School Groups Calling on Florida Gov. to Veto Education Bill

A growing number of groups are calling on Florida Gov. Rick Scott to veto a sweeping education bill that was put together in the waning hours of this year's legislative session.

The Florida School Boards Association on Tuesday sent a letter asking Scott to veto the legislation that passed earlier this month. The state's school superintendents are also asking the Republican governor to reject the bill.

The legislation (HB 7069) would steer more money to privately run charter schools, require recess in elementary schools and tinker with the state's oft-criticized standardized testing system. It also includes extra money for a program that provides services to disabled school children.

The legislation was a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran. School choice groups, as well as a group of conservative school board members, want the governor to sign the bill.

Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and other educators met for a state board of education meeting at Miami Senior High School Tuesday to discuss the bill.

"In a time of plenty, in a time where there are literally $3 billion of budget surplus. Why would the state decide to not invest in children?" Carvalho said.

The main criticism has to do with the bill's requirement for public schools to share capital funds for maintenance and construction with privately funded charter schools.

"Transfer those dollars over to often for-profit management entity with no guarantee that those buildings will ever be a public asset, that's fundamentally wrong," Carvalho said.

If signed, Miami-Dade school officials say there could be a $25 million impact in just the first year. Another issue is that the proposed budget decreases the base student allocation by $27, which has never been cut in a non-recession year.

"This is really about your children, it's about our children, it's about where we live," Miami-Dade County School Board Chair Dr. Lawrence Feldman said.

While some educators acknowledged the good provisions like mandatory recess and the elimination of some tests, they say it's been added to a bad bill.

On Monday, Carvalho met with Gov. Scott, calling on him to veto the bill. Scott discussed the topic in Jacksonville Tuesday.

"I’m reviewing just like everybody else it to try to understand the impact on it. I know it’s very, very important that we fully fund education," Scott said. "As you know, we walked in with almost a $3 billion surplus. I proposed almost a $200 per student increase so I’m going to continue looking at this to make sure we full fund our K-12 education.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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