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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Jeb's Class Size Gimmick Half-Baked

State Sen. Rod Smith had it right when he called Gov. Bush’s plan to pit teachers against students “gimmickry.” Bush wants voters to approve a plan to mandate a much higher minimum teacher salary – a good thing – at the expense of the voter mandated reduced class sizes – a bad thing.

Smith said in The Gainesville Sun: ''This is simply (Bush's effort) to divide the state over the issue of class size.''

The article made much of the idea that this strategy will hurt Democrats in the 2006 elections because they’ll have to fight better teacher pay to keep the class size amendment.

But I think they’re backward, for two reasons.

First, plenty of Republicans voted for the class size amendment. The 2002 ballot measure passed with 60 percent of the vote – more than what Bush got in his re-election campaign that same election.

Second, Democrat candidates can use this issue against the GOP by pointing out that the Democrats have been pushing for better teacher salaries for years, while the GOP has ignored the issue. Dems need to push for both the class size amendment and better teacher salaries, and point out that the GOP plan would help teachers at the expense of the students.

Personally, I see this issue blowing up in Bush’s face. It is obvious from the article in The Sun that this is a partisan gambit to hurt the Democrats as much as it is a way to get out from under the cost of the class size amendment. Voters tend not to appreciate such games.

I hope some wealthy group of Florida Dems can get a ballot initiative going to raise teacher salaries without cutting the class size amendment. That would receive wide support.

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