This Video Update features Dr. Wayne Blanton discussing the next week’s Passover and Easter holiday and the remaining term of the Legislative Session, SB 864 and HB 921 relating to adoption of instructional materials, HB 7167 and SB 1620 relating to the Tax Credit Scholarship Program, and SB 1528 and HB 7083 relating to Charter Schools. Dr. Blanton encourages you to take action on these issues.
SB 864 and HB 921 relating to Instructional Materials:
Originally, both of these bills would repeal the state-level instructional materials review and adoption process and mandate, rather than authorize, the transfer of these duties to the district school board. However, the House bill sponsor, (Please continue reading below)
Representative Matt Gaetz amended HB 921 to retain the state level process, retain the school district OPTION to take on these duties, require school districts to provide opportunities for public review and comment on any instructional materials used in the school district, and provide additional guidelines for those school districts that choose to exercise the local adoption option.
Action Requested: Please contact your House member(s) and urge them to support the House version of the bill – HB 921 – and oppose the Senate version – SB 864. Tell your House members that SB 864 imposes a tremendous unfunded mandate on school districts, deprives school districts of the state’s “economy of scale” in textbook purchasing power, reduces Florida’s national influence over textbook content, opens the adoption process to social and political bias, and threatens the constitutional requirement for a uniform system of free public schools. Also, please stress that the preferred HB 921 addresses the issue of local accountability by requiring school boards to provide meaningful public review and comment on all instructional materials used by the school district. (House email addresses are available HERE).
HB 7167 and SB 1620 relating to Tax Credit Scholarship Program
Originally, both of these bills would have dramatically expanded funding and student eligibility to include middle class students, rather than being limited to low income students. However, as we have reported earlier, the Senate has withdrawn its bill – SB 1620 – from further consideration, citing the unwillingness of the House to incorporate meaningful academic accountability measures into this program. In response, the House has engaged in a lot of maneuvering to keep alive the prospect of expanding the Tax Credit voucher program. First, the House set aside its original bill – HB 7099 – in favor of a new bill – HB 7167 – which combines most of the provisions of HB 7099 with the provisions of another voucher bill, HB 5103 relating to students with disabilities. The House then further amended HB 7167 to remove a $30 million increase in the total cap on tax credits that would be applied IN ADDITION to the automatic increase in current law. Unfortunately, the House has done nothing to address the accountability concerns expressed by the Senate. Even so, there is concern that the Senate may accept some version of the House bill.
Action Requested: Please contact your Senator(s) and express your support for the Senate position requiring meaningful academic accountability for this program and urge them to oppose HB 7167 (or any other House version). Tell your Senators that Florida has already invested more than $1.2 billion in this program and, under the provisions of HB 7167, would invest a total of $3.2 billion and reach an annual cost of nearly $1 billion by 2018. Please stress that it is essential that the Senate stand by its position to ensure that the state’s investment in this program is worthwhile since the current annual reviews of the program (conducted by an independent reviewer and posted on the DOE website) have shown no evidence of enhancing learning gains for the students enrolled in the program. (Senate email addresses are available HERE)
SB 1528 & HB 7083 relating to Charter Schools
Originally, both of these bills would require the use of a standard charter contract, authorize out-of-state charters to qualify as “high performing” and to operate as such in Florida, and require districts to make certain district facilities available for use by charter schools. However, the Senate version of this bill — SB 1512 — has been amended to remove all of these provisions and replace them with more general provisions relating to operating and fiscal accountability.
Action Requested: Please contact your Senator(s) and express your support for the current Senate version of the bill. Also, please contact your Representative(s) and express your opposition to HB 7083. (Senate email addresses are available HERE; House email addresses are available HERE)