This Video Update features Dr. Wayne Blanton discussing the status of the budget negotiations, HB 753 and SB 968 relating to School Safety, SB 864 and HB 921 relating to Adoption of Instructional Materials, and HB 7167 and SB 1512 relating to the Tax Credit and ESE Scholarship Programs. Dr. Blanton encourages you to take action on these issues.
FSBA is very concerned that, since the education budget negotiations began on Monday, budget negotiators have REDUCED FEFP Base Funding by more than $100 million. (Please continue reading below)
The original House and Senate education budget proposals provided a Base Student Allocation of about $4,050 that provided a Base Funding amount of $11.96 billion. Since that initial funding level, the most recent budget conference offer suggests a BSA of $4,013 and Base Funding at $11.84 billion. Although funding has see-sawed up and down during negotiations — depending upon the most recent offer — the bottom line is that Base Funding is now significantly below where it began in each chamber’s original budget proposal. In addition, overall education funding has still not recovered to pre-Recession levels. This is simply unacceptable in a year in which the state is enjoying a $1.5 billion budget surplus and in which school districts will be expected to implement new standards, programs, and services and will be serving more students with less funding per student than was available in 2007.
Action Requested: The budget negotiations have now been “bumped up” to the Appropriations Chairs — Representative Seth McKeel and Senator Joe Negron — for resolution. Please contact Senate President Don Gaetz (850- 487-5001; firstname.lastname@example.org), House Speaker Will Weatherford (850- 717-5038; email@example.com), Representative McKeel (850-717-5040; firstname.lastname@example.org) and Senator Negron (850-487-5032; email@example.com) and urge them to restore FEFP Base Funding, at a minimum, to the level that existed before budget negotiations began. In addition, please contact your House and Senate members to be sure they are aware of this situation and urge them to support the restoration of Base Funding amounts. (House email addresses are available HERE; Senate email addresses are available HERE).
HB 753 and SB 968 relating to School Safety / Arming Personnel
Originally, both of these bills would authorize school principals to designate individuals — including school personnel and volunteers — to bring a concealed weapon onto school grounds. These designees are intended to serve as a possible deterrent and first responders in violent emergency situations. The current House version of the bill — HB 753 — has been amended to require school board approval prior to designating any individuals and to require that the district superintendent (rather than a school principal) designate these individuals. Though this makes the House version of the bill slightly more palatable than the Senate version, the whole notion of enabling individuals to bring guns into our schools is unacceptable. While the Senate version has not been moving, the House version is scheduled for consideration on the House floor.
Action Requested: Please contact your House members to express your opposition to this bill. Please tell them that, while you appreciate the bill’s nod to local policy and control, the underlying intent of the bill is inherently dangerous to the students, teachers, and community and that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that this measure would improve school safety. Instead of this ill-conceived measure, the legislature should focus on providing funding and support for those elements that have been shown to improve school safety — such as more school resource officers, counseling and intervention programs, safety glass, panic buttons, door and window locks, etc. (House email addresses are available HERE)
SB 864 and HB 921 relating to Adoption of 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 — HB 921 — has been amended 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. Meanwhile, the Senate version of the bill – SB 864 – still contains the original provisions that would repeal the state process and mandate a local adoption process. Recently, the Senate very narrowly (vote of 21-19) passed SB 864 and that version of the bill will be sent to the House for consideration. The concern at this point is that the House may accept and pass the Senate version — which FSBA opposes – rather than the House version — which FSBA supports.
Action Requested: Please contact your House member(s) and urge them to support the current 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 and operational burden 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 input of all instructional materials used by the school district. (House email addresses are available HERE).
HB 7167 and SB 1512 relating to the Tax Credit and ESE Scholarship Programs
Originally, the expansion of the existing Tax Credit Scholarship Program and the creation of the new ESE Learning Accounts were addressed in separate bills. However, in response to maneuvers in the House, we are now faced with a bill in each chamber that addresses both voucher programs. In general, the Senate bill — SB 1512 — has a much smaller and narrowly defined impact with regard to the Tax Credit voucher program than the House bill. Conversely, the House bill — HB 7167 — has a much smaller and narrowly defined impact with regard to the creation of the ESE voucher program than the Senate bill. Even so, FSBA is opposed to both of these voucher programs and both of these bills. Our greatest concern (among many) about the Tax Credit voucher program is that the state has already expended more than $1.4 billion on this program — and intends to expend billions more under the provisions of the bills — yet the state has nothing to show as a result of this investment — i.e. voucher students are not showing significant learning gains and there is no academic or fiscal accountability in order to measure the return on investment. Our greatest concerns (among many) about the ESE voucher program are that the program is unnecessary, is poorly defined, invites fraud and abuse, and is the proverbial “nose under the tent” that will open the door universal vouchers.
Action Requested: Please contact your House and Senator members to express your opposition to these bills. Please tell them that the state must stop expending funds on untried and unsuccessful voucher programs that contribute nothing to the improved academic success of Florida’s students. Please stress that it is essential that these programs must incorporate meaning fiscal and academic accountability measures to determine whether the state’s ongoing investment in these programs is worthwhile. (House email addresses are available HERE; Senate email addresses are available HERE)