Session ended two weeks ago and Governor Crist signed the budget on Friday. He vetoed just under $500M and is still evaluating individual bills. Following is a recap of the important Education Bills. In the weeks ahead we will look at individual lawmakers, their voting records and the elections in November. Keep your eye on the Fair Districts effort. We will provide an ongoing analysis of this bold attempt to make the way Florida districts are drawn more equitable.
Thank you for staying engaged in this process. Your efforts paid off this session. We all learned the of parents and concerned citizens working together.
Senate Bill 2/Rescinds the original Class Size amendment. Gives voters another chance to state their opinion on class size and consider voting for larger classes, raising the cap from 22 to 30 for core classes only. Elective classes could be quite large with 50 students. Nine years ago 72% of the Florida voters thought it was a good idea to limit class size. The bill passed very early and will be seen on the ballot in November.
Senate Bill 4/Expands High School Graduation Standards. Requires students to take additional courses and end-of-course testing to earn a high school diploma. Will be expensive to implement and questions remain about whether increased coursework and testing will have the desired affect on a struggling student population. The bill was passed and signed into law.
Senate Bill 2126: Florida Tax Credit Voucher Bill was signed into law: Sponsored by Senator Thrasher, this massive expansion of Jeb Bush’s Corporate Tax Voucher program allows taxes normally destined for the state general revenue fund to be diverted to an opaque account that funds vouchers. This money never makes it onto the state books. Robs public schools of funds and creates a parallel and substandard system of publicly funded and primarily Christian, Jewish and Islamic schools.
Amendment 7/SJR 2288, Fair Districts Poison Pill, sponsored by Senate President-Elect Mike Haridopolos. This poison pill bill seeks to destroy the intent of the two Fair districts Amendment, 5 and 6, which made it onto the ballot with 1.7 Million Florida signatures. The number 7 was deliberately given to this bill/amendment so it would appear adjacent to Amendments 5 and 6, to confuse the voter. The legality of Amendment 7 is being challenged in court at this time.
Signed by Governor Crist
House Conforming Bill 5101, misuses the purpose of this bill by allowing “member projects” to pass into law last minute and unheard by committee or the public. Exempts Florida Public Charter Schools from all class-size penalties and allows these schools to maintain their school-wide averages delivering financial pain and suffering all other public schools. Requires each district to calculate “Required Local Effort” at 96% – up from 95% the previous year. Known as “Level Funding ,” this demand is unachievable in the current economy and amounts to a cut to education. Delivers financial penalties not required by the Florida Constitution or defined in any statute to districts for class-size non-compliance. Unfair and fabricated for political gain, these “penalties” are blatant voter manipulation: Deliberately choosing to put parents and districts through the manufactured pain of “compliance” just before they go to the polls serves one purpose.
Passed and Vetoed
Senate Bill 6/ “Teacher Merit Pay” Expensive and unfair, this bill would have cost districts $1 Billion in “set-aside”dollars to implement the “merit” portion and another estimated unfunded $1 Billion for implementation. Teacher pay would have been tied to performance, certificates could have been revoked and no allowances were made for a student’s home life or other mitigating factors. All the pressure for money coming to the school or the teacher rested on the backs of our kids. This bill would have destroyed the teaching profession as we know it.
SJR 2550, Altering of No-Aid Provision: Sponsored by Senator Thad Altman, it sought to amend Article I, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution, known as the No-Aid Provision or the Blaine Amendment, and throw out the separation of church and state in Florida to allow the state to support religious schools and church organizations with tax money. These schools are not required to participate in FCAT or meet any of the other “rigorous” standards the Legislature imposes on Public Schools. These schools don’t even have to have libraries or any of the other requirements placed on public schools.
For a complete analysis of what occurred this session go to: