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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

'No bill is dead' in Florida Senate Education, chairman says



As Florida lawmakers enter their fourth week of session, some anxious constituents have launched a hue and cry that bills they want to see move aren't getting through the legislative tangle.

Two education measures in that flux involve instructional materials and recess. The Senate Education Committee, the first panel of reference for both, has yet to schedule hearings on either.

"Florida Rep. Marlene O'Toole and Senator John Legg, despite overwhelming support of 21 sponsors and co-sponsors in the legislature and the Florida Coalition of School Board Members, have decided unilaterally to kill Instructional Materials bills SB1018/HB899 without even holding a single hearing," the Florida Citizens Alliance proclaimed on Monday. "They are abusing their power and bowing to the pressure of publishers and lobbyists. This proves the undercover Project Veritas videos - it is never about the children and always about the money!"

Chairman John Legg told the Gradebook the bills still have a chance to move.

"We are in Week 4 of session. No bill is dead," Legg said, noting his committee is likely to meet at least twice more.

He said the instructional materials bill by Sen. Alan Hays is very complicated, with many details that could affect school and district decisions. Florida Citizens Alliance wants to see "revisionist history" removed from materials, for instance, while Florida Citizens for Science has battled the proposals as an effort to put creationism into science textbooks.

Before bringing the bill to the committee, Legg said, staff is looking at how the bill provisions would fit with other measures already in place from past legislation on textbooks and instructional materials. If the specifics haven't been ironed out, he said, the bill would become more difficult to work through.

"This is not something I intend to go lightly into," he said.

The recess bill, though hitting passion points among many parents statewide, is similar, Legg continued. Daily elementary school recess is a "laudable" goal, he said, but more research is needed to determine the impact of the time demand.

"We want our school boards, principals and administrators to have as much flexibility in their school day as possible," Legg said. With mandates already in place for reading blocks, physical education and even lunch, he said, the addition of recess could have unforeseen consequences.

"I'm one of the people that's a turtle in this process," Legg said. "We are taking our time seeing how the pieces fit together. But to say it's dead is not accurate."

[Last modified: Monday, February 1, 2016 2:42pm]


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