My Word | Amendment 8: Divide, Conquer

October 21, 2010|By Kathleen Oropeza

Amendment 8 should come with one of those endless TV disclaimers. Both sides are gearing up, spending big bucks and are fully convinced that they are “right.”

Just as they did with the lottery, the Florida Legislature has manipulated the voters of this state. School boards against teachers unions, high-school parents against elementary-school parents — we all know the drill. Divide, confuse and conquer.

Parents of high-school students are living the nightmare of seeing their children sold short. These kids work hard. They need rigorous classes that require mastery to win a seat in a competitive four-year college. By not funding these classes, the state is aiming its meanest fastball at our children.

Florida has a $70 billion annual budget. It’s unacceptable to tell a student that instead of chemistry IV, he’ll have to sit in physical education for a year, crippling his chance of getting into the college of his choice.

This “tipping point” is meant to drive parents to the polls and vote yes for Amendment 8. Who can blame them for trying to provide relief for their children and their schools?

Conversely, parents of elementary students are thrilled to see smaller class sizes. They love seeing first- and second-graders getting individual attention from their teachers. These parents are less inclined to vote for Amendment 8. They like small classes. They don’t buy the need for change. Voting no on Amendment 8 seems logical.

One thing is crystal clear: If the Florida Legislature had made public education its paramount priority all along, none of this discussion would be taking place. We are in this space because the folks that we’ve elected refuse to do their jobs as described in Article IX, Section 1 of the Florida Constitution.

It’s true. Amendment 8 raises caps for core classes. It also allows for flexibility to prevent the redistribution of some students. Amendment 8 also would let the Legislature cut school funding by $1billion and free the state from spending that money on public education.

It’s disturbing to know that legislators have already granted flexibility for some schools. Florida public-charter schools have been given schoolwide average flexibility and exemption from hard cap restrictions and penalties. If simple statutory relief can be offered to one type of public schools, why isn’t it being offered to all?

Voters are facing an unfortunate choice. Amendment 8 is a classic catch-22. Either way, a vote yes or no is a vote of no confidence in our lawmakers’ commitment to obey the state constitution.

Kathleen Oropeza of Orlando is a founding partner of