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Florida House goes on 'rumor patrol' over HB 7069

The Florida House has turned to YouTube to present its own version of HB 7069 and what it means to Florida education.

Florida House video

The Florida House has turned to YouTube to present its own version of HB 7069 and what it means to Florida education.

With pressure for a veto mounting on several fronts, the Florida House has begun making its own case for why Gov. Rick Scott should sign HB 7069 -- a massive, multi-pronged education policy bill adopted in the final hours of session -- into law when it lands on his desk.

The House Speaker's Office has turned to an animated short to respond to some of the criticisms that have arisen in the aftermath of the bill's passage.

Like some of the complaints, the answers can simplify the bill's language too much, overlooking nuances that could make a difference to supporters and detractors alike.

Consider its Rumor #1, that "The new law hurts teachers," which the narrator calls "Malarkey."

First, let's point out that HB 7069 is not yet a new law. Gov. Scott hasn't even received the measure, which passed 73-36 in the House and 20-18 in the Senate, so it remains a bill. 

Next, take a look at the rationale for debunking the broad statement: Teachers who receive a highly effective rating in the next three years would receive a $1,200 bonus, and those who earn an "effective" would get an $800 bonus.

That's true, but it doesn't mention the $1,200 and $800 bonuses could be prorated downward, if the number of teachers who qualify exceeds the allocation.

Rumor #2 is that will be harder to get into the Best and Brightest program, when new criteria would kick in beginning in 2020-21. "Completely false," says the narrator, suggesting it will be "much easier" under the new guidelines.

The proposed changes do broaden the ability for teachers to become eligible for the bonus. Instead of the original criteria of having a "highly effective" evaluation and an SAT or ACT score in the top 20 percent of the year taken, a teacher now would need to be rated "highly effective" under one of two evaluation models, which no longer require a value-added measure; and could present a score in the top 23 percent on the SAT, ACT, GRE, LSAT, GMAT, or MCAT, or, if a cum laude or higher college graduate, in the top 29 percent on those same tests. 

The proposal decreases the bonus amount to a maximum of $6,000, down from the original maximum of $10,000. Teachers who got the award received $8,800 the first year, and $6,800 the next year. It does not address a key concern by critics that college test scores do not indicate future success, but that appears to be handled with the use of classroom evaluations as redefined in the bill.

Rumor #3 is that the bill creates the Best and Brightest Principals program. That's true, as the narrator states, adding that it rewards the "very best principals." 

But the bill does not define "very best principals" by looking at student results or other such data. Its criteria for awarding these bonuses is "principals whose school faculty has a high percentage of
classroom teachers who are designated as Florida's best and brightest teacher scholars."

Through the rest of the piece, the House notes key points aimed at supporting the position that traditional public schools are not harmed, and that students are helped, by the bill as it also supports charter school growth. The provisions include:

- $140 million for a "schools of hope" program, that includes money for low-performing traditional schools to turn themselves around. Up to 25 of the schools would get $2,000 more per student toward that goal. True, with the caveat that more than 100 such schools exist. Some educators also have raised concerns about how "schools of hope" operators could be ready on time, and whether they have any data to show they will succeed.

- $200 million in additional funding overall for education. Politifact Florida delves into the numbers associated with that funding level.

- Freeing 25 percent of schools from regulations. The bill would provide added "administrative flexibilities" if a school's "percentage of possible points earned in its school grade calculation is in the 80th percentile or higher for schools comprised of the same grade groupings."

"And there's tons of other great things this new law does," the narrator intones. "It eliminates unneeded testing ..." 

The bill actually would end one test, the Algebra II end-of-course exam, and allow student-athletes on school teams who do not take physical education to skip a P.E. test and still earn the graduation credit.

"... returns to paper-based assessments ..."

Superintendents asked for this for grades 3-12, to make it easier to administer more tests quickly. The bill applies paper testing to grades 3-6, in language arts and math, starting in 2018-19.

" ... puts $30 million into the Gardiner Scholarships for students with special needs ..."

True. That program has grown and helped students find programs that suit their needs, and is a major reason why some families are urging Gov. Scott to sign the bill.

"... and prioritizes civic education."

True. The legislation did not eliminate the middle school civics end-of-course exam, as some had proposed, and its sets forth the month of September as "American Founders' Month." It further adds "civic literacy" to the list of education K-20 priorities set forth in statute.

"Oh yeah," the narrator says. "The new law also mandates 20 minutes of recess for elementary school students."

From the bill: "This requirement does not apply to charter schools."

Gov. Scott will have 15 days to decide what to do with HB 7069 once he officially receives it.

[Last modified: Monday, May 15, 2017 11:57am]


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