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Rep. John Legg discusses educational priorities for Florida legislative session

Up in Tallahassee, New Port Richey state Rep. John Legg chairs the House Pre-K-12 Policy Committee, where he holds sway over how Florida's education system might change. He spoke with the Times about class size, Bright Futures, graduation standards and other education matters.

Tell me a little bit about the education priorities you see in the House for this year.

Some of the big issues we're looking at are, one, dealing with the differential grading. Making sure that school grading and AYP are aligned. It's very difficult for parents to know that if their school is an A school and yet fails AYP, what does that mean. … The second issue that's a priority of mine is dealing with college readiness, ensuring that we increase our standards to keep Florida competitive. …

And the third issue is, I think you're going to see us addressing the class size amendment. With the current budget crunch I don't know how it's going to be able to be paid for. We want to be sure the voters understand the cost of the implementation of it, and see if the voters do want us to implement the class size amendment, what kind of revenues do we have to find in order to pay for that.

You just raised the standards last year. What more needs to be done? And why?

I want to ensure that when our students graduate from high school they're ready for college. … So much remediation takes place right now in the first year of college.

Look at our students now, even the ones on … the partial Bright Futures. Most of them are unable to do the work because they are just not prepared for the rigors that are involved. So we want to take a look at what our colleges need those students to be ready for matches up with what our high schools are producing and what we expect at high school.

How does that tie into end of course exams?

End of course exams is a concept that we're in year two of now trying to move forward. … I have a son and a daughter both in high school and they will joke that everyone tells you, once you pass that 10th grade FCAT you can just check out mentally because there's no more standards. What we want to do is put in those end of course exams. I would like to see them started with the 12th and 11th grade.

You mentioned Bright Futures also. How much of Bright Futures needs to be changed?

I believe Bright Futures needs to be reviewed seriously. … We have to look at, is 970 a sufficient score on the SAT? It might be that it's not. You can't get into a university unless you have 1,000. So we're giving our best and brightest who can't even get into a school a scholarship.

We need to ensure that we have incentives for students who do dedicate themselves and excel, but at the same time make sure we have some career academies and workforce programs for those that may not go to college.

It sounds like there's a lot of things to be done that could cost money. … How do you pay for that?

One of the words that is out is, if your bill or program costs any more dollars, it's already in serious trouble. … However, programs that are out there that have a long-term objective, we'll find the money to fund. ... One of the big problems that we do in Florida is we always look at the problems of today and we don't look five years down the road. Hopefully this session, because of the economic problem, with the policy committee we can look five years down the road and not just focus on the here and now.

If that's the truth … why is the class size amendment something that money can't be found for?

The class size amendment has to be implemented next year. It's not five years down the road. … The issue with the class size is, while 90 percent plus are in compliance with the (school) level, when you hit that next level, the class size level, I believe you will see the mask come off and it won't be compliant. … I think we should stay at the schoolwide average.

Could you do this without the voters?

I believe it requires voter approval. The voters have spoken. The voters wanted class size. They weren't given how much it would cost. They weren't given the whole story. So I think we need to approach them and let them know how much it costs and see if they want class size or schoolwide averages.

It sounds like you have a lot of substantial things to do. And you still have bills coming forward that are really controversial. … Do those have a place in your committee?

All bills have a place in our committee. … However, I won't use valuable time in committee to debate bills that really have no chance of moving forward, or for debate for the sake of debating. … We have more things that are valuable to spend our time on.

Rep. John Legg discusses educational priorities for Florida legislative session 02/15/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 15, 2009 8:02pm]
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