Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been caught on tape bragging to a group of Panhandle lawmakers that he has “devious plans” for dealing with the class size reduction initiative, Amendment 9, if voters approve it. In a report released this morning by Gannett News Service, Bush claimed that if voters approve the initiative, he would not abide by their decision and, instead, suggested he would put the initiative back on the ballot accompanied by specific tax hikes or program cuts.
“The governor’s remarks are stunning but not surprising, given the dishonest campaign being waged against the class size initiative,” said Sharon Lettman-Pacheco, People For the American Way’s Tallahassee-based deputy field director, citing for example the continuing use and misuse of the inflated cost estimate prepared by representatives of the Legislature and governor’s office.
People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas said, “It is appalling to hear an elected official brag about his ‘devious plans’ to thwart the will of the voters. Gov. Bush’s comments demonstrate contempt for the voters and disregard for the schoolchildren. They demonstrate vividly why it is up to the voters to take leadership.” Neas added, “The money is there. Voters must insist that educating children be made a higher priority than special interest tax giveaways.”
The governor and his allies first tried to keep the class size initiative away from voters, then tried to saddle it with an inflated price estimate on the ballot. Both efforts were overturned by the Florida Supreme Court
“Gov. Bush is treating Amendment 9 like a political game,” said Lettman-Pacheco. “Overcrowded classrooms are not a game for Florida’s children. Our dropout rate – one out of two eighth graders do not finish high school – with all its consequences is not a game for Floridians. We are 44th in the nation in class size. We are 49th in high school graduation rates. We are 50th in per-capita education spending. This initiative is an affordable and effective response to an urgent crisis.”
People For the American Way and the Coalition to Reduce Class Size have prepared an in-depth analysis of the consequences of Florida's failure to invest in manageable class sizes and the evidence that significantly reducing class sizes is a necessary, effective and cost-effective element of an overall strategy for strengthening student achievement.