Bill 818: Maximum Class Size

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Practicum and Policy Background

The purpose of the nine-hour practicum was to gain knowledge about the role of legislators in the formulation and enactment of policies. This engagement was also essential to develop crucial skills in advocacy, which will be required for future practice. The attachment took place at Senator Rene Garcia’s office in Florida. The primary volunteer duty entailed assisting the staff to organize community events. Another function involved conducting research concerning the proposed policy on the behalf of the legislative staff. I also got an opportunity to meet with the constituents and helped them to understand the current legal processes. In addition, I took part in the preparation of a mailing and telephone list of the coalition partners.

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The greatest experience was learning about the State’s policy formulation and implementation procedures. This encounter was crucial because health professionals assume a lead role in influencing and directing reform initiatives (Needleman & Hassmiller, 2009). As such, I have developed requisite skills through advocacy and civic engagement. The most significant lesson that I have learned from this practicum is that policy-making is an elaborate and complex process. According to Needleman and Hassmiller, the success of this venture depends largely on the ability to mobilize both legislative and grassroots support. I had a chance to attend a policy briefing session, which exemplified the challenges inherent in building a stable coalition.

Senator Garcia is the incumbent representative of the 38th District in the Florida State Senate. The senator chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. In addition, he is also a member of the Health Policy Committee. Two reasons informed the selection of Garcia as the preferred elected official. First, his education background in health administration means that he is conversant with issues related to the management of the health care system. Second, his assignments in the health policy committee have provided for him the platform to influence health and human services legislation.

The State of Florida considers the provision of education as one of its paramount mandates (Whitehurst & Chingos, 2011). Nonetheless, educators have often raised concerns over the quality of education in the state. The main challenge has been the unavailability of sufficient classrooms to serve the increasing number of students (Chingos, 2012). According to Harris (2009), an overcrowded classroom undermines academic achievement and performance. Consequently, the state legislators have formulated and ratified various legislations to address these limitations. For instance, voters passed the 2002 Constitutional Amendment Act overwhelmingly, which restricted the maximum number of students in elementary classes. The state reaffirmed the preceding decision through a public vote in 2010 (Chingos, 2012).

The relationship between smaller class sizes and achievement informed the Florida constitutional amendment in 2002. The purpose of these changes was to enhance performance by reducing the number of students per class (Chingos, 2012). Students from low-income households and ethnic minority groups have continued to record low grades. The main problem is that the majority of them attend public schools, which are crowded and underfunded (Cheadle, 2008). Whitehurst and Chingos (2011) have reported that most public schools in Florida (in excess of 700) have enrolled more than 1,000 students. Thus, the aim of the previous and current policies is to address these concerns.

On the other hand, a section of citizens and legislators has repealed the small classroom system. The principal point of argument has been that optimal classes do not translate into enhanced achievement (Whitehurst & Chingos, 2011). Whitehurst and Chingos have argued that performance depends on the quality of teaching rather than the size of the classroom. Despite these objections, the Florida Senate has passed additional laws that restrict the class sizes in the 2011-2012 and 2006-2007 legislative sessions (Chingos, 2012). Senator Garcia is currently sponsoring the enactment of the Senate Bill 818 (SB 818) into law to regulate the number of students per class.

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Senator Garcia has a long history of sponsoring and influencing the enactment of crucial policies. The legislative goal of SB 818 is to save education costs by adjusting the formula for maintaining smaller class sizes. The proposed calculation will use the school-wide approach to determine the average number of students per classroom. The staff at the senator’s office indicated that this policy would free up billions of taxpayers’ money after its implementation. School Districts will utilize these finances to buy resources for the students, train more teachers, and increase salaries. Representative George Moraitis Jr. has supported Garcia by introducing the House Bill 665.

The Senate Bill 818 is currently under consideration by the state legislature at the committee stage. The general bill came into effect on January 7, 2015. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education received petitions from March 16, 2015 onwards. The proponents of the proposal have argued that this bill will mandate school districts to invest the taxpayers’ money in raising student achievement. Nonetheless, lobby groups and some taxpayers have opposed the enactment of this bill into law. The main objection is that this proposal will allow the state to reduce funding to schools with the pretext of removing the class size penalties.

Legislative Initiative Plan

SENATE BILL 818 (SB 818): MAXIMUM CLASS SIZE
LEGISLATIVE SESSION: 2015
POLICY GOAL: To amend Section 1003.03, F.S of the Florida Constitution
This amendment will allow the school districts to use a school-wide approach when calculating the maximum class size
ACTIONS: TIME SENSITIVE ACTIVITIES
RESPONSIBLE PERSONS ACTIVITIES AND DURATION
Andrew, Legislative Director
  1. Developed and finalized the policy fact sheet before the beginning of Senate sessions
  • The fact sheets were distributed to the senators, coalition members and grassroots organizations three weeks prior to the commencement of the first session
  • The fact sheet contained crucial information about the policy proposals, including the contacts of key informants
  • The purpose of the fact sheets was to familiarize the stakeholders with the proposed amendments and policy directions
  • The Bill garnered massive support in the subcommittee and Senate sessions because of the preceding initiatives
Maggie, Head of Communications
  1. Developed a legislative packet three weeks before the last session to facilitate adequate preparations
  • The packet contained the facts that support the enactment of the proposed policy
  • The packet also facilitated efficient communication with members of the press
  • Engagement with the media has remained a valuable activity because the proposed bill continues to receive much attention in both the print and broadcast media networks
  1. Identified and contacted coalition partners and other individuals three weeks before the commencement of the open session.
  • Identified the roles and contributions of each member in the process, which was essential to avoid the duplication of functions and inefficient communication
  • Some of the coalition members are yet to show commitment to the course. One of the reasons is that the message is not yet clear. In addition, the process reaching the masses with timely and accurate information has been slow
  1. Developed a legislative agenda one week prior to the next session
  • This framework contained a schedule of planned activities, including the time and place
  • The success of this activity requires a close working relationship between the head of communications and the Senate staff
Joe, Grassroots Coordinator
  1. Coordinated the activities of the grassroots coalition one month prior to the last session
  • The proposed bill has received immense support from parents, education lobby groups, school administrators, and educators
  • It is essential to keep these coalition partners informed about the progress of the bill
  1. Maintained a record of the contact information to facilitate efficient communication
  2. Update the contact lists as more members demonstrate their willingness to join the coalition
  • This activity is vital as the bill enters the open session where the public will express their support or opposition
ACTIONS: ONGOING
RESPONSIBLE PERSONS ACTIVITIES AND DURATION
Maggie, Head of Communications and Nicholas,I.T Specialists
  1. Update the senator’s official website regularly with the current information about the policy proposal
  • The website will serve as the nerve center for coordinating communication efforts between the senator’s office and the supporters
  • Online communication has become a critical component of networking because of its convenience and efficiency
  • The senator’s campaign team is working closely with Maggie and Nicholas to engage with the people of social media sites
  • The opponents of the bill are using the social media to win support. As such, it is imperative to ensure that social media users access the correct information about the bill
  1. Develop links to external websites that provide additional information
  • It is necessary to work with Representative George Moraitis Jr. because his House Bill 665 is similar to SB 818
  1. Liaise with the coalition partners to enhance the effectual flow of information
  2. Respond to the concerns and issues raised by the constituents and other partners
ACTIONS: IN SESSION
RESPONSIBLE PERSONS ACTIVITIES AND DURATION
Andrew, Legislative Director
  1. Mobilize and prepare the individuals that will testify during the open sessions (two weeks)
  • Contributions from experts and the public will play a significant role in influencing the bill’s future direction
  1. Liaise with the Senate staff to determine the rules of engagement during the open sessions
  • The Senate may rule-out submissions that do not fulfill the requirements of admissibility
  1. Prepare and organize supporting materials two weeks before submission
  • These documents will contain findings from various studies, which will provide the basis for supporting the bill
Joe, Grassroots Coordinator
  1. Contact the coalition partners daily after the end of each session to inform them about the progress
  • Grassroots support may wane if the coalition partners do not receive timely and accurate information
  1. Respond to the concerns and issues raised by the grassroots coalition members

Nursing Role/Implications

Implications for Nursing

The issue of optimal class sizes has received particular attention since the inception of public education. Nonetheless, debates about this aspect have intensified because of decreased funding or increased enrollment. As such, schools find it difficult to maintain the current class sizes (Chingos, 2012). Although the financial constraints may relax at some point, political pressure usually persists in favor of small class sizes. The class-size reduction policies often garner enormous support from politicians, educators, parents, and the public because of their popularity (Harris, 2009). According to Leufer (2007), smaller classes enhance achievement since they provide increased learning opportunities.

Florida is one of the states that have passed various laws to regulate the number of students in the classroom. Florida constitutional amendment of 2002 marked the beginning of this legislative process. Various legislators have proposed and supported the enactment of education policies that favor smaller class sizes (Chingos, 2012). Senator Rene Garcia is one of the elected officials who have made proposals to enhance the class-size reduction laws further. The Senate Bill 818 proposed by Senator Garcia will play an elemental role in redirecting the taxpayers’ money to improving learning outcomes. Although the Senate Bill 818 does not affect the nursing profession directly, it generates valuable insights. The point of argument is that nursing educators have reported an increase in class size.

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The increasing number of students enrolling in baccalaureate nursing programs has combined with faculty shortages to instigate large class sizes. Consequently, these issues are affecting the level of student learning and satisfaction (Lee, Dapremont, & Sasser, 2011). Lee and his colleagues have found out that the students who had enrolled in smaller classes were more satisfied with the nursing program than those in larger ones were. Education achievement is one of the main factors that have influenced the formulation of class-size reduction policies (Leufer, 2007). These laws are essential to ensure that students get a high quality education, which is vital for professional growth (Chingos, 2012).

The issue of class size is gaining momentum in the nursing field as more students enroll in online courses. The present challenge is that policy makers and educators are yet to agree on what constitutes the ideal classroom size (Leufer, 2007). The role of nursing advocacy is to build consensus among various stakeholders to develop appropriate policies (Needleman & Hassmiller, 2009). Quality and safety are the hallmarks of nursing practice. Conversely, nurses cannot provide effectual care if they do not receive adequate training (Leufer, 2007). It is imperative for nursing professionals to support legislative frameworks that will enhance student achievement.

Summary

The nine-hour practicum at Senator Rene Garcia’s office provided the platform for gaining experience regarding the formulation of policies. Two reasons informed the choice of Senator Garcia. First, his education background in health administration means that he is conversant with issues related to the management of the health care system. Second, his assignments in the health policy committee have provided for him the platform to influence health and human services legislation. As such, an interaction with his staff was essential to gain knowledge of the processes involved in the formulation and implementation of public laws.

I played a fundamental role in assisting the staff at the senator’s office to organize community events. My other volunteer duties involved conducting research and engaging with the constituents. My greatest experience was learning about the State’s policy formulation and implementation procedures. The most valuable lesson that I learned from this practicum is that policy-making is an elaborate and complex process. The employees underscored the importance of mobilizing grassroots partners, as well as developing a strong coalition. The essence of this activity is that the passage of bills requires massive support from legislators, citizens, and other stakeholders.

References

Cheadle, J. E. (2008). Educational investment, family context, and children’s math and reading growth from kindergarten through the third grade. Sociology of education, 81(1), 1-31.

Chingos, M. M. (2012). The impact of a universal class-size reduction policy: Evidence from Florida’s statewide mandate. Economics of Education Review, 31, 543–562.

Harris, D. N. (2009). Toward policy-relevant benchmarks for interpreting effect sizes: Combining effects with costs. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 31, 3–29.

Lee, S., Dapremont, J., & Sasser, J. (2011). Nursing students’ perception of class size and its impact on test performance: A pilot study. Nursing Journal of Education, 50(12), 715-718.

Leufer, T. (2007). Students’ perceptions of the learning experience in a large class environment. Nursing Education Perspectives, 28(6), 322-326.

Needleman, J., & Hassmiller, S. (2009). The role of nurses in improving hospital quality and efficiency: Real-world results. Health Affairs, 28(4), w625-w633.

Whitehurst, G. J., & Chingos, M. M. (2011). Class size: What research says and what is means for state policy. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.

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DemoEssays. "Bill 818: Maximum Class Size." April 2, 2022. https://demoessays.com/bill-818-maximum-class-size/.