HB 7069 Archives - Florida Politics

Duval Schools move toward litigation on ‘unconstitutional’ Schools of Hope bill

A rainy Monday morning saw the often fractious Duval County School Board move forward in suing the state of Florida.

At issue: HB 7069, the Schools of Hope” bill, which would divert capital dollars to charter schools from local schools.

Multiple urban districts — Broward, Miami-Dade, Orange, and Palm Beach — are already in the mix on a joint lawsuit encompassing nine counties and counting.

The Duval County School Board moved forward toward initiating litigation, with an initial allocation of $25,000 toward the $400,000 estimated costs of the action.

The motion passed 4-2, with board members Scott Shine and Ashley Smith-Juarez in opposition.

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A representative of the Jacksonville Office of General Counsel discussed an memorandum regarding HB 7069, noting that ten other school boards around the state have identified “items of concern.”

“The main arguments essentially are this explicitly infringes with a school board’s Constitutional right” to control schools in its district, handle taxing authority, and other issues that are “vulnerable to a legal challenge.”

The Schools of Hope concept and millage sharing are among those issues that render the bill open to a challenge, as is the standard charter contract and the charter structure writ large.

HB 7069 reduces school boards to a “ministerial function” relative to charter contracts, opined OGC representative Karen Chastain in a pre-vote workshop, presenting a memo that said the bill would “negatively impact” functions of local boards.

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Chair Paula Wright posited that the bill strips prerogatives of the School Board as an “elected body.”

The OGC representative again echoed that the school board would not have ability to negotiate charter contracts, and that “any change to the standard is presumed … to be an infringement.”

Appeals, meanwhile, are difficult.

“If it doesn’t fit in that scope, you really have no teeth,” board member Becki Couch observed.

Another issue: if a charter school closes and stiffs the landlord on the rent, the school board can be on the hook for costs — in part because the school board has to maintain permanent records.

“It’s a real life example that I’ve seen over and over and over,” the OGC representative said.

Couch described the board as a local “representative democracy” example, saying the action of the State Legislature “took away … decision-making at a local level.”

“When they challenge us on a contract, this HB 7069 says we have to pay their attorney’s fees,” Couch said, with the OGC rep saying those costs could be “easily six figures, times two.”

Another wrinkle: capital funds. Mortgages on charter school buildings can often lead the school board to abandon its interest in the building.

Essentially, the thinking is that the board absorbs the risks of private investment on the public dime, and forfeits power to negotiate contracts and other home rule functions in the bargain.

Board member Couch noted that while “we have great charter schools here in Duval County, we also have people who pay taxes and trust us to make decisions on their behalf.”

Couch noted that many charter providers won’t even do business in Duval, because of stringent accountability standards.

“We are an elected body by the people. Representative government,” Couch said. “When you have an outside group that can now begin deciding how to spend outside dollars, it raises the question ‘who’s in charge’?”

“Charter schools can open up across the street from a public school and demonstrate no need whatsoever,” Couch noted.”

“There’s no accountability … it’s a free for all … an experiment,” Couch said, noting that charters have no requirement to show capital needs in the way districts do.

Couch added that charter schools may even be able to operate in public school buildings, further eroding the district’s ability to “protect the taxpayers.”

Chairwoman Paula Wright also suggested that HB 7069 would cut into federal Title I funds, which could abrogate the School Board’s ability to determine the most efficient use of funds.

“This goes against the oath that we took as constitutional officers,” Wright said.

Regarding charter schools, Wright emphasized that DCPS is “one of the most choice-rich districts in the state of Florida.”

“Do we allow HB 7069 to infringe on our local, state, and federal opportunities … for the benefit of our students in Duval County?”

Even Shine realized there’s “a lot of problems with the bill” and a “lot of truth around this table.”

However, Shine thinks pushback will lead to “more to disempower school boards” from Tallahassee.

“If we litigate, we lose the ability to have good faith negotiation,” Shine added.

Shine’s position was in the minority, with multiple board members waxing poetic about the Constitutional obligation to function as an independent board.

“As watchmen of public education,” said Board Member Lori Hershey, “we have an obligation.”

This is a chance, Hershey said, to “stand up for students” against this “unconstitutional” legislation.

Former board chair Ashley Smith-Juarez held forth against this “destructive … beyond problematic” bill, noting that litigation is part of the design of the government.

That said, Smith-Juarez doesn’t feel “litigation is the next step,” with “other tools in the toolbox” being available before “swinging the litigation hammer.”

Board member Warren Jones suggested the bill was passed in Tallahassee despite “conflicts of interest,” noting that “we have to litigate to get their attention” regarding disproportionate impacts.

“We’ve got 10 counties, we’re going to be the 11th one … we are at a point where we have to live with this law or hope it’s repealed,” Jones said, if a lawsuit doesn’t happen.

Chairwoman Wright credited herself with “laying everything on the line” ahead of litigation.

“This is a difficult decision, yet to me it’s not difficult,” Wright said.

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There are caveats: there could be a negotiated solution. The case could be thrown out. The district could withdraw.

But at this point, the board will move forward, investing $25,000 in a suit, with the eye of protecting at least $16M in capital dollars over the next five years.

“There needs to be accountability. We either believe in accountability or we don’t.”

 

Support litigation 4-2, Shine and Smith-Juarez opposed.

State legislators press for Duval School District audit, as district resists

Last fiscal year, the Duval County School District spent $21 million over budget — leading to requests for a “deeper dive” into the numbers, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

Also seeking a “deeper dive” — current State Rep. Jason Fischer, a former member of the Duval County School Board.

However, that deeper dive is not welcomed by the board chair herself.

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Fischer, in a letter to Joint Legislative Auditing Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Mayfield dated Jul. 24, requests an operational audit into Duval’s budgetary and spending practices.

“As a past Duval County School Board Member,” Fischer writes, “I understand the complexity of their local budget.”

“I’m deeply concerned that the school district is taking their eye off the ball by considering frivolous lawsuits against the State rather than getting their financial house in order,” Fischer adds, referring to Duval’s consideration of suing over HB 7069, the “Schools of Hope” bill for which Fischer was a staunch advocate.

Fischer has “major concerns” about what he calls “$21 million in overspending,” and hopes “this special audit brings clarity and reconciliation to the school district’s poor financial practices.”

“Recently, the district’s questionable budgetary practices have surfaced in the press, triggering pushback from the community and the philanthropic sector,” Fischer adds, continuing to decry this alleged “significant overspending.”

Board member Scott Shine supports Fischer’s request, but that’s not a view shared by the whole board.

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In a letter sent Tuesday to Duval Delegation chair Rep. Jay Fant, Board Chair Paula Wright asserted that an audit is not necessary. [Chair’s Response to Fischer’s Audit Request]

“Factually and emphatically, the Duval County School Board is not ‘indulging in irresponsible budget practices’, as claimed by our former colleague,” Chairwoman Wright wrote.

Wright, purportedly on behalf of the full board, goes on to “respectfully ask that Representative Fisher’s [SIC] request” for “another operational audit be withdrawn.”

Unknown: when the full board met to discuss the matter.

Fischer, for his part, wonders why board members don’t welcome a state audit in the interest of transparency.

“Why don’t they all welcome a state audit of this? Why don’t they want to be more transparent? What are they hiding?”

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Fischer’s position is shared by Rep. Joe Gruters, who asserted Wednesday that an audit was “urgent and cannot wait for the next legislative cycle.”

Gruters noted that the resignation of the school district’s CFO is a strong indication that “something is amiss,” in a letter to JLAC Chair Mayfield.

Furthermore, House Speaker Richard Corcoran offered support for Fischer’s position, via Twitter.

That said, the Duval County School District — in the form of spokesman Mark Sherwood — said the proposed audit is unnecessary, given that the School Board has already authorized an independent third party audit.

Sherwood asserted that the money was not deficit spending; rather, was just a dip into reserves, driven by a revenue deficit from a dip in enrollment late in the year, transportation settlements, and regulatory adjustments.

Duval School Board member welcomes state financial audit

On Monday, State Rep. Jason Fischer proposed a state financial audit of the Duval County School Board on which he served until last year.

Fischer’s take: the district is more concerned about potentially suing over the controversial “Schools of Hope” bill he advocated than it is with getting its “financial house in order,” after recent revelations of spending $21M beyond its budget.

Fischer has backup on the board: fellow Republican Scott Shine, who already has amassed $30,000 for his own re-election bid to the body, “welcomes” such an audit.

In an open letter released Tuesday, Shine wrote that he is “not concerned with the possibility of a Legislative Audit.”

“As I suggested to the board [on July 18, we need to institute additional peer review and a Legislative audit can be a part of that review process,” Shine wrote.

Shine also noted that the CFO responsible for the budget imbalance was “removed,” in light of the “considerable mistake” made by the budget office.

Joe Henderson: Richard Corcoran did more than change Florida education, whipped teachers union too

Alex Sink made a point to Mitch Perry on FloridaPolitics.com that Democrats may finally have a cause to rally around in this state.

She referred to HB 7069 (or, as I like to call it, “The Let’s Bust The Teachers’ Union Act”) pushed through by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott. It is the biggest push yet by the Legislature to expand private charter schools with money from the public education budget.

“Do we care about public education in this state or not?” she told Perry. “Ninety percent of our kids go to public school, so 90 percent of our money plus should be supporting public schools.”

I won’t say Corcoran doesn’t care about public education. I won’t even say charter schools don’t have some benefit.

But I will say that if you peel back the layers of how we got here, the Republican victory dance is as much about the whipping they inflicted on the state’s largest teachers union, the Florida Education Association, as it was the expansion of charters.

This was Corcoran showing the union who is boss.

That was spelled out plainly last November when he began pushing his charter plan. When the union opposed it, Corcoran declared war.

As the Miami Herald reported, he called the union “downright evil” and accused it of trying to “destroy the lives of 100,000 children, mostly minority, and all of them poor.”

He called union leaders “disgusting” and “repugnant.” He called them “crazy people” who fight tooth and nail to protect the status quo at the expense of innovation.

FEA President Joanne McCall responded with a statement that read in part, “Legislation like this makes it clear that the real goal of some of our political leaders is not to provide a high-quality education to our children, it’s to dismantle public schools and profit off our students.”

HB 7069 is now law because Corcoran played his hand better than his opponents. Just because he won doesn’t make him right, though.

Unions like the FEA exist because teachers can’t trust Tallahassee to play fair. Lawmakers have used teachers as a political prop for decades, but it took on new life when Jeb Bush as governor pushed through “reforms” that have helped create the mess we have today.

That’s not saying local school districts don’t need reshaping because, folks, their house isn’t in order either. The large ones have layers of bureaucrats who are well paid for doing, well, I’m not exactly sure what. They also can be extremely condescending toward anyone who has new ideas. That’s a column for another day.

But the ones who seem forgotten in all this are those teachers on the front lines. It is their unfortunate fate to carry out the often-conflicting requirements put in place by lawmakers who don’t understand what teachers actually do.

Worse, they don’t respect teachers.

That brings us back to Alex Sink and what she said about this issue might finally rile Democrats enough to show up for the governor’s race next year. I guess we’ll find out.

But Republicans just fundamentally changed public education in Florida,  and it will be hard to undo. Clobbering the union in the process just made it sweeter for them.

Capitol Reax: Rick Scott signs HB 7069

Gov. Rick Scott signed a sweeping education bill (HB 7069) that, among other things, sends more public money to privately-run charter schools. The legislation, a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, also requires recess in elementary schools, makes changes to the state’s standardized testing system, and includes millions of dollars for teacher bonuses.

The governor’s decision to sign the bill sparked a reaction from both sides of the issue.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran

“Today is a great day for Florida’s students, parents, and teachers. This bill is the most transformative pro-parent, pro-student, pro-teacher, and pro-public education bill in the history of the state of Florida. It ends failure factories. It rewards the best and brightest teachers and principals. It gives bonuses to every highly effective and effective teacher. It puts a focus back on civics education and teaching our students about what made our country great. It provides scholarships to students with disabilities. It mandates recess for our students. It reduces testing. And last, but not least, it forces more money into the classroom by making the money follow the students. In other words, it gives children hope and dignity. It says all children deserve a world-class education.

“Today is a great day for Florida’s students, parents, and teachers. This bill is the most transformative pro-parent, pro-student, pro-teacher, and pro-public education bill in the history of the state of Florida. It ends failure factories. It rewards the best and brightest teachers and principals. It gives bonuses to every highly effective and effective teacher. It puts a focus back on civics education and teaching our students about what made our country great. It provides scholarships to students with disabilities. It mandates recess for our students. It reduces testing. And last, but not least, it forces more money into the classroom by making the money follow the students. In other words, it gives children hope and dignity. It says all children deserve a world-class education.

I want to thank Governor Rick Scott for his courage and commitment to education options for our poorest kids. The Governor has taken on the status quo his entire career and the people of Florida are better off for it. I believe one of the great legacies of this session will be saving school childrens’ futures.”

Sen. Linda Stewart 

“I would like to thank the Governor for visiting Senate District 13, but I’m very disappointed that he used the signing of HB 7069 as the reason to stop by.

 “This bill is an unwise experiment in education policy opposed by our state’s teachers, parents, professional administrators and superintendents. That’s why I urged him to veto it. Many of those that have opposed HB7069 have dedicated their lives to educating the students in Florida’s schools. HB7069 was secretly produced and passed as a 278-page bitter pill that flew in the face of every tradition of transparency and openness required by our state’s laws and constitution.

 “Let’s be clear about what HB7069 actually does: it enriches the for-profit education industry at the expense of Florida’s traditional public schools. The same schools that educated the vast majority of Floridians for generations despite daunting odds and an indifferent legislature for the past two decades.

 “The legislation you signed today gives to the charter school industry a free hand and promises them a bountiful reward. It allows corporations with no track record of success, no obligation to struggling students, and no mandated standards of accountability to flourish, with the sole obligation to their shareholders. Not the public. Not to well-intentioned parents desperate to see their children succeed – but to a group of investors who have made a business decision to add these companies to their portfolios because they are interested in making money.

 “I would remind those who stand to profit personally from this legislation, some of whom hold high office, that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Sen. Gary Farmer

“Today I am saddened by the Governor’s action in signing HB 7069. This devious bill, hatched in secret, and strong-armed through the Legislature will deal a significant blow to our State’s public education system. For the first time, private charter school operators will now have access to local school district tax revenue. This will undoubtedly lead to less money for our already starved-traditional public schools. I fear that a lack of accountability in these charters will result in wasted dollars for untested and redundant facilities, all to prop up private entities that are closing down nearly as fast as they are opening up. I join the thousands of parents, schoolteachers, and education advocates around Florida in bowing my head in shame. Our government can do better.”

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon 

“To no one’s surprise, but to many Floridians’ disappointment, Governor Rick Scott approved HB 7069 today, firmly cementing his legacy of putting campaign politics above sound public policy.

Equally troubling, he signed off on a bill hatched in secrecy which he had openly criticized, but now suddenly agrees that it’s ok to circumvent transparency, it’s ok to negotiate in secret, it’s ok to pull a fast one.

HB 7069 aims an arrow straight at the heart of public education in Florida, a system that is struggling to stay alive despite repeated overhauls, starvation, and mandates under the latest standardized tests-du-jour.

And it sets up a guarantee for the profitability of the charter school industry in this state by delivering public schools we’ve purposely ignored to corporate managers we’ve deliberately positioned for success.

All of these perks we give to this industry under this bill — unregulated expansion, temporary teacher employment, financial self-rewards through cherry picking by principals — none of this is found in traditional public schools. Nor is the amount of state aid we owe to build or maintain the public schools long relegated to second-class status.

 “For all of these reasons, it’s a bill that should have been vetoed, as countless Floridians continuously urged. And it’s a bill that we will not soon forget.”

Rep. Jason Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican

“I want to thank Governor Scott for signing HB 7069 into law. The Governor’s signature marks the start of a bold and innovative plan to reform and strengthen Florida’s K-12 education system. Today is a momentous occasion for Florida’s students and hardworking teachers and I’m excited about what the future holds with this legislation in place. I would also like to thank Speaker Corcoran, Representative (

“I want to thank Governor Scott for signing HB 7069 into law. The Governor’s signature marks the start of a bold and innovative plan to reform and strengthen Florida’s K-12 education system. Today is a momentous occasion for Florida’s students and hardworking teachers and I’m excited about what the future holds with this legislation in place. I would also like to thank Speaker Corcoran, Representative (Michael) Bileca, and Representative (Manny) Diaz for their leadership and for their dedication to helping students and teachers.”

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz

“Not since the creation of the unconstitutional voucher system has there been an assault on our public schools as flagrant and hurtful as what’s contained in HB 7069.

Rather than providing additional resources for public schools, Republicans have instead chosen to divert $140 million into a slush fund for private charter school corporations. Rather than providing our school districts the resources they need for maintenance and upkeep, Republicans have instead chosen to divert local capital funding districts rely on into buildings the state does not own. And rather than giving our overworked and underpaid teachers the raise they deserve, Republicans have instead chosen to continue to fund an arbitrary bonus system based on test scores from when they were in high school.

“Most disappointingly, Republican leadership, and now Governor Scott, have chosen to ignore the voices of thousands of frustrated parents, teachers, and public school administrators and associations in favor of the AstroTurf efforts of private foundations awash in your tax dollars. It is my hope that next session we can look for ways to repair this misguided legislation in a bipartisan manner. Our parents and teachers deserve to have their voices heard.”

Rep. Shevrin Jones, the ranking Democratic member on the House Education Committee

“HB 7069 exemplifies confronting critical problems in our public education system with unreasonable and impractical solutions. This law will significantly hurt our public education system, rather than providing our teachers and students with the resources they need to succeed. On both sides of the aisle, we have kept education at the forefront of our priorities and though we claim to have a common goal, the outcome of signing this legislation is a step in the wrong direction.

“We cannot continue to place politics over people. It is unbelievable that Governor Scott has ignored the frustration and concerns that were made through phone calls, letters, and emails from parents, teachers, students, and superintendents.

“As a former educator and a believer in our process, this is the one time I can say, the process was violated and the people were ignored. It is my hope that every school district will look at this law and challenge the constitutionality of how it degrades our public school system. I am not against creating new standards for our lowest performing schools, but I am against violating the process of legislating that our constituents sent us to Tallahassee to uphold.”

Rep. Michael Bileca, chairman of the House Education Committee 

“I commend Governor Scott for signing HB 7069 into law. This legislation has the power to transform the lives and futures of poor children across the state of Florida. It puts their future before the agenda of bureaucrats and institutions that have deprived them of the quality education they deserve. This legislation is a direct and targeted approach that will break the cycle of poverty by enabling world class schools to flourish in high poverty areas. I would also like to thank my fellow lawmakers who have worked alongside one another to fight against a system resistant to change, and afford our children the best education we can provide.”

Rep. Manny Diaz, chairman of the House PreK-12 Education Appropriations Committee  “I want to commend the Governor for his continued support of the best educational options for all students in our great state regardless of what ZIP code they reside in. Today marks another transformational step for Florida as a nationwide leader in education reform. I want to thank Speaker Corcoran for his leadership and steadfast support for All kids in our state, it is truly an honor to work side by side with him and Chair Bileca to fight for what is right.”

“I want to commend the Governor for his continued support of the best educational options for all students in our great state regardless of what ZIP code they reside in. Today marks another transformational step for Florida as a nationwide leader in education reform. I want to thank Speaker Corcoran for his leadership and steadfast support for All kids in our state, it is truly an honor to work side by side with him and Chair Bileca to fight for what is right.”

Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee and a Democratic gubernatorial candidate

Public education has made all the difference in my life and so many others. Were it not for the guidance and work poured into me by public school teachers like Linda Awbrey, there would be no Mayor Gillum, and I would never have dreamed I could succeed at a run for Governor. The signing of H.B. 7069 is another deeply painful decision by our state’s leaders giving tax dollars away to for-profit charter school executives — instead of to our students. It’s a stark reminder that we must take back this state in 2018 from the well-heeled special interests, and when I’m Governor, revitalizing public education will be at the top of my list.:’”

Gwen Graham, a former Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee and a 2018 candidate for governor

“This bill is another massive step toward turning Florida’s public school system into a public school industry designed to benefit corporations and powerful interests at the expense of our kids and schools. Teachers and parents called, wrote and even protested Governor Scott, imploring him not to sign this bill — but yet again, he’s abandoning his responsibility to our children and instead siding with special interests.”

As Governor, I will veto any budget or policy that shortchanges our schools in favor of the education industry. I’ll work with the legislature at every step of the process to build an education policy that puts our public schools and students first. We will end teaching to the test, end the lottery shell game and pay teachers what they deserve.

As a mother, former PTA president, and school district official, nothing is more important to me than our students and public schools. I’ve worked alongside the teachers who will be hurt by this legislation. I’m running for governor to be their advocate.”

— David Bergstein, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

 “Scott is proving once again that he is a typical Tallahassee politician who is only ever looking out for himself — his pathetic and transparent efforts to advance his own political interests at the expense of hardworking Floridians is the kind of toxic baggage that will follow him into any political campaign he mounts. Wherever he goes, Scott will have to explain why he’s draining resources from schools in order to spend tax dollars on a slush fund for his campaign contributors and political cronies. For voters, this bill is just another demonstration that Scott is only ever looking out for one person: himself.”

Johanna Cervone, communications director for the Florida Democratic Party

“There are no words. By signing HB7069, Rick Scott and Tallahassee Republicans have declared war on our public schools. This bill is a national disgrace and was universally regarded by school boards and superintendents to be a death knell for public education. Scott and Corcoran are caricatures of themselves — crooked Tallahassee politicians cutting backroom deals and pilfering dollars from our children to ensure their corporate benefactors get funded. Scott got his slush fund, and Corcoran got millions of dollars for for-profit charter schools, but Florida’s families are left with next to nothing. Voters will remember who was responsible for this legislation — including those who were complicit in its signing, like noteworthy political coward, Adam Putnam, who tiptoes around every issue.”

Mark Ferrulo, executive director of Progress Florida 

“Today, Gov. Rick Scott ignored thousands of parents, teachers and community leaders who have spoken out against this travesty of a bill and embraced a secret and unaccountable process to deal an underhanded sucker punch to public education in our state. Our students — the next generation of Floridians — are the ones who will pay the price.

 “Floridians deserve a strong and well-funded public school system so that a child’s opportunity to learn isn’t dependent on where they live or whether they win a school lottery. We shouldn’t waste precious resources on a parallel system of for-profit private voucher and charter schools that is less accountable to citizens and has produced mixed results at best.”

— Joshua Karp, spokesman for American Bridge

 “Since his first year in office, Rick Scott has fought against public schools on behalf of wealthy corporate special interests. Today’s anti-education bill was crafted in secret by lobbyists and Tallahassee insiders to funnel millions of dollars to corporations that seek to profit off children’s education while diverting precious funding from Florida’s public schools where every dollar is precious. Yet again, Floridians will be worse off because Rick Scott and his friends care more about making money.”

Charly Norton, executive director of FloridaStrong

“For the second time in two days, the Governor has made clear he serves only his own agenda — not the people he was elected to represent. The fact that Scott ignored thousands of veto calls over this past month from parents, school boards, educators and other public school advocates demonstrates his shameful disservice to the state of Florida. Speaker Corcoran and the lawmakers who pushed this ‘scam‘ of a bill are actively dismantling Florida schools and undermining our kids’ chance at success as a result. They can claim they care about the future of this state until they are blue in the face, but their actions prove otherwise.

William Mattox, director of JMI’s Marshall Center for Educational Options

“Education choice is an idea that ought to unite liberals and conservatives because it acknowledges that students are diverse and that they are often ill-served by one-size-fits-all schooling policies that fail to account for each child’s unique learning needs. We commend the legislators in both parties who voted to expand student options in 2017, and we hope legislators will work together in 2018 to move us even closer to the goal of universal education choice for all Florida students.”

J. Robert McClure, president and CEO of The James Madison Institute For 30 years, The James Madison Institute has been on the front lines of the battle of ideas and principles in Florida. We thank Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran for their support of this legislation. They have been steadfast in their efforts to match students with educational opportunities that provide the greatest chance for success in life, and this commitment is reflected in legislation that expands school choice for economically-disadvantaged students and those with unique abilities, while providing more digital education access and allowing successful charter schools to open new schools in areas with chronically failing public schools.”

For 30 years, The James Madison Institute has been on the front lines of the battle of ideas and principles in Florida. We thank Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran for their support of this legislation. They have been steadfast in their efforts to match students with educational opportunities that provide the greatest chance for success in life, and this commitment is reflected in legislation that expands school choice for economically-disadvantaged students and those with unique abilities, while providing more digital education access and allowing successful charter schools to open new schools in areas with chronically failing public schools.”

Blake Williams, communications director for For Florida’s Future

“Last week Rick Scott convinced Tallahassee Republicans to replenish his Enterprise Florida slush fund with taxpayer dollars to pay off his political donors, and in return, he’s giving Republicans millions in taxpayer dollars for a slush fund of their own. HB 7069 is corporate welfare plain and simple, and the opposition to it has been broad and bipartisan. Florida’s largest school districts have publicly opposed it, teachers and parents have opposed it, and nearly every editorial board in the state of Florida has urged a veto. The job of Florida leaders should be to ensure equal access to properly funded education. Rick Scott failed that test miserably today.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permissions.

In new video ahead of HB 7069 signing, Florida House declares ‘hope has arrived’

The Florida House is touting the signing of a wide-sweeping education bill with a new video.

The nearly 3-minute web video, released ahead of a bill signing event at Morning Star Catholic School in Orlando, features news clips showing parents talking about their children and reporters highlighting the 2015 “Failure Factories” series by the Tampa Bay Times.

After the words “failure no more, hope has arrived” flash onto the screen, the video shows footage of Rep. Byron Donalds talking about the bill (HB 7069) during a committee hearing earlier this year.

“We are wasting the educational time and the economic future of the kids who sit in those classrooms,” the Naples Republican is shown saying in the video. “The real conversation is what are we doing to make sure the children who are in the biggest need have the greatest opportunity for success.”

“What we’re doing here is allowing operators who have a demonstrated track record of success in low-performing areas in other parts of the United States of America, and we are giving them the opportunity and the ability to come to Florida and perform for the kids who are at risk the most,” continues Donalds, who was an advocate for the bill. “That’s what we’re doing in this bill.”

The Governor’s Office announced Thursday he planned to sign a major education bill at 3:45 p.m. The governor’s daily schedule listed the event as “HB 7069 Signing and Budget Highlight Event.”

The bill, among other things, creates the “Schools of Hope” program that would offer financial incentives to charter school operators who would agree to take students who now attending chronically failing schools, many of them in poor areas and urban neighborhoods. Additionally, up to 25 failing public schools may receive up to $2,000 per student for additional student services.

It extends the Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, expands eligibility for the Gardiner Scholarship Program for disabled students, and requires 20 minutes of recess each day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The bill also requires school districts share capital project tax revenue with charter schools, which Corcoran argued is one of the reasons why some school district officials have come out in opposition to the bill.

The Associated Press contributed to this reported, reprinted with permission.

 

Rick Scott to sign controversial education policy bill

Gov. Rick Scott will sign a contentious education policy bill that critics fear will hurt traditional public schools in favor of privately-managed charter schools.

The Governor’s Office on Thursday morning announced he will approve “a major education bill” at Morning Star Catholic School in Orlando, “which serves many children who receive the Gardiner Scholarship,” one of the programs affected by the legislation.

The bill signing is slated for 3:45 p.m., a press release said. It did not mention the bill by name or number, however, though the Governor’s daily schedule does list it as “HB 7069 Signing And Budget Highlight Event.”

The bill’s approval is widely believed to be in return for House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s support of Scott’s priorities, including full funding of Visit Florida and money for an economic development fund, passed in the recent Special Session.

But it’s been met with vigorous opposition from Democratic lawmakers, newspaper editorial boards and public schools advocates, including the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union.

Among other things, the bill (HB 7069) steers more money to charter schools through a “Schools of Hope” initiative, requires recess in elementary schools, and tinkers with the state’s oft-criticized standardized testing system.

The legislation—a top priority for Corcoranbarely edged out of the Florida Senate on a 20-18 vote where some Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure.

The Senate vote came after intense debate in which opponents contended the legislation was a give-away to charter schools—public schools run by private organizations and sometimes managed by for-profit companies.

Corcoran has said that the changes are even more dramatic than the A+ plan put in place by former Gov. Jeb Bush nearly two decades ago. It created the state’s first voucher program and created the state’s current school grading system.

“It is the greatest public school bill in the history of Florida,” Corcoran said after the bill was sent to Scott.

The nearly 300-page bill includes a long list of education changes that legislators had been considering. But the final bill was negotiated largely out of public view. Some of the final changes drew the ire of the state’s teacher unions, parent groups as well as superintendents of some of Florida’s largest school districts.

Included in the bill is a requirement that elementary schools must set aside 20 minutes each day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade for “free-play recess,” although at the last minute charter schools were exempted from the mandate. The bill includes more than $200 million for teacher and principal bonuses.

Bowing to criticism about Florida’s testing regimen, the measure eliminates the Algebra 2 end-of-course exam and pushes back the date in the school year when students must take Florida’s main standardized test.

Another major part of the bill creates the “Schools of Hope” program that would offer financial incentives to charter school operators who would agree to take students who now attending chronically failing schools, many of them in poor areas and urban neighborhoods. Additionally, up to 25 failing public schools may receive up to $2,000 per student for additional student services.

It extends the Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, expands eligibility for the Gardiner Scholarship Program for disabled students, and requires 20 minutes of recess each day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The bill also requires school districts share capital project tax revenue with charter schools, which Corcoran argued is one of the reasons why some school district officials have come out in opposition to the bill.

Background from The Associated Press was used in this post.

Rick Scott: No hard feelings between him and Richard Corcoran

Chalk it up to “passion.” Or politics.

Gov. Rick Scott, speaking to reporters after a Wednesday bill signing, explained away the open tension between him and House Speaker Richard Corcoran after the House this year tried to gut VISIT FLORIDA and do away with economic development organization Enterprise Florida, his two favored state agencies.

By the end of the recent Special Session, however, lawmakers agreed to the creation of an $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to be controlled by Scott, full funding for tourism marketing, and $50 million to help kick-start repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee.

That deal is said to be in return for Scott’s approval of a controversial education funding policy bill (HB 7069), pushed by the House, that critics say slights traditional public schools in favor of privately-managed charter schools. Scott says he’s still “reviewing” that bill.

“What’s great is that people have passion for what they believe in,” he said. “I know the Speaker has passion for what he believes in; I have passion for what I believe in. Both of us went out there and tried to explain to others (our positions) … but we came together for what is a win for our state.”

Scott in fact went to the districts of House members who supported Corcoran’s plan to defund the agencies and more or less publicly shamed them.

Cut to this week, when Corcoran joined Scott on a “victory tour” to several cities to “celebrate the major wins for Florida families and students during (the) legislative Special Session.”

“I’m proud of the fact we’re able to fully fund VISIT FLORIDA; I’m proud of the fact we have this new development tool, $85 million that’s going to work to get more jobs here; I’m proud that we’re going to partner with the (Donald) Trump administration to help finish the dike,” he said.

Scott was at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to sign a bill (SB 7022) “which provides pay raises for Florida’s sworn state law enforcement officers, correctional officers and state employees,” according to a press release.

“… I’m glad the Speaker believed in all those things and we went to five cities to celebrate that success,” Scott added.

As far as any fight next year for business incentives, which Corcoran calls “corporate welfare,” Scott said he’ll decide then—his last year in office. He’s term limited in 2018.

Till then, “I’m going to keep working hard to get more jobs … I’ll use the tools that we have to call on companies … and I think it’s going to work,” he said.

Gary Farmer to Rick Scott: Veto ‘dreadful’ HB 7069

A new state senator who is also a prominent trial attorney is telling Gov. Rick Scott to veto a contentious education policy bill, saying it’s a brew of “bad policy” and “a textbook example of a failure in government transparency.”

Sen. Gary Farmer, a Parkland Democrat, wrote a 2-page letter to Scott Tuesday on HB 7069, which critics have said will benefit charter schools to the detriment of traditional public schools.

“This dreadful piece of legislation, if signed into law, would dramatically reduce the ability of school districts across the state to devote resources towards improving our public education,” Farmer wrote.

The bill “would force school districts to give an even split of locally derived capital outlay funds to charter schools.”

Farmer also mentioned how “the process through which this bill was passed also raises some serious transparency issues.”

He said the bill “was fundamentally changed into a 278-page amendment that slashes funding for struggling schools and requires school districts to pay for charter school projects that they cannot afford.”

Moreover, the final product “included provisions that were the subject of some 55 other bills, the vast majority of which either had been voted down in committee or had stalled,” he said.

The bill “also hijacked unrelated issues, such as recess and Gardiner Scholarships for students with special abilities, in a blatant attempt to borrow support,” Farmer added. “That may be the most offensive part of this process, as these issues enjoyed broad, bipartisan support—unlike the other controversial provisions” of the bill.

“… While there are small pockets of good policy hidden within this bill, it is a monstrosity when coupled with the multitude of bad policies that have been included,” Farmer concluded.

Scott was in a Cabinet meeting Wednesday morning, but was expected to meet with reporters later in the day.

Andrew Gillum takes a swipe at Rick Scott’s ‘victory tour’

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, is slamming Gov. Rick Scott‘s and House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s “victory tour.”

Saying he’s standing up for public schools, Gillum released a statement Tuesday in the wake of Scott’s announcement of a five-city “Fighting for Florida’s Future Victory” tour to “celebrate the major wins for Florida families and students during last week’s legislative Special Session.”

Corcoran plans to join him on some of the stops, set for Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Tampa and Jacksonville Beach.

“This tour will highlight an all-time high of K-12 per-pupil spending, the establishment of the $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, full funding for VISIT FLORIDA, and $50 million to kick-start repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee,” the governor’s press release said.

Gillum isn’t buying it.

“The only person less deserving of a ‘victory tour’ than Gov. Scott and Speaker Corcoran is Donald Trump‘s lawyer,” he said.

Scott’s and Corcoran’s “backroom deals will destroy our public schools’ futures, and they ought to be ashamed of what they’ve done to our state over the past week,” he added.

Gillum and public schools advocates have been critical of Corcoran’s favored bill, HB 7069, a wide-ranging education policy bill they say slights traditional public schools in favor of charter schools run by private concerns.

“The end of the Special Session is not ‘mission accomplished’ on behalf of Florida’s students and teachers,” Gillum said, a likely reference to a 2003 speech by then-President George W. Bush, after which he was criticized for prematurely saying the U.S. had “prevailed” in Iraq.

“I’m running for governor because our children are not well when they can’t read at grade level, take anxiety medication for high stakes tests, and suffer while for-profit charter school executives and their allies fly around on a ‘victory tour,’ ” Gillum said.

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