John White, Ph.D., Policy and Research Coordinator
Building 57, Room 2319
October Legislative and Policy Update
Brief from the Center for Urban Education & Policy
New Florida Education Bill Goes to Governor Rick Scott for Signature
On Monday, May 8th and in the closing hours of the 2017 Florida Legislative Session, the Florida Senate passed its 278-page education bill as part of a ‘conformation bill’ (the state’s required budget bill). The massive education bill, which includes over twenty separate topics, was first presented to senators on the evening of Friday May 5th, giving them less than 72 hours over the weekend to review the bill before a mandatory up or down vote on Monday night. Just prior to introducing the legislation, Senate President Joe Negron and Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran held their own private and informal conference committee to negotiate last-minute changes to the bill. Corcoran, who had promised prior to the legislative session to conduct legislative business in as transparent a way as possible, justified the closed-door deal saying “Under Article III (of the state Constitution), we have that right…we're going to go out there and we're going to grab that authority." First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Petersen said of the back-room negotiations "The public should know that major policy decisions are being made [without] any public oversight or input." The resultant version of the bill includes language never discussed in any Senate committee and—in one case—language that was voted down in a Senate committee (a violation of Senate procedural rules). The bill was passed along a party-line vote, with three Republicans joining Democrats in opposition.
Rush to pass the bill resulted in significant and widely acknowledged flaws: Republican David Simmons (Altamonte Springs) acknowledged that the bill will be “exceedingly difficult to implement…the thought is to try to correct it after we pass the legislation.” Senator Doug Broxson (R – Gulf Breeze) said of the bill, “We’re just passing a bill that was formulated by the House, and that bothers me…Couldn’t we have hammered out some solutions that would’ve been kinder to our public school partners and not let the House make all these dramatic changes?”
While some aspects of the bill seem appealing (e.g., reducing mandatory K-12 testing and altering the value-added modeling used to evaluate teacher effectiveness), the actual outcomes of these aspects of the bill are ambiguous (the bill appears to allow more flexibility in teacher evaluations while prohibiting changes to evaluation models for the coming years; it reduces testing but, at first glance, this relates only to testing for Algebra II).
District Superintendents, the Florida PTA, and the Florida Education Association (the statewide teachers’ union), and the Florida League of Women Voters have voiced their opposition to the bill. The sole group to praise the bill thus far has been the conservative Florida Coalition of School Board Members (Senate President Joe Negron’s wife is a member of the board of this organization)
Below are major aspects of the bill (HB 7069)
Please note that we compiled this information from numerous news organizations and from having read the bill. Nonetheless, because the bill is 278 pages in length, is full of legislative language—that repeatedly refers to other pieces of legislation past and present—and covers so wide a range of issues, we found it challenging if not impossible to completely understand the many specific and nuanced issues relative to the bill (a major complaint of legislators themselves as well as district superintendents). We will update information on the bill as it becomes available.
John White, Ph.D.
Policy Coordinator, Center for Urban Education & Policy
University of North Florida
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