Opposition is mounting to a controversial school policy bill–HB 7069–passed in the closing days of this year’s legislative session. It’s one of two education issues, the other being the public schools budget, that are creating a lot speculation in Tallahassee over what Gov. Rick Scott will do when the measures reach his desk.
The Governor’s Office says the number of people contacting the office in opposition to HB 7069 is running six times greater than those who support it. So far the office has received more than 9,100 calls, letters, emails and petitions in opposition compared to 1,500 in support of the legislation.
The bill is a $419 million education policy proposal that was crafted in the closing days of the legislative session. The 278-page bill was negotiated in secret and includes sweeping reforms for the state’s public schools, as well as controversial incentives for charter schools.
Opponents are just as upset about what HB 7069 contains, as they are about the way lawmakers worked behind the scenes to write the legislation.
Public schools supporters are calling on Governor Rick Scott to veto the legislation, as well as the entire K-12 school budget saying it underfunds public schools.
“I write to urge you to veto HB 7069 and SB 2500, the state budget, because of its disastrous impact both would have on Florida’s public schools,” Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall wrote in a letter to Scott. “We are gravely concerned that the budget the Legislature has produced will force our public schools on a starvation diet and limit any meaningful opportunity to provide our students with the resources they deserve.”
House Speaker Richard Corcoran was a key supporter of HB 7069, as well as the education budget. He accuses critics of playing their usual political games.
“This is the most pro-parent, pro-student, and pro-teacher public education bill in Florida history. It reduces testing, let’s teachers teach again, brings hope to low income parents and kids, frees up local school boards, and puts resources directly in the classroom,” Corcoran said. “To argue that putting a record amount – 24 billion dollars – in public schools will injure public education is the kind of political rhetoric that moms and dads are tired of and does nothing to educate a child or fix a failure factory.”
The FEA insists it’s not rhetoric. The teachers union says the budget bill adopted by lawmakers reduces the base funding for each student and provides the lowest increase in overall funding for public schools in six years.
The governor is keeping all his options open when it comes to the education issues. Those options include vetoing both HB 7069 and the education budget. What makes it more interesting is that the relationship between Scott and Corcoran has been rather contentious since Corcoran stripped some of the governor’s priorities from the spending plan approved by lawmakers. That has some wondering if Scott might use the veto pen in retaliation.