Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Flexible fixes for class sizes
By A TIMES EDITORIAL
Published June 3, 2007
The classroom landscape is changing in Florida, producing the ingredients for possible compromise on a constitutional mandate requiring smaller class sizes. This is a job tailor-made for Gov. Charlie Crist.
First, the push for repeal is essentially dead. Crist, unlike his predecessor, has said he wants to fulfill the voters' wishes. Also, polls reflect growing support in the five years since the vote, five years that have produced steadily shrinking numbers of students in previously overcrowded classrooms. Parents and teachers aren't about to turn back the clock.
Second, a new legislative report documents how the mandate so far has produced few of the dire consequences once predicted. The state already has reduced the average number of students in K-3 from 23 to 18, and has cut taxes while doing so. Only 86 of 3, 038 schools failed to meet the required averages this year. The report, by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, also shows that districts generally have not had to rezone students or fill their campuses with trailers to meet the need.
That's the good news. But Hillsborough schools, which are venturing this fall to take the final step in class-size reduction, may help shed light on the most rigid part of the mandate. The last step goes beyond district averages or school averages and requires that no single classroom in any school exceed the mandated size: 18 for grades K-3, 22 for 4-8, and 25 for 9-12.
That's simply not realistic, and even class-size supporters acknowledge that it can't be taken too literally. Otherwise, a 19th student who showed up for a kindergarten class might have to be dispatched to another school.
"There's a possibility that districts do need a little flexibility, " says Mark Pudlow of the Florida Education Association, which campaigned for the amendment. "As long as everybody has good faith and maintains the intent of what voters put in the Constitution, I think reasonable people can sit down and work out these details."
Pudlow is right, and Crist has already demonstrated his good faith. The final step for class-size reduction, which the amendment itself does not require until 2010, is the one most likely to produce unintended consequences. It may or may not force students to attend schools across town, but it clearly could rob principals of their ability to move students according to their needs and could create pressure to increase the number of students in small remedial classes.
If lawmakers could end their self-defeating rhetoric about repealing the amendment, they might actually be able to find common ground with teachers to make it work. Just last year, for example, the Legislature passed a law that allows a classroom with two teachers to count as two classrooms for purposes of the amendment. FEA supported the change, and no one has challenged whether it violates the amendment.
There is room for well-meaning compromise here, and Crist should seek it.