to answer questions. The few who attended last night (and last week) were given a brief introduction to the whole issue via this powerpoint presentation

Over the last 8 years, the state has spent $16 Billion just for the implementation of Class Size reduction. We are in the final year of implementation and common sense (and economic necessity) dictates that Individual school districts need some flexibility-otherwise many (most) counties will be out of compliance. I have mixed feelings on this issue, but what we as individuals think of the class size issue means nothing; The voters spoke in 2002 and the measure passed and is the law. The important thing I as a board member strongly support is being in compliance with the law. I believe it would be negligent to willfully violate the law--even though I know some districts are doing this. I also think Saying we can't afford to comply is not an excuse and a cop-out--we must comply. Some districts are making compliance a priority and are looking forward to the additional revenue full compliance will generate (via penalties imposed on districts out of compliance) We have known this year was coming and now we have to find a way to meet the law. I don't like hard caps and mandated class size restrictions, as I believe these are fiscal nightmares, but the law is the law.

Knowing the grim financial condition of our projected budgets, our best strategy is to STRONGLY advocate for the passage of Amendment 8 in November, which will give local districts some common sense flexibility in dealing with class size. The Amendment must garner 60% of the vote this November to pass, so this is an uphill challenge we face in telling the public about this issue. The statewide teacher's Union does not want districts to have flexibility and will work tirelessly to defeat Amendment 8. The Florida Education Association has filed a lawsuit to remove Amendment 8 from the ballot.

I predict a battle over passage of Amendment 8 will errupt over the next two months statewide with the Union and their National Home Office going "all-in" to defeat this common sense amendment. In this economic catastrophy we are in right now-the only common sense move we can make is pass Amendment 8. Everyone we speak with must know the drastic financial implications of Full Compliance with the Class Size Law. Everyone should read this paper by Florida Taxwatch, describing the $Billions of dollars implementation will cost taxpayers every year if Amendment 8 does not pass.

But it would be foolish to count on Amendment 8's passage. We need to hope for the best but plan for the worst.

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