Friday, January 19, 2018
Education

What people are saying about Florida's massive education bill

Florida Gov. Rick Scott today signed HB 7069, a massive and hotly debated measure that makes a number of changes, large and small, to the state's education system.

Among the provisions: mandated recess at elementary schools, a system of charter schools to replace chronically struggling traditional public schools, tighter restrictions on how school districts can spend federal Title I money for low-income students, removing the mandate that districts evaluate teachers using test scores, tweaks that make state testing less onerous, and more.

The bill has been criticized for the way it was put together, with top lawmakers combining some 20 pieces of legislation in secret.

Here's a look at what people are saying:

"I don't think that the honey in this pot is enough to make up for the vinegar. … Every single bit of the good in this bill was calculated. Very much calculated in closed doors. It violates everything that public education advocates stand for. … I see this as almost the end of public education in Florida unless some big amazing miraculous revisions are done, which I don't expect to happen."

— Jinia Parker, parent and administrator, Opt Out Pinellas

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"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."

— Rep. Richard Corcoran, speaker, Florida House of Representatives

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"It's like you're getting some change in one hand and then you're getting hit with a bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars in the other hand. … This bill couldn't be any worse. It started off as a good bill and then they just kept tacking on all kinds of garbage which didn't make it through committees."

— Mike Gandolfo, president, Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association

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"The implementation of HB 7069 will do harm to our schools and to our most vulnerable students. Blindly jumping into this so-called 'fundamental transformation' of how we educate our children is based almost entirely on ideology. At best this is malpractice. This is no way to build a high-quality public education system."

Joanne McCall, president, Florida Education Association

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"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."

— Rep. Michael Bileca, chairman, House Education Committee

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Video from the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, where school board members and school administrators from around the state are convening for their summer meetings:

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"Today is a sad day for the vast majority of Florida public schoolchildren. Gov. Scott's signing of HB 7069 flies in the face of home rule and forsakes traditional public school students in favor of charter school students. The acceptable parts of HB 7069, like clarifying the Legislature's intent related to annual teacher contracts and reducing the number of state-required standardized tests, are far outweighed by the egregious provisions that permeate this law."

— Kurt Browning, Pasco County school superintendent

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"It is disturbing to witness a monster bill, crated in a back room during the final days of session with little opportunity for Senate review or debate, then become enacted into law. … It's a sad day when party politics take priority over children. I look forward to a constitutional challenge of this conforming bill, which violates constitutional rights of authority as well as governing rules on the passage of bills."

— Rita Solnet, president, Parents Across Florida

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"HB 7069 contains many priorities of the Senate including: a requirement for unstructured recess for our elementary school students, an expansion of the Gardiner Scholarship for students with unique abilities, and greater flexibility for district measurement of teacher performance. Other Senate priorities embedded in the bill include: research-based strategies for reading instruction, allowing districts to return to paper-pencil options for tests, and the elimination of the Algebra II End of Course Exam. I am pleased to see these priorities of our Senators included in the final product signed into law today."

— Joe Negron, president, Florida Senate

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"We are disappointed that the governor has chosen not to veto 7069. However, we simply have to acknowledge the political process. He is the governor. That's his authority. Our strategy has to be moving forward, can we get some corrective measures in the next legislative session."

— Barbara Jenkins, superintendent, Orange County schools

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"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 hard-working 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."

David Bergstein, spokesman, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

Times staff writers Colleen Wright and Jeffrey S. Solochek contributed to this report.

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