As Florida lawmakers prepare to kick off their committee sessions, the state School Boards Association has added a fifth plank to its legislative priority platform.
It focuses on career and technical education.
The association's legislative committee advanced the last-minute item Tuesday during its annual fall meeting in Tampa, seeking to add it to the list that already included a call for enhanced student safety, expanded mental health services, improved funding and greater support for teachers.
Board members from across the state debated the wording of the request for increased state support for more high school career programs.
Some, including Sarasota County board member Caroline Zucker, wanted to keep the language simple and succinct, to avoid getting bogged down in minutiae.
Others, such as Pasco County board member Cynthia Armstrong, stressed the need to use more details about what the goals are — meeting local, regional and statewide workforce needs — as well as what the money might be used for — things like recruiting qualified instructors and building business partnerships.
Those are things the lawmakers like to hear, Armstrong said, and the FSBA would be wise to include such points in the platform, and not just as talking points.
Orange County School Board member Linda Kobert agreed, adding that several other state and national organizations such as the Southern Regional Education Board are pushing similar ideas, meaning the message could be amplified if backers use the same language to make their points.
"We could get a win," Kobert said.
FSBA lobbyist Kim McDougal, formerly Gov. Rick Scott's education policy adviser, shared that view. She noted that on education issues, improving career and technical programs was the only thing that both candidates for governor agreed upon.
So it made sense, McDougal said, to highlight what districts already have done in this area while also advocating for further growth.
Suwannee County School Board member Jerry Taylor, FSBA president, advised the group to take this and other education issues to lawmakers in a positive manner, and make the strong case for support.
"We need to drive the narrative," he said. "If we do not drive the narrative, someone else will drive it for us."
The FSBA annual fall conference continues through the week.