It was important in 2002 when Florida voters said they want to get a grip on class sizes exploding amid furious growth.
It’s important again, seven years later, as school administrators, families and politicians working with dwindling resources are realizing voters did not know how much those smaller class sizes would cost.
At least in Southwest Florida, public-education leaders are building a constituency to cushion the full force of the amendment taking hold next year. In order to avoid school rezonings, canceling some small, specialized classes or leaving newly hired teachers on the bubble with minor student-population changes, those leaders believe action is in order.
With a potential corrective amendment referendum a year away, Collier County Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Thompson is saying the rescue attempt is futile. He says statewide polling shows little support, with a 60 percent supermajority needed to pass. Plus, he says, a statewide teachers union and the amendment’s main original author are expected to campaign to keep the class-size amendment on track as written.
Because it’s so important, we believe the community — here and across Florida — needs to hear more before calling off the cavalry.
Informed, motivated voters can get big jobs done. If they had been fully informed the first time around, we might not be in this situation today.
We remember one other school-funding referendum that ended positively after struggling to get off the ground for fear of defeat at the polls. That would be the Collier schools tax flexibility vote of 2008 that is letting us spend some excess capital-expansion money on vital operations.
Could a worthwhile mission overcome tall odds again? Or, would a bipartisan, realistic measure with common-sense changes — such as computing class sizes by school instead of per class — face tall odds at all?
Perhaps the Florida Legislature can work within the framework of the 2002 amendment to get the same job done more efficiently.
It’s important enough to air it all out before we give up.