Setting the Record Straight on Class Sizes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 5, 2002

Contact: Nathan Richter or Matt Jacob at PFAW and Florida's Coalition to Reduce Class Size

Email: [email protected]

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

New Report Documents Why and How We Must Reduce Florida Class Sizes Now

A report released today by People For the American Way and Florida’s Coalition to Reduce Class Size documents the extraordinary crisis facing the state’s public schools and provides powerful evidence that Amendment 9—a proposed constitutional amendment to reduce class sizes—is a cost-effective and invaluable first step to rebuilding Florida’s troubled public schools.

The report also sets the record straight about the long-term benefits of investing in class size reduction. Amendment 9 will be on Florida’s ballot in the Nov. 5 election.

“Smaller classes are important for Florida’s children, its economy and its future,” said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas. “We invite voters to review this report and read the compelling case for Amendment 9.”

“Florida’s classrooms are overcrowded. To the overwhelming majority of parents, teachers, students, and other Floridians, creating smaller classes is just common sense, “ said State Sen. Kendrick Meek, Chairman of Florida’s Coalition to Reduce Class Size. “Floridians know that overcrowded classrooms aren’t good for students. This report documents that study after study proves them right.”

The report released today, “An Urgent Crisis, An Effective and Affordable Remedy,” examines the evidence that Florida’s public schools rank near the bottom of the nation on many indicators and documents that state leaders have failed Florida’s schoolchildren. For example, Florida’s high school graduation rate ranks 49th in the country. SAT scores have fallen to 46th out of 50, the state is a dismal 50th in per-capita spending on education and ranks 44th in pupil-teacher ratios.

The report also examines the overwhelming evidence that class size reduction is both an effective and a cost-effective approach to improving student achievement. It documents the extensive research on the impact of smaller classes on student achievement, and also notes that smaller classes lead to improved teacher recruitment and retention, safer classrooms, and reduced drop-out rates. An extensive resource list is included in the report.

“Improving Florida’s schools will require a comprehensive approach,” said Meek. “Reducing class size is an urgently needed step that will help the state attract and retain the kinds of teachers our students need.”

The report also debunks the assertions made by Gov. Jeb Bush and his appointees that that the state cannot afford to reduce class sizes.

“Reducing class size is well within Florida’s financial means. It is a question of reordering priorities,” said Neas. “Amendment 9 is a way for the people of Florida to tell their elected leaders that children and education are a top priority. It will be up to legislators to choose among a number of options for funding reduced class size. Amendment 9 will benefit the state with stronger schools, lower dropout rates, and an economic boost from investing in new infrastructure.”

“Public education in Florida is in a crisis that state leaders have failed to resolve,” said Meek. “It is up to the people to safeguard Florida’s future.”