from the Miami Herald: Thank God for the next generation!
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- Subject: from the Miami Herald: Thank God for the next generation!
- From: QCao009@aol.com
- Date: Wed, 11 Jun 2003 15:57:55 EDT
Gloria, FCAR President, had posted this on FCARForum. There is a whole lot
more going on than just one boycott and one disgruntled community in Florida.
Young people and their parents are starting to speak up from every community
and every district throughout the State. What they are saying points out to
the lack of thoughtfulness, intelligence, and responsibility with the current
Florida state executive branch.
Posted on Sun, Jun. 08, 2003
Becky Farber/Report Card
Discussing education quality with Gov. Bush
It's about time.After months of bellyaching, debate and finagling, the
Florida Legislature has finally come up with the plan to reduce class size.
Lawmakers have approved more than $1 billion for school construction and for
the hiring of new teachers.
The rezoning of school boundaries, creative scheduling and the lowering of
Florida's high school graduation requirements completes this go-round of the
Amendment 9 mandates.
Having spent 11 years in the Florida public school system, I'm weary of
being one of the huddled masses. I want to be certain the classroom
population will decrease before my high school graduation in 2006.
So it was time to talk numbers with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
I knew that setting up a personal interview with the governor wouldn't be
After a few weeks of exchanging e-mails and telephone calls, I was thrilled
to be given a 10-minute slot in the governor's busy schedule.
Gov. Bush was both gracious and generous, extending the interview to 25
His responses were candid and direct, as far as I could tell. With no time
for small talk, I dove right in and asked him how he plans to address the
problem of oversized classes.
The interview hit a little snag here because the governor doesn't think
large classes are the big problem in Florida's public schools. Voters were wrong
to vote for Amendment 9, according to the governor.
''I voted against the class size amendment because I think it restricts
strategies for learning, and to me the more important thing is our children
learning -- not how many kids are in a class,'' he said.
Wait a minute, when students are crammed into a classroom, learning can
become much more difficult.
I told the governor that it was no picnic studying the quadratic formula in
my oversized middle school algebra class. And how about the little kids? I
wondered how it was possible for them to learn to read with 30 to 40 classmates.
Gov. Bush did not buy my argument.
Class size isn't the only factor in learning how to read, he said. ''There
are a lot of other elements to reading that are important,'' he said, noting
that teacher qualifications and the use of reading specialists play a big role.
The governor also likes the idea of filling in the gaps with teachers'
At this point, all I could think of was my fifth-grade class, which was
packed with 37 kids.
I had a wonderful and highly qualified teacher. Lucky for me, I knew how to
read, because it sure was difficult learning much else that year.
The governor told me that when he was my age, he grew up with class sizes
that were similar to what exists today.
Hmmm, I thought, and he was still able to become the governor. I couldn't
help but wonder just how many kids were in his brother George's classes.
The ''one-size-fits-all-approach'' of Amendment 9 isn't the best strategy,
the governor said.
I guess that approach only works with the FCAT.
Gov. Bush would like to see lower class size in prekindergarten to third
grade instead of all grades.
He says that this less-costly plan would be easy to implement and would not
suppress teacher salaries. Implementing Amendment 9, he said, will cost
anywhere from $20 to $27 billion dollars.
''That's a huge sum of money. That will require additional taxes,'' he said.
Uh-oh, now that's not good. Granted, I'm no economist, but I wondered if
there weren't any other sources for a little extra cash lurking in the state
Each year Florida collects $17 billion in sales taxes and exempts an
estimated $23 billion. I asked Gov. Bush if he would reexamine some of the
special interest exemptions in adult entertainment, sports arena skyboxes
and even ostrich feed -- to help find additional funds for education.
Rep. Kendrick Meek made those suggestions and they sure sound good to me.
The governor is looking out for the ostriches on this issue. Ostrich feed
will only generate about $10,000, he said.
``I don't know why people are against ostriches. We have exemptions for feed
for other animals.'' We're not against the ostriches, governor. Let them
eat and be well. We're just looking for some extra money to help pay for
I had one last question. I have always wondered why the governor never sent
his children to the public schools in Miami when he lived here.
They would have attended Palmetto, the same high school as I do now.
''I had the right to choose,'' he says. ``I wanted the best education for
As does every parent, Gov. Bush. And that's precisely why Amendment 9 has
become part of the Florida Constitution.
Voters could not count on the state government to provide the best education
for Florida's public school students.
After all, we represent some of the most underfunded, overcrowded and
under-prepared students in the nation. The Sunshine State ranks dead last of
all 50 states in per-capita education spending. When it comes to
student-teacher ratio, we're a dismal No. 44.
College-bound Florida high school students under-perform their peers
nationally on the SAT, ranking 46th of all the states.
I agree that there are some problems that state government can't solve. The
Miami-Dade County Public School system has failed its students by not building
us the classrooms that we need.
Voter apathy has permitted the School Board to continue to make the same
mistakes term after term. But let's play fair, governor.
Recalling or gutting Amendment 9 sounds like sour grapes to me.
One of the most publicized issues of your reelection campaign was the cost
of reducing class size. Voters cast their ballots with their eyes and
hopefully, their wallets, wide open.
I guess we're still in for a rocky ride.
The grand old Florida tradition is to pinch pennies when it comes to funding
our public school classrooms.
It's anyone's guess if Amendment 9 will survive Round 2.
You are right, Gov. Bush. Parents must seek the best education possible for
their children. I'm just not sure that they're going to find it in Florida.
Report Card is a regular opinion column written by Becky Farber, a freshman
at Palmetto High. She focuses on school issues from a student perspective,
and this is her last column for the school year. Report Card will return in
September. To reach Becky, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
© 2003 The Miami Herald and wire service sources.
All Rights Reserved.
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