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Bill would allow voters to renege on class size

Sen. Anna Cowin's bill sets an election next year to let voters dump the class size amendment they approved Nov. 5.

By LUCY MORGAN, Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 14, 2002

TALLAHASSEE -- A Republican state senator wants to give Florida voters a chance to repeal a constitutional amendment they approved last month to reduce class sizes.

Sen. Anna Cowin, R-Leesburg, filed bills setting up a special election in November 2003.

Sen. Ron Klein, the Democratic leader in the Senate and chairman of a select committee appointed to deal with the amendment, called Cowin's bill "ridiculous."

"The voters have given us a very clear objective to try and improve the public schools," Klein said. "We've been moving very constructively toward accomplishing this."

Cowin not return telephone calls Friday.

Gov. Jeb Bush and legislative leaders have pledged to implement the class size amendment, but are struggling to find the money to provide enough classrooms and teachers.

A spokeswoman for the governor said he will include money for complying with the amendment in his budget next month.

"While the governor was opposed to the amendment, he deeply respects the will of the people," said Katie Muniz.

Senate President Jim King, who also opposed the amendment, declined comment until he hears from a committee he appointed to study its fiscal impact.

House Speaker Johnnie Byrd declined to comment until he sees the bills.

Estimates of the cost of implementing the amendment over its eight-year phase-in period range from $8-billion to $27-billion.

The amendment requires no more than 18 students in prekindergarten through third grade by the year 2010. There would be a 22-student limit in grades four thorough eight and a 25-student limit in high school.

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