Huge thank you to Marie-Claire Leman, parent, public school advocate and associate of Fund Education Now, for testifying against PCS for CS/HB 51 on Thursday, April 15, 2021 in the House Education and Employment Committee.
For the record, Marie-Claire has risen each time, during the 2021 session, to testify against bills that do not support public schools. Often, she is quoted in the press or as was the case on April 15th, questioned by members of the committee, some of whom seem unclear about the intent of the legislation they are considering. Often, Marie-Claire’s citizen voice stands alone against a sea of lobbyists, corporate interests, foundations and policy influencers “waiving in support.” Anyone who has ever traveled to Tallahassee to testify understands that speaking truth against a politically-driven bill destined to pass is a labor of love, worthy of our gratitude.
PCS for CS/HB 51 red flags:
- Pre-empts the constitutionally granted authority of duly elected school board members by creating an alternate chrter school authorizer.
- Adds the component of setting school board term limits.
- Both issues must appear on a ballot, put to a statewide vote and receive 60% in order to pass.
- Circumvents the school funding formula, causing university authorized charters to be an unknown, perhaps significant drain of K-12 funding.
Testimony from Marie-Claire Leman opposing HB 51: (watch Marie-Claire on the Florida Channel at 2:46:23)
This bill is attempting to circumvent three things, two of which make this bill unconstitutional:
1- It is attempting to circumvent the constitution by imposing term limits on School board members. This chamber is aware that to that you would need to proceed through a Joint Resolution.
2- it is attempting to circumvent the constitutional authority of duly elected local school boards by creating alternate charter authorizers in State universities and the Florida College system, opening the door to a statewide authorizer given the reach of the service area of certain colleges and universities. This is also something that would require a Joint Resolution as has been attempted in years past.
This is not only removing the authority of duly elected local school boards to operate, control and supervise all free public schools but it also removes the ability of parents to have recourse to an elected body and it removes local oversight of taxpayers over the funding of these so-called “public schools”
3- The third thing that this bill circumvents is the funding formula. When this presented in the Senate the provisions around the funding of charter schools under the alternate charter authorizers were presented as if they fell under the articles of statute that pertain to lab schools. But actually the language of the bill amends FS 1002.33 when it comes to the funding for those schools coming directly out of the GAA. The fiscal is indeterminate because you don’t know how many charter schools will ultimately be authorized by the Universities, and where they will be located. But the impact to the GAA could be significant. Currently 43% of FEFP funding is from Required Local Effort, some districts generating 90% of the per pupil funding. In those districts, if a student were to transfer to a university authorized charter school the state responsibility would increase from 10% to 100% of the cost of that student. The reason the RLE is in the FEFP in the first place is to provide equitable funding across districts that have dramatically different tax bases. This Bill would break that formula requiring the State to pay 100% for students even in the wealthiest districts.