Republican legislative leaders particularly House Speaker Richard Corcoran won a major battle with the passage of HB 7069 in the legislative session’s dying moments on Monday May 8. Today educators and parents across the state urged that the Governor veto the legislation.
Normally, there would be faint hope that Governor Rick Scott would veto such a dangerous piece of legislation but this is no ordinary time – the Governor has been re-positioning himself somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum and fighting legislative leaders, particularly the rigid conservative Richard Corcoran this session. It is worth noting that Governor Scott in 2013 vetoed an alimony bill after being lobbied by women’s leaders, most of whom were progressives. So the Governor does have a history of pivoting on certain emotional issues when electioneering begins and with a US Senate campaign potentially in the offing, Scott might be willing to side with educators, parents and other stakeholders.
What exactly makes HB 7069 so dangerous? Both HB 7069 and the budget fail to increase per pupil spending enough to keep up with inflation and population growth. Florida ranks 37th in the nation in per pupil spending The budget goes one step further by DECREASING the overall student base allocation.
The bill also gives money that could be used for lower-performing schools to charter schools and the independent businesses, sometimes fly-by-night ones that run these schools.
HB 7069 once it became essentially a session-ending “train” also includes the entire so-called “Schools of Hope” bill – which gives away nearly $140 million in taxpayer funds to charter companies with little oversight or accountability that would set up parallel school systems and cherry-pick the students they want to attend.
The legislature is also forcing school districts under this legislation to give away scarce funding for badly needed capital improvement projects by mandating that funds be split with charter companies. This means that 10% of Florida’s students will benefit from.
Locally-elected school boards have almost no control over those charter schools so that money could end up spent on leases and improvements for privately-owned buildings. If a charter school closes as they often have in this state, the building owner/businessperson keeps the improvements and taxpayers get little or nothing back.
Both HB 7069 and the budget fail to give teachers the true salary increase that they deserve. Florida ranks 41st in the nation in teacher salaries. The “bonuses” offered in HB 7069 are a pitiful excuse for salary increases. They are not guaranteed, they fail to move Florida any closer to the national salary average and they do not count toward a teacher’s retirement.
HB 7069 amends the current best and brightest teacher bonus program and creates a new bonus for principals based on teacher evaluations.
HB 7069 includes annual contract language which denies local school districts the ability to negotiate policies that will retain highly effective and effective teachers for another school year.
Recess moms and the PTA worked tirelessly this session to reduce testing and ensure that children get 20 minutes of uninterrupted play. The bill only eliminated one end of course exam. It does mandate that traditional public schools provide 20 minutes a day for recess but exempts charter schools.