2016 Ongoing Legislative Concerns
Florida public education has been subjected to a long list of unproven and unfair model “reforms” that are part of a national agenda to privatize district schools. The state’s “A-F Accountability” system is built upon policies such as chronically low investment in public schools, mandatory retention, tying teacher evaluations to test scores, high stakes testing, and school grades. Legislation is promoted and passed through a closed process where the Governor, House and Senate are under single party rule and the Commissioner and the Board of Education are political appointees. No public education advocate, parent or teacher ever stands in support any of these “reforms.” Predictably, Jeb’s Foundation for Florida’s Future, the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, the Florida Chamber and Associated Industries form the nucleus of “friendlies” who speak in support of the agenda and work tirelessly to coerce a favorable political environment to pass these laws.
Year after year, legislators arrive at committee weeks eager to follow donor wishes and ready to embrace their assigned bills despite an embarrassingly shallow understanding of their true intent. Politicians know that privatization could never pass as a concept. So they patiently pass bits of seemingly unrelated concepts. Increasingly, controversial bills that could not survive on their own are packaged together in massive “train” bills allowing twelve or more unrelated laws to pass at once, often without a legitimate public hearing. In this way, the “reform” agenda stays on schedule, cooperative politicians of either party collect their PAC money and the voters are shut out of the process.
Following are areas of ongoing concern regarding the education “reform” agenda. This list is not complete and will be revised to reflect the well-funded and developing effort to privatize public education as well as policies public education advocates should pursue in order to reverse this disastrous course.
- Invest public tax dollars first in Florida’s K-12 public schools which are valued community assets wholly owned by the people of Florida.
- Meet or exceed the national funding average for both students and teachers
- Provide additional funding and support services for struggling schools beyond the FEFP, especially for products and services mandated by state legislature.
- Should not be funded annually, but over multiple years by multiple reliable sources and protected from legislative poaching
Assessments & Accountability
- Halt the practice of using tests to harm students, teachers, districts and schools.
- Reduce testing only to those required in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
- Alternative pathways for promotion and earning a high school diploma for all students
- Testing used only for student information and not for any other purpose or reason
- Parent’s, student’s and teacher’s right to collaboratively direct student progression and gain timely access to actual student tests, score sheets and associated work product
- Halt Florida’s A-F School grading system immediately
- Restore classroom autonomy to teachers
- Remove the impact of test scores on teacher pay and accountability measures
- Compensate teachers at least at the national average
- State funded collaborative teacher training and development designed and delivered by districts and professional educators together.
- Moratorium on mandated state-wide computerized testing as it is unfunded and remains unavailable to many Florida students.
- Independent assessment of the technology deficits faced by Florida public schools
- Require every Florida student be taught computer and technology skills including keyboarding by an effective classroom teacher, fully funded by the state and codified in law
- Ensure that non-human instruction does not replace classroom teachers
- Slow pace of expanding online learning unless and until there is clear and convincing research based evidence from multiple unrelated sources that there is a benefit
Exceptional Student Education (ESE) and English Language Learners (ELL)
- Immediate implementation of the formal ELL recommendations made to the Commissioner’s Task Force on Inclusion and Accountability.
- Use ESE and ELL student testing for diagnostic purposes only.
- Alternate, appropriate methods of assessing learning for special student populations such as ESE and ELL to accurately measure student progress.
- State investment in multiple methods of evaluation and parent/teacher/district collaborative supports necessary to ensure the success of ESE and ELL students.
- Constitutional change to return the Commissioner of Education to an elected position, restoring this important position to its rightful place in the governor’s cabinet, which would revert to its previous role as the Board of Education.
- School board and superintendent elections should be non-partisan
- Support the statutory authority and the power of local control conferred on the duly elected school board members by the Florida constitution.
- Allow school boards to have the final word regarding charter school applications.
- Allow districts to decline participation in legislated unfunded mandates that are not fiscally feasible or educationally sound.
- Suspend or reverse the policies of unfettered “choice” expansion through schemes such as for-profit charters, virtual charters and Corporate Tax Credit/private school vouchers that place public funds in private hands, in a political effort to avoid investing in Florida public schools.
- Require full fiscal transparency of for-profit charter school developers and managers so that districts may expeditiously recover public dollars in the case of failure
- Reverse legislation allowing charter school developers and managers personal enrichment through third party real estate schemes.
- Include high school performance outcomes for all voucher students in the statutorily mandated annual study produced for the state of Florida by Dr. David Figlio or his replacement.
- Immediate moratorium on the automatic escalator on corporate tax credit participants until a level playing field is legally established.
- Give all parents the choice to refuse student participation in vendor or state-led K-20 data warehousing/mining /collection schemes, including computer-based personal or competency based education.
- Establish the universal right of all parents to deny permission for the release, sharing or selling of any student data to any other entity, for any reason.
- Develop a retroactive Florida policy stipulating that parents and K-20 students have full access to existing data and the authority to expunge any inaccurate records in a timely manner upon written request.
- Insure that the current ban on collecting biometrics is not diluted by new laws or efforts at the rule making level.
- Re-capture FERPA protections lost in the 2011, particularly those pertaining to student and teacher Personal Identifying Information (PII) and codify into state law