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Why the rich and powerful hate the classs size amendment

Rich and powerful policy makers often attack smaller classes as a waste of resources despite the fact no teacher ever said, I wish my class had 10 more kids because that would make me a better teacher. Jeb Bush has often attacked the class size amendment in Florida which was a citizen driven initiative that passed in 2002 and withstood a recall in 2010. He routinely attacks the class size amendment despite the fact he sent his children to the exclusive prep schools Bolles and Gulliver Prep who use their small class sizes as a selling point.

Gary Chartrand the chair of the state board of education has also attacked the class size amendment. He recently said in multiple papers, “In my opinion we are wasting money to the tune of half-a-billion dollars a year, limiting the number of students in a class doesn’t help kids achieve but rather is just “wasteful spending,” he said.

Ironically enough Mr. Chartrand also sent his children to the Bolles schools and his protégé, Duval County school board member Ashley Smith-Juarez went there as well. One of the reasons he sent his children there was undoubtedly the smaller class sizes. Bush and Chartrand might justify their positions because they also support vouchers that allow poor children to attend private schools.

Well let’s consider vouchers, here in Florida the family of a poor child can receive 4,335 dollars to send their child to a private school. Well they would need nearly five to seven times that amount to send their child to Gulliver Prep or Bolles ($28,000 and $21,000 respectively). That’s the difference between a school in an abandoned strip mall with uncertified teachers being paid 12 dollars an hour and an exclusive prep school with a well rounded curriculum, small classes and teachers with loads of experience and advanced degrees.

Let’s also look at the curriculums at the schools they sent their kids to compared to the schools where they want us to send our kids. The schools that Chatrand and Bush sent their children to tout a variety of arts programs which until recently had been cut from most public schools. From the Bolles web-site, Offering programs in chorus, dance, drama, instrumental music, and visual arts both in the classroom and in extra-curricular activity, Bolles upper school students are given the opportunity to shine through individual projects, school productions, and outside performances. Visiting artists, field trips locally and out of town, and invitations to perform at prestigious events and venues broaden the scope of the arts experience at Bolles.

My last year at Ed White most kids were funneled in an elective called research which was basically an FCAT prep class that no kid would elect to take given the choice. Just for fun I typed vouchers into both Bolles and Gulliver Preps search boxes and recieved a total of zero hits.

Those two schools also don’t participate in the kill and drill high stakes testing agenda that public schools are forced to. On the contrary at Bolles and Gulliver prep students are encouraged to explore a curriculum that plays to their strengths and passions. The FCAT is not mentioned on either web-site. In fact the closest I could find about standardized tests is that parents are recommended to have their children take the ACT or the SAT.

Let’s get back to the class size for a moment. Gary Chartrand said schools would be better served if instead they could use it to maintain an average class size instead. Well the problem with that is you see art classes with fifty kids, PE classes with a hundred and special education classes become nothing but babysitting because their numbers are so high. The types of classes that the children of Bush and Chartrand would never see.

They also like to simultaneously talk about the improvement in Florida’s schools since Jeb Bush started his reforms but they never talk about how this improvement corresponds with the enactment of the class size amendment, instead they take every opportunity they have to slam it and call it a waste however a former Florida education commissioner disagrees with them.

Last Summer I asked then Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson at a town hall meeting: “the state says the FCAT has led to increased scores, I say it is smaller class sizes, why are you right and I am wrong?”

He didn’t say I was wrong, in fact he said both played a role in increasing test scores. Usually these guys are on message but Robinson let slip how important and beneficial the class size amendment has been. Which by the way is one of the few reforms, not vouchers, not merit pay, not charters, that has actual evidence that says it works.

Some of you might be thinking who cares, they are rich and they should be allowed to send their children to the best schools possible, though I would question if either Bolles or Gulliver was better than our magnets or much better than schools like Mandarin or Fletcher. The answer is they should be allowed to send their children to whatever school they can afford but they shouldn’t be allowed at the same time to create a system that they would never send their children to. Our system of standardized tests and limited curriculum options sucks the joy of learning out of so many children and that sets them up to fail too. Also doesn’t it kind of make them hypocrites and do we really want hypocrites running the show?

Why do they and other rich and powerful education reformers attack smaller classes and design systems they would never send their children too? Well friend’s it is because what is good for their kids isn’t good for ours and that should tell you all you need to know about why we are at where we are.

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