Monday, May 29, 2017

Florida Legislature’s miserly K-12 budget & corporate Charter welfare bill spark veto battle - Network For Public Education

Florida Legislature’s miserly K-12 budget & corporate Charter welfare bill spark veto battle - Network For Public Education:

Florida Legislature’s miserly K-12 budget & corporate Charter welfare bill spark veto battle

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by Kathleen Oropeza, Fund Education Now
Every year Florida politicians reaffirm that Jeb Bush, Betsy DeVos/American Federation for Children and the Koch Bros./Americans for Prosperity with their promises of campaign cash and threats of well-funded primary opposition are really running the show. Given that members of the Florida legislature either profit from or own charter schools, what could possibly to wrong?
At the close of the 2017 session this May, legislators passed the worst package of public education policy in Florida history by a single vote. HB 7069 is blatantly designed to accelerate the privatization of Florida public education and its concepts have national implications. In addition, legislators passed another significant voucher expansion.
Making matters worse, legislators passed an austerity K-12 budget despite existing revenue surpluses. Florida’s K-12 per pupil funding has stood still since 2007 without an increase. House and Senate leaders promised transparency in 2017 and then proceeded to negotiate the entire budget shrouded in in secrecy. Budgets that are traded behind closed doors reflect the partisan process of picking winners and losers, which has become a sad Florida trademark.
As of this writing, Gov. Scott still has not received either the Budget or HB 7069 from the legislature. Once certified copies of these documents land on his desk, Gov. Scott has fifteen days to either sign them into law or issue a veto.
This is what nearly 20 years of single party rule looks like. Today the combined Florida House and Senate reflect a 3:1 ratio of GOP to Democrats. Florida public education advocates, teachers, districts and administrators are left with no other choice than to ask Governor Rick Scott for a veto on HB7069 and the K-12 education portion of the budget. Here’s an overview of the reasons why:
HB 7069
HB 7069 is a “train bill” representing at least 55 House and Senate bills plus language never discussed in committee. In the last 24 hours of session, legislators were handed this new 278 page bill filled with leadership priorities, many of them too controversial to pass on their own. This is the scheme Florida legislators use to pass horrific school reforms. To make it even harder to vote down, HB 7069 was tied to the budget and offered some good things such as K-5 recess to justify the damage this bad bill will cause.
One of the worst parts of HB 7069 is a $140 million dollar corporate charter welfare policy called “Schools of Hope” which assumes that out of state charter chains are more qualified than school districts to turn around struggling schools. This program grants charters a range of unfair advantages to aggressively tip the scales against district schools. This summer HB 7069 will trigger the immediate transfer of 115 “D and F” public schools to out of state charters, entrusting them with the education of Florida’s most vulnerable students with zero proof than these charter operators will produce turnaround success.
This quote from Sen. Gary Farmer captures the urgent reason for a veto:
What did [the House] leave us with? A piece of junk they’re forcing us to vote on now. It’s a monstrosity, we know its bad public policy but here we are in a take-it-or-leave-it situation. Schools of Hope are so utterly offensive and repugnant to teachers, principals and parents…
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