Richard Corcoran Archives - Florida Politics

Report: Richard Corcoran raises $608K for new Watchdog PAC

House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s political committee brought in more than $600,000 in one month to a newly formed political committee.

The Miami Herald reported that Corcoran’s newly formed Watchdog PAC raised $608,000, half of which came from contributions from political committees run by Reps. Jose Oliva and Carlos Trujillo. The committee, the Herald reported, also received $100,000 from Norman Braman.

According to the report, Oliva’s political committee, Conservative Principles for Florida, gave Watchdog PAC $250,000; while Trujillo’s committee, Conservative and Principled Leadership for Florida, gave it $100,000.

The committee raised about $183,000, according to the Herald, before a fundraiser hosted by Orlando attorney John Morgan.

Corcoran is believed to be considering a 2018 gubernatorial run. He launched the political committee in May, and it could help fund a run for statewide office.

Richard Corcoran to speak to St. Johns County Republicans Thursday

House Speaker Richard Corcoran will be the featured speaker at Thursday night’s St. Johns County Republicans’ Lincoln/Reagan Dinner.

Corcoran, who is reportedly mulling a run for Florida Governor commencing after the 2018 Legislative Session, is uniquely positioned to build relationships with the Jacksonville area donors who will turn out en masse for the event at Sawgrass Country Club.

Corcoran’s remarks will focus on “American Exceptionalism” in schools; the Speaker will be joined by Dr. Peter Wood.

For this speech, “a fabulous Dinner, cocktails and silent auction,” tickets are $75.

Chris King brings home his ‘progressive entrepreneur’ campaign message

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and affordable housing developer Chris King pitches this scenario to Democratic crowds hungry for a rare statewide victory, and a blue governor’s office for the first time in 20 years:

“If you can imagine the gubernatorial debate of 2018, late October, we have a Republican, and we have a Democrat. And the time always comes where the Republican looks at the Democrat and says to the state of Florida, ‘You can’t trust this Democrat.’ Right? ‘This is a tax-and-spend liberal. They can’t create jobs. They can’t build businesses. They will ride this economy dead!’ It happens every time!” King, of Winter Park, said before a gathering of about 200 Democrats at the Orange County party’s monthly executive committee meeting Monday night.

“If I’m your nominee, I will be able to say in that moment, with the whole state watching, ‘On the contrary: not this Democrat! This Democrat created successful businesses, created jobs, delivered profit to investors, served customers. And this Democrat did all of that while honoring his progressive values,'” King continued.

“And then I’ll be able to look at the Republican in that moment, and say, ‘Mr. [Adam] Putnam, or Mr. [Richard] Corcoran, or Mr. [Jack] Latvala,’ or whoever comes out on top, ‘It was your party that rode this economy down, that created an affordable housing crisis. It was your party that said no to Medicaid expansion. It was your party that steered this party to the back of the pack,'” King continued. “And I will ask for the wheel back, and I will take it back, in 2018.”

And with that presentation, King, who built a fortune with development companies he insists he and his brother built from scratch, sought to distance himself from both his Democratic challengers, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, as well as the Republicans.

It’s a continuation of the “progressive entrepreneur” theme King initiated when he kicked off his campaign in Orlando two months ago. King criticizes Florida Republicans for overseeing a drop in inflation-adjusted wages and benefits, or doing nothing about it, and for, he said, leading Florida to place at the bottom of the nation’s 10 most populous states in per-capita income, productivity, gross domestic product, and mental health care services.

He pledges an economic program that would focus on minimum wage increases; steering capital to “home-grown” small businesses, rather than offering financial incentives to, as he said, set up low-wage satellite offices in Florida; creating workforce training institutes in community colleges; and using the state’s affordable housing trust fund for affordable housing.

King also ran through his commitments to all the rest of the state Democrats’ principal platform planks, including re-instilling respect and support for public schools and teachers; seeking health care for all, including accepting Medicaid expansion money; pushing adoption of the Florida Comprehensive Workforce Act, banning discrimination against the LGBTQ community; and staunchly supporting environmental protections and the development of solar and other alternative energies, including his pledge to take no campaign money from the sugar industry.

Yet while the environmental pledges may have drawn the loudest ovation, King’s “progressive entrepreneur” was the centerpiece of his campaign, and of his speech Monday night. He said it is based on his own business practices and philosophy, which he said provides living wages, full health care paid for by the company, and bonuses, for every employee, while the companies are “heavily philanthropic.”

“You can be a progressive, and believe in equality, and opportunity, and fairness, and justice, and care for the neediest among us. You can also marry that to entrepreneurship, to integrity, and hard work, and discipline, and stewartship. When those things are brought together, I’ve found in business it was a magical formula,” King said. “In government, it can be a game-changer for the Democratic Party.”

Rick Baker, Rick Kriseman still question which has been more partisan as mayor

Rick Baker knew for months that Rick Kriseman was going to attack him as an out-of-step Republican in a Democratically friendly city, even before entering the mayoral campaign last month.

In his campaign kickoff announcement, the former St. Petersburg Mayor warned supporters  they’d be getting a dose of such rhetoric from the Kriseman camp: “Because that’s the only thing they have.”

But last week, while filing papers for his official re-election run, Kriseman said that a review of who contributed to Seamless Florida, Baker’s political action committee, should make voters wonder about which candidate is the real partisan in the race.

“To say that he hasn’t been partisan as mayor and he hasn’t run a partisan campaign and you look at his fundraising and how much of it has come from Republicans, PACs, not individual donors, I think it’s up to voters to decide,” said Kriseman. “At least we’re up front about it.”

Among those giving $25,000 checks to Seamless Florida: Jobs For Florida, a PAC founded by Trilby Republican state Sen. Wilton Simpson; Floridians for Economic Freedom, a PAC chaired by Safety Harbor House Republican Chris Sprowls, and the Florida Roundtable, chaired by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

In response, the Baker campaign told the Tampa Bay Times last week that nearly half of their 651 individual contributors gave $25 or less; roughly half were Democrats or independents.

And last Friday, when speaking with SaintPetersBlog, Baker went even further: “To me, if somebody contributes $5 they’re important to me. They might not be that important to Rick Kriseman, but they’re as important to me as anybody who contributed $5,000,” adding that he’s happy to get money from any corner of the community, regardless of political affiliation. “I really think to push this partisan agenda that Rick Kriseman is trying to do is a disservice.”

“I really think to push this partisan agenda that Rick Kriseman is trying to do is a disservice.”

But Kriseman replies that voters may need a history lesson if they’re going to be lectured about who has a partisan agenda.

“I think it’s a little disingenuous of him to talk about partisanship when he was mayor he was at campaign rallies for Sarah Palin and John McCain,” Kriseman said Thursday, an attack his campaign made even before Baker entered the race (Kriseman was a big Hillary Clinton supporter last year).

“We are seeing the poisonous impact of Washington type partisanship in the country and I don’t think we want that in St. Petersburg,” Baker replied last week, pointing out that a Times review of the people he hired in two terms as mayor showed more Democrats appointed than Republicans.

“I took an oath — as did Rick Kriseman — when I signed to run for election that it would be a nonpartisan seat and I always served that way,” Baker said.

In Tampa, Richard Corcoran faces hostile crowd angry about school bill

It was a tough room for House Speaker Richard Corcoran.  

Speaking before an unfriendly crowd of public school supporters in Tampa, Corcoran doubled down on his support of an education bill that creates a new system of charter schools to replace underperforming public schools.

On Thursday, Corcoran stood beside Rick Scott in Orlando as the Governor signed the controversial HB 7069.

To its critics, the most provocative part of the omnibus education bill was Corcoran’s ‘schools of hope’ plan, which includes a $140 million incentive plan to attract high-performing, specialized charter schools to in effect compete with struggling neighborhood schools.

“The only way you can draw down that money if you’re a charter school was if a situation existed in Florida where we were taking children and forcing them into ‘failure factories’ where they were getting an inferior education,” Corcoran said Friday morning to a packed house at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa’s North Hyde Park district.

The Land O’Lakes Republican was the featured guest at the weekly Tampa Con Cafe lecture series.

It was the term “failure factories” that drew particular ire during the extended Q&A portion of the morning, during which Corcoran was criticized by Kenny Blankenship from Pasco County.

Afterward, Corcoran explained it was the same language used by the Tampa Bay Times in their award-winning 2015 series about failing schools in South St. Petersburg.

“Only in those situations where you’ve had the local attempts — they’re called turnarounds — they’re given one year, two years, three years, to turn around those schools and have been incapable of doing so,” Corcoran said. “Only in those situations, would we allow a not for profit charter with an absolute proven record of success … in low-income areas.”

He said the “proven record” of success for those schools is that they had to have an 80 percent graduation rate, 80 percent go on to a college, and they had a higher than the average county and state testing scores.

But critics say the bill will devastate already cash-strapped traditional public schools. They’re concerned about changes in the allocation of Title I funding, the federal money used for low-income schools. That could affect districtwide programs such as summer school.

There’s also concerns about a part of the bill making it possible for universities, churches and several other types of institutions to provide space for charter schools without zoning exceptions, overriding local control over zoning decisions, according to the Miami Herald.

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz calls the bill “an assault on public schools.”

Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando says it “an unwise experiment in education policy opposed by our state’s teachers, parents, professional administrators and superintendents.”

And Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham declared it to be a “massive step toward turning Florida’s public-school system into a public-school industry designed to benefit corporations and powerful interests.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum said Scott “would rather his for-profit charter school friends make a quick buck instead of providing our kids with the world-class education they deserve.”

Even some who support the bill, such as Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, have blasted the lack of transparency in how it was assembled.

But Corcoran continues to defend how it all went down.

“The parts of that bill were defended in committee: one committee, two committees, on the floor, sent over to the Senate, and the parts of that bill that they said we’re done in secret, the total votes for the parts in the bill between the two chambers was 1,600 plus votes, to 200 no votes,” he said.

What was done at the end of the legislative process on the education bill was taking completely vetted and debated bills and put together, Corcoran added. He did acknowledge that he would like to “work” on limiting the “number of mergers in the last week of Session.”

Public school supporters in Florida have blasted the Legislature’s support for charter schools for years, saying they are not held to the same standards of accountability. Corcoran pushed back on that argument Friday.

“There are public charter schools, and there are public traditional schools. Both of them are under the same accountability provisions,” the Speaker said, eliciting disapproval from the audience.

When he said charter schools came with the same certification requirements, the growls grew louder.

“Yes, they do!” he replied. “I’ll be glad to sit down with you and go through the statutes. They don’t have to be unionized. That’s the biggest difference between the two — ”

“No!” responded at least a dozen members of the public.

Among those public educators who were shouting at Corcoran was Naze Sahebzamani, a Hillsborough County public school teacher who accused the House Speaker of speaking in “half-truths.”

“I just think if he wants to make education a priority in the state and we want us to become leaders in this country in education, then he has to fund public education and he has to hold the charter schools to the same standards, and the same accountability as the rest of us, which they’re currently not doing,” she said.

There were also several questions highly critical of what city and county government officials said this year has been an unprecedented attack on the issue of home rule.

Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen asked Corcoran how he could justify the Legislature’s decision to place a measure on the 2018 ballot to expand the homestead exemption. If passed, the proposal will reduce property taxes in every local jurisdiction in the state (Tampa’s estimated loss would be $6 million annually; Hillsborough County’s $30 million).

“First, I’d say, I care more about the people of this state than I do the governments of this state,” Corcoran replied, a line he repeated later during the hour.

Discussing how the Legislature has been able to find loads of waste in a variety of state agencies (like VISIT Florida), the Speaker would have none of it.

“The concept that you can give somebody a $25,000 homestead exemption and put in on the ballot, and the result is this: that local governments have only two choices — they have to raise taxes, or cut essential services that really benefit their local community, is absolutely crap.”

Corcoran defended his opposition to the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992.

He said, “suspect classes” like blacks or women deserve protection, but for others, “there are laws on the books that allow for the protection for being dismissed for any kind of egregious behavior.”

Corcoran added that government should be getting out of such “hyper-regulations.”

Later in the discussion, a man who identified himself as a lifelong Republican said he took offense to Corcoran’s comment.

“I’m a Jew,” the man said, “and you can’t tell that unless I tell you.”

Corcoran is reported to be strongly considering a run for Governor in 2018, but he said Friday that any such announcement will not be forthcoming anytime soon. He won’t make any such decision until he finishes his reign as Speaker after the Florida Legislative Session ends next March, a time that seems extremely late, especially as candidates like Putnam are already raising millions of dollars early in the process.

Then again, Corcoran is right now actively raising money in his PAC, which he says would go to other issues he cares about — if he chooses not to run for higher office. Those issues include a six-year ban on legislators lobbying and/or judicial term limits.

Despite the intense vibe in the room, Corcoran never lost his cool.

Talking about how he stays in touch with his legislative district, because he has to run every two years, Corcoran said he often attends community forums like this, “even though you guys aren’t in my district. And it sounds like that might be a good thing.”

With that, the crowd erupted in laughter.

(In the interest of full disclosure, it is important to note that Richard Corcoran’s political committees, like many other candidates, advertise on several Extensive Enterprises Media platforms.)

Shawn Harrison kicks off HD 63 re-election bid at Tampa Theater June 29

Republican state Rep. Shawn Harrison is holding a campaign kickoff party later this month to launch his re-election bid in House District 63.

The event, hosted by House Majority 2016 and featuring special guest Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, is Thursday, June 29, beginning 5 p.m. at the historic Tampa Theater, 711 N. Franklin St.

Included on the extensive list of local GOP leaders making the host committee are House Speaker Richard Corcoran from Land O’Lakes, and Speakers-to-be Jose Oliva and Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor. Also on the committee are Tampa-area state Sens. Dana Young and Tom Lee; state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia; former House Speakers Will Weatherford and Dean Cannon; former state Rep. Seth McKeel; former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and Hillsborough County Commissioners Victor Crist, Stacy White and Sandy Murman; and Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick, among others.

Harrison first served District 7 on the Tampa City Council in District 7 in 1999, the first councilman elected to represent New Tampa since its incorporation.

Harrison next served HD 60 in the Florida House from 2010 until Democrat Mark Danish defeated him in 2012. In 2014, he won a rematch against Danish for the redrawn HD 63. In 2016, Harrison won re-election against Lisa Montelione, who resigned a seat on the Tampa City Council for a House run.

Questions or RSVP requests can be directed to Ashley at (813) 774-0193.

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 vetoes higher education bill, priority for Joe Negron

Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a wide-sweeping higher education bill, saying the legislation “impedes the ability of state colleges to meet the needs of the communities and families they serve.”

The bill (SB 374) was a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron, who has made improving the State University System a cornerstone of his term as Senate President.

The bill, among other things, enhanced policy and funding options for state universities to “recruit and retain exemplary faculty, enhance the quality of professional and graduate schools, and upgrade facilities and research infrastructure,” according to a May 5 conference report. It also restructured the governance of the Florida College System and modified “the mission of the system and its institutions.”

Scott appeared to take issue with the provisions dealing with the state college system. In a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner explaining his veto, Scott said the legislation “impedes the State College System’s mission.”

“This legislation impedes the State College System’s mission by capping the enrollment level of baccalaureate degrees and unnecessarily increasing red tape. This interference impedes the ability of state colleges to meet the needs of the communities and families they serve,” he wrote. “In addition to this legislation, the total budget of the State College System was cut by $26.7 million during the 2017 Regular Session.”

Scott went on to say that while the bill makes “positive changes to several State University System programs, and there are many provisions I think would be good for students, it does so at the expense of the Florida College System.”

Negron said he fundamentally disagrees with that assessment.

“I fundamentally disagree that SB 374 makes positive changes to our universities at the expense of Florida’s community colleges. Like Governor Scott, many members of the Senate attended our state’s community colleges and we recognize the vital role they play in our public education system,” said Negron. “For that very reason, we crafted SB 374 to further elevate Florida’s nationally-ranked community colleges through a renewed focus on their core mission – on-time completion of vital associate degrees and workforce credentials that prepare students for jobs in communities across our state.”

In addition to changes to the state university and state college systems, the bill also increased student financial aid and tuition assistance by expanding the Florida Bright Futures Academic Scholars award to cover 100 percent of tuition and specified fees, plus $3000 per fall and spring semester for textbooks and other college-related expenses; expanding the Benacquisto Scholarship Program to include eligible students graduating from out-of-state; and establishing the Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship Program.

In his veto letter, Scott said the expansion of Bright Futures will still occur in fiscal 2017-18.

“Because this important expansion currently exists in the budget and proviso language in SB 2500, Florida’s students will still benefit from this critical program,” wrote Scott. “I urge the Legislature to pass legislation that revisits these issues and expands Bright Future Scholarships permanently while recognizing the importance of both our state colleges and universities in the 2018 Legislative Session.”

Negron said his travels across the state have taught him the importance of Bright Futures, and said the governor’s veto makes advance planning “much more difficult.

“As I have traveled the state talking to families, I have learned what an important role Bright Futures plays as students plan their financial investment in a college or university education,” he said. “Students and families deserve certainty when making these important decisions, and today’s veto makes advance planning much more difficult.”

The veto comes just days after the end a Special Session, where Scott saw many of his priorities approved. While the Senate backed Scott throughout the regular Session, there appeared to be some tension between the Senate and the governor during the three-day special session.

The special session also saw a reconciliation between Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who were often at odds with each other throughout the regular session.

Scott and Corcoran embarked on a one-day, multi-city victory tour Tuesday to highlight the legislative victories. A spokeswoman for Negron said Tuesday that Negron had already departed for a prior commitment in California before the events were confirmed, but said he “looks forward to attending future events with the Governor and Speaker Corcoran to discuss the important accomplishments of the 2017 Session.”

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