There is something about standing on the old capital steps on a beautiful day in Tallahassee. The Florida League delegates to the Legislative Summit assembled to hear Senator Nelson not only praise the LWVF’s successful redistricting lawsuit, but also the possibility that a more thoughtful mix of legislators may result. The sunny day, the sense of possibility permeated the air.
Following Senator Nelson, Florida League President Pamela Goodman made a strong statement supporting Florida’s public school system.
Pam decried the current efforts by pro school choice legislators to create a separate charter school system. She called the proposed constitutional amendment and related bills an ‘egregious attack on public schools’. She pointed to the Citizen for Strong Schools lawsuit that begins on March 14th in Tallahassee’s circuit court.
There is no question that support for public schools is pushing back against those who would privatize our schools. By late afternoon, word came that the Senate had tabled the constitutional amendment to create a charter system. Given that the session ends in just a couple of weeks, the amendment may be dead for this session. We cannot relax!
Other onerous bills are still active.
- limit the amount of money public schools can use for facility related expenses.
- force public schools to share locally derived facility funding with charter schools. HB 5001 budget bill would allocate $90 million to charter schools, $62.9 million would come from districts’ local 1.5 millage for capital outlay. For new or active projects, the value of the discretionary millage is reduced from 1.5 to 1.0.
On February 16, the bill was amended in two ways. The allocation of capital outlay funding for charter schools is changed from 1/15 to 1/40 of the cost of a per student station or the amount provided by the district discretionary ad valorem tax levy. Districts must also have at least ten percent of their FTE in charter, online and scholarship programs under the High Growth District Capital Outlay Assistance Program.
The latest action in the House approved an extension of the Best and Brightest bonus program HB 7043 for teachers scoring in the top 80th percentile on their high school ACT or SAT scores. Rep. Fresen defended the bill by saying it would help recruit teachers for low income are schools, but I cannot find anything that limits these bonuses to teachers in those schools.
Two other bills were moved along. One would allow open enrollment in any school in the state HB 699 and HB 7029 that would make it easier to expand certain charter schools.