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Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, makes an emphatic point about (HB 15) that would expand the Gardiner Scholarship Program for children with disabilities on the Senate floor Friday, May 5, 2017 at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (Photo by Phil Sears)

Influence

Polarizing ‘report card’ grades given to legislators on education

Sometimes, grades depend on who makes up the exam.

This week, the Florida Education Association gave higher marks to Democrats than Republicans in the GOP-dominated state Legislature. The report card was based on priorities of the teachers’ union ranging from committee and floor votes during the 2017 and 2018 sessions to “behind-the-scenes” efforts on those priorities and access between union leaders and lawmakers.

In the union’s grades, seven Senate Democrats and 12 House Democrats got “A+” marks, while “F” grades were assigned to 16 Senate Republicans and almost every Republican in the House.

Among the more-notable grades was a “C” given to Sen. Daphne Campbell, a Miami Democrat, and a “C+” received by Democratic Sen. Bill Montford, of Tallahassee.

Montford, the chief executive officer of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, joined 19 Republicans this year in supporting a controversial measure that expanded publicly funded programs to send students to private schools (HB 7055).

Campbell didn’t vote on the bill, which got through the Senate in a 20-17 vote.

Not surprisingly, Montford was the only Senate Democrat to land on the honor roll in grades released in late April by the Foundation for Florida’s Future.

The foundation, created by former GOP Gov. Jeb Bush, was more supportive of Republicans — seven senators and 16 House members got “A+” grades. Bush and the foundation have been key supporters of issues such as school choice.

Unlike the union, the foundation’s lower grades went to Democrats. In the Senate, the lowest mark was a “D,” given to three members — Democrats José Javier Rodriguez of Miami, Annette Taddeo of Miami and Victor Torres of Orlando.

In the House, 13 Democrats received “F” grades.

Each year, numerous interest groups come out with usually-predictable report cards for state and national lawmakers.

Retiring Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney offered an interesting point in an interview posted Thursday with Sarasota Magazine titled, “Rep. Tom Rooney’s Escape from Washington.

Rooney noted several issues influenced his plan to leave office after five terms. One was the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana during a practice for the annual congressional baseball game. Rooney has been the first baseman for the Republican team.

Another issue was scoring of lawmakers by think tanks and political groups.

“I’ve heard from people in my district, ‘Why can’t you be more like Congressman X who has a 100 percent rating from the Heritage Action for America?’” Rooney is quoted in the article. “It leaves me dumbfounded because I’ve never heard Congressman X make a single argument on the House floor or propose a single piece of legislation. For these think tanks, it means not just going against (House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi, it means you’ve got to stick it to (Speaker) Paul Ryan.”

The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

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