Florida Voters Will Weigh in on Class Size Limits

Last Updated: October 27, 2010

This article appeared in the October 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

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The Florida Supreme Court has ended the Florida Education Association’s challenge to Amendment 8, a ballot initiative that would change a current state provision that sets strict limits on the size of every class. As reported in August and September RSFN, the FEA sought to remove Amendment 8 from this November’s ballot, claiming that its language is misleading and fails to advise voters of its true effects.

The FEA’s position was that if schools could meet the amendment’s requirement by averaging class sizes, they would effectively be giving up funding they would have received from the state to keep class sizes lower. Because the ballot description did not mention the potential loss of funds, the FEA challenged it in court.

Proponents of the FEA challenge had pointed out that savings to the state could be as high as $1 billion dollars, and that there would be no guarantee that funds would continue to be spent on schools.

The state high court agreed with the lower court that not describing the financial implications did not make the ballot initiative defective. The decision found that even though the dollar amount for schools could be different if the amendment is changed, the requirement on the state to provide sufficient funds for schools would not be altered.

Amendment 8 set maximum class sizes of 18 students in K–3, 22 students in grades 4–8, and 25 students in high school. The limits became fully enforceable this year, and many schools complained that the addition of even one student could put them at risk of noncompliance with the law and subject to high fines.

Rural districts in the state have said that despite their efforts, they remain over the per-class limit without the financial ability to hire new teachers to comply with rules. Under Florida law, 60% voter approval is needed to change the constitutional amendment.

Dueling reports on the impact of class size reductions have added to confusion on the issue.

Read more:
Background on efforts to change class size limits:
Coverage of court challenge:
Harvard study on Florida class size reduction effects:
National Education Policy Center review of that paper:
Read more from the October 2010 Rural Policy Matters.