Why are the House and Senate education committees operating differently this year? There has been relatively little discussion about differences in the policies offered by each chamber. All of a sudden, bills in the Senate have replaced House bills. There are no committee hearings open to the public on these changes. Instead, the House and Senate bills go to the conference committee that includes leaders from each chamber. They negotiate the final bills in secret.
The differences in policy have huge financial impact. For example:
- House bill 5105 that funds $200 million for Schools of Hope that would target struggling schools for a charter take over.
- House bill 7069 that funds Best and Brightest ($214 million) bonuses to prospective teachers with high test scores. The Senate version includes teachers who have high grade point averages.
- Senate bill 376 that allocates local discretionary capital outlay to charters. The Senate version continues to make this optional.
There are even larger issues to resolve. There is an almost four billion dollar difference between the total House and Senate (SB 2500) total proposed budgets. Senate bill SB 2500 allocates $7414 per student compared to the House proposed $7223. Current FEFP is $7204. The Senate bill ends the roll back in property taxes that fund local capital outlay for school maintenance.
The leaders of both chambers are on record to expand the privatization of public schools through charters and tax credit scholarships to private schools. Florida has 2,816,824 students. About ten percent attend charter schools. Another 70,000 students, about two percent attend private schools using tax credit scholarships. Priorities are skewed. When the conference committee members are identified, let’s let them know what needs to be done.
Education policy in Florida paints a picture of the tail wagging the dog. Something is wrong with this picture.