Political Maneuvers on HB 7055

Sometimes things are not what they seem. Politics versus policies take many forms. In the case of SB 7055, there was a dramatic shift in Senate education policy last week. The Senate version took a much more responsible approach to educational choice by including controls for charter school corporate profiteering and private school expansion. These measures are now gone and replaced by House priorities to expand private school scholarships and charters. Some measures, however, were just moved around.

The big shift was in the Senate version of SB7055 that included the mental health program. The Senate deleted the program and moved it to the gun safety bill SB 7026. SB 7026 passed the Senate yesterday and goes to the House next. Many oppose the firearms policies in the bill, but politics and horse trading go hand in hand. So, maybe the Senate collapse was a trade for a mental health program in schools?

IS THIS JUST A FAUSTIAN BARGAIN…You know trading away your soul?

If you do not like the horses being traded, or whom they carry, then it is time to get a new crop of horses and replace those in the saddles. Some of us are organizing to do just that.

Senate Passes HB 7055 Today

So why did Senator Montford support HB 7055 today? He had a list of reasons he thought were more important than the provisions he did not support. Montford is the long time head of the District Superintendents Association. He said many of provisions seemed small, but they were important e.g.

*consolidation of the scholarship programs under Step Up for Children
*support for the 300 lowest performing schools and SAI funding for low performing students
*adding prior year of teaching for qualifications for the Best and Brightest teacher bonus
*improving VPK regulations
*correcting Title I allocation by districts from last year’s HB 7069.
*Allowing a broader dual enrollment range of courses
*providing Reading Scholarships for students failing the FSA in grades 3-5 to give parents money to cover costs for tutors or other materials.

and most important, allowing districts to receive 100% of the 1.5 mills capital outlay and district flexibility to have schools that did not meet State K12 building code standards.

The big negative issues included:
*decertify teacher’s unions, but not police or fire unions.
*Hope Scholarships, paid for by sales taxes on new cars, for children who were documented victims of bullying or harassment.
*expansion of charter schools with independent governing boards.

There was a big emphasis on district accountability, a small provision to improve background checks for private schools, and a lessening of accountability for charters. This seems backwards.

A provision that requires districts to calculate financial efficiency indicators including the ratio of classroom expense to total operating expense, classroom instruction to total expense, and the ratio of full time students to administrators. These ratios are to be tied to student achievement for schools of similar size. The kicker in this provision would withhold salaries of district superintendents and school board members if the indicators did not meet a state standard. Sounds like more lawsuits in the making.