Democrats, showing a rare bit of spine, managed to shoot down Jeb!’s scheme to gut the voter mandated class size amendment. In an attempt to split supporters of smaller classes, Jeb! proposed raising teacher salaries slightly in exchange for relaxed rules on class sizes.
His plan called for an amendment to be decided by special election – the class size question would be the only one on the ballot, thus ensuring ultra-low turnout, which, Jeb! hoped, would ease the task of overturning a popular measure at the polls. Now, if the proposal is to be decided, it will be during the regular 2006 election cycle, presumably in November.
Jeb!’s rationale for all of this is that the state cannot possibly afford schools with less than 35 children in each classroom. See, the state can afford tax cuts for the wealthy and the state is awash in cash, but a proper education is just too much to expect.
Anyway, Dems hung tough, and managed to kill the proposed special election to thwart the will of the people, so Jeb! and his cronies had to find a more underhanded way to derail smaller classes.
Republican leaders inserted a one-year delay of the class-size implementation law into education bills Friday, a move that would let Gov. Jeb Bush finish his term without having to pay for expensive, school-by-school class-size limits.
Class-size compliance calculations would go from county-level averages to school-level averages in August 2007, when Bush will be out of office. Under the current law, the change would take effect in August 2006.
The change was slipped in with little debate in the Senate Education Appropriations Committee into a massive education bill containing Bush’s proposed new reading vouchers. Hours later, it was added on the floor to a similar measure in the House, which gave initial approval Friday to its combined education bill.
“There is just no willingness to implement what the voters wanted,” said Rep. Susan Bucher, D-West Palm Beach. She and other Democrats opposed the amendment but lost on a voice vote.
Current law says that class sizes must be measured at the district-by-district level from 2003-04 through 2005-06; at the school-by-school level in 2006-07 and 2007-08; and in individual classrooms by 2008-09.
The change would leave 2007-08 as the only year the calculations would be done at the school level.
The amendment approved by voters in 2002 required that class limits of 18 students in elementary school, 22 in middle school and 25 in high school were to be in place by 2010-11 and that lawmakers had to reduce the average size by two students per year until the limits were achieved. The amendment left it to lawmakers how specifically to get to that point.
The delay of school-by-school limits to 2007 would have another major political implication: Parents of children in crowded suburban schools would never see the benefits of school-by-school class-size caps before they are asked to forgo them, should Bush’s proposed repeal make the 2006 ballot.
Under the existing law, parents in fast-growing suburbs whose children now have 30 or 35 students in their classes will see dramatic reductions for the first time in August 2006 — just three months before they could be asked to give that up. That prospect was one of the reasons proponents of Bush’s plan wanted to hold an early special election.
Those devious bastards. But wait – there’s still hope:
With five Republicans also opposed this session, Bush does not appear to have even the three-fifths vote he needs to put the question on the 2006 ballot.