League Remarks at Education Innovation Committee

Sally Butzin spoke on the League’s behalf on the committee meeting about the bullying bill that would give vouchers to students claiming harassment. Her impressions of this very intense meeting are informative. Take a look.

House Education Innovation Subcommittee
November 8, 2017
Report from Dr. Sally Butzin

The committee was considering HB1 regarding expanding the Hope Tax Credit Scholarship Program. I gave testimony on behalf of the League. The League opposes this bill. Marty Monroe waived in opposition as well.

My remark notes are attached.

Sue Legg has posted a summary of the hearing and the final vote. The bill passed along party lines.

My impressions:

This is clearly a voucher expansion bill cleverly disguised as an anti-bullying bill. The sponsor of the bill had no research or data to support the bill, and answered all questions with the stock answer of “parent choice.” He defended the bill on anecdotes he had heard from a couple of parents. The proponents of the bill also harkened back to “parent choice” as their reason for supporting the bill.

I was especially disappointed in how the chair handled the meeting. He kept public comment to 1 minute, and cut opponents off. However, when proponents of the bill spoke, they were allowed to continue with their anecdotal stories relating to their own children, including the speaker from James Madison Institute. Very disheartening to see legislation crafted by personal preference, with little regard to the thousands of children in our public schools who do not have parent advocates with the inclination, time or resources to move their children to private schools. And with no accountability, there is no evidence that a private school provides a better education or safety from bullying and harassment.

Remarks before House Education Innovation Subcommittee
November 8, 2017
Dr. Sally Butzin, representing the League of Women Voters
Speaking against HB1, The Hope Scholarship Program

Introduction
• Retired educator
• Taught in public, charter and private schools, and university level
• Founder and director of the Institute for School Innovation – technology & hands-on learning through Project CHILD
• In partnership, ISI founded and supported nearly a dozen charter schools
• Currently a Trustee with the International Alliance for Invitational Education, worldwide organization promoting inviting schools where children learn better and behave better
• Author, new book coming in January, “Creating Joyful Classrooms”

Kudos – being concerned about protecting children from bullying and harassment

LWV Main concerns
• Unintended consequences
• Lack of accountability
• Redirecting public funds to private schools, including religious schools
• Using public funds for marketing the scholarships to private schools

Unintended consequences
• What about the children being left behind? – eg. Jefferson County, 12 full time security guards
• Re-segregation – eg. Leon County Schools
• Bogus “bullying” claims to get transfers for athletes
o – bill requires only “an incident”
• School staff time to investigate claims

Accountability
• Where is evidence to show Hope Scholarships are working to improve teaching and learning?
o – no comparative testing required for private schools, no comparative discipline data
• Does bullying stop when a child transfers?
o – no reports required unless 51% of students are Hope Scholarship students

Redirecting funds through expanded car tax credits – $34-$40M
• Less funds for counselors, teacher training on dealing with hard to reach children and bullying
o Ironically, bill requires districts to “establish procedures for referring victims and perpetrators to counseling.”

Marketing for one side and not the other
• Bill creates SFO’s (Scholarship Funding Organizations) @ 3% of contributions
• How much have they received, and what proportion used for marketing?
o Television ads and rallies in Tally

Closing
• All children deserve a high quality education in a safe and inviting school
• State must especially protect highly vulnerable children lacking “parent choice”, foster kids, abused kids, etc.
• Our established public community schools need increased support, not less
• Our traditional community schools serve a community purpose that others don’t,
o For example Hurricane shelters
• Hope Scholarships leave our community schools with less Hope.