Thursday, June 21, 2018

Florida House and Senate posture for conflict over omnibus education bill

It's still early in the session, but the Florida House and Senate already inched closer to conflict as both chambers drew a line in the sand on the process surrounding a mega-bill that would fundamentally alter many aspects of Florida's education.

House Bill 7055, at nearly 200-pages, wraps together several bills and skates across a myriad of issues from scholarships to bullying to testing to school governance to teachers' unions. It also, in a single line, makes the state's per-student funding of public schools, or $21.1 billion, "contingent upon PCS for HB 7055 or similar legislation becoming law."

Until now, Senate Republicans had remained mute in response to the shouts from Democrats that the bill's massive volume precludes transparency and even that the budget tie-in could be unconstitutional.

But on Wednesday, the Republican chair of the committee that controls the purse strings in the Senate said the House's gamesmanship was not right — a sign of the fight to come, and the political posturing of both chambers ahead of the budget negotiating process.

"When you do it that way you don't send it through the normal process of the committees and have the debate, the testimony you receive that you do in the committee process," said Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island. "You lose the ability to amend because it's an up or down vote on what is in front of the Senator."

Bradley then said he is a "school choice guy" who generally supports the policy in the bill, but objects to the House's hardball with the budget.
"You've made the stakes (about) are we going to get to go home on time and have a budget completed, rather than if this is a good idea or not for the people of the state of Florida?" he said.

Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., R-Hialeah, has said the pieces of HB 7055 have been heard separately in committees and that the budget measure was appropriate because portions of the bill would significantly change the formula for the way per-student funding is calculated, meaning the two are inextricably linked.

"This is something that will go into conference negotiations so that's something that can be talked about," he said in response to Bradley's comments. "I think it's early to be having those conversations."

After the chambers pass their budgets and related education measures, the two chambers will "conference" to negotiate the differences.

The House will vote on its budget Thursday.

In less surprising news from the long House floor session, the Democrats were bulldozed over in their policy objections to HB 7055, for which they had proposed more than 30 amendments. Each was painstakingly debated and voted down, including one by Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, that would have removed the budget tie-in which he called a "dangerous precedent."

Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, the ranking Democratic member on the House Education Committee who usually is amicable to working with Republicans, said it would be better if the Legislature went back to the drawing board.

"I've never said this in my six years in office: I hope the whole thing blows up," he said. "Pass the budget now, let it fail and then come back here and do it the right way."

Comments
Florida education news: New candidates, school security and a suspended PTSA

Florida education news: New candidates, school security and a suspended PTSA

ELECTIONS: A former county official joins the race for a seat on Hernando County School Board, the Tampa Bay Times reports. • In Hillsborough County, one candidate for School Board changes parties and another changes races, the Tampa Bay Times ...
Published: 06/19/18
Former Hernando County official Diane Rowden joins race for School Board

Former Hernando County official Diane Rowden joins race for School Board

Longtime Hernando County resident and former official Diane Rowden threw her hat in the ring for the District 3 seat of the School Board Monday."I just feel like my job is not over with," Rowden, 68, told the Tampa Bay Times ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/19/18
One school board candidate changes parties, another changes races

One school board candidate changes parties, another changes races

Updating Sunday's report on the Hillsborough County School Board races:Scott Hottenstein, one of six candidates for the at-large seat that will be vacated by April Griffin, informs us that he is now a Democrat.After years as a Republican, Hottenstein...
Published: 06/18/18
Florida education news: testing, safety and a gubernatorial candidate’s take on education

Florida education news: testing, safety and a gubernatorial candidate’s take on education

SAFE SCHOOLS: Miami-Dade School District asks local police departments to help put a cop on every campus, WLRN reports.TESTING: Four of Marion County’s worst-performing schools make gains on state tests, the Star-Banner reports. • Duval C...
Published: 06/18/18
Hillsborough test results point to continued struggles in reading

Hillsborough test results point to continued struggles in reading

It's not yet clear if this year's Florida Standard Assessment results will free seven Hillsborough County schools up from outside management, as Superintendent Jeff Eakins had hoped.Things improved at Potter and Booker T. Washington Elementary S...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18
School test scores are up all around the state

School test scores are up all around the state

Gov. Rick Scott is doing a victory lap and touting the level of state education funding, with standardized test scores inching up around the state.The numbers released Thursday show a one-point gain in English proficiency rates on the Florida Standar...
Published: 06/14/18
Florida education news: Superintendents fired and hired, election drama and a rally for unions

Florida education news: Superintendents fired and hired, election drama and a rally for unions

OUSTED: Hernando County School Board votes 3-2 to fire Superintendent Lori Romano, the Tampa Bay Times reports.LAWSUITS: A lawyer, apparently representing Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano, threatens legal action against two School B...
Published: 06/13/18
Pinellas School Board candidate calls opponent’s district address ‘disingenuous’

Pinellas School Board candidate calls opponent’s district address ‘disingenuous’

In an email blast on Tuesday, Pinellas County School Board candidate Matt Stewart accused his opponent, Lorena Grizzle, of "misleading voters."He called Grizzle's recent change of address into question and said voters would "see it for what it i...
Published: 06/12/18
School board race gets first candidate

School board race gets first candidate

Business leader Steve Cona filed Monday to run for Hillsborough County School Board in the District 1 seat that Susan Valdes will vacate to run for the State House.He is the first to file since Valdes filed her resign-to-run letter on June 8.  A...
Published: 06/12/18
Lawyer threatens legal action against Hernando School Board members, says they violated contract with superintendent

Lawyer threatens legal action against Hernando School Board members, says they violated contract with superintendent

A lawyer, apparently representing Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano, emailed School Board members Monday night threatening legal action against two of the officials she says violated the top adminstrator's contract wit...
Published: 06/12/18