Florida legislature passes controversial education bill

Things are becoming uneasy for public education in the state.

In a 73-36 vote in the Florida House and a much more dramatic 20-18 vote in the Florida Senate, legislators just passed a bill that would largely affect public schools. The controversial bill is set to put more money into running private charter schools, make recess mandatory in elementary schools and tweak the state’s standardized testing system.

The bill dubbed HB 7069 is set to plan a spending of $419 million which cuts the BSA — the part of the budget that helps pay student programs as well as teacher’s benefits and raises. But this legislation has another trick up its sleeve. It will allow a bonus package of $234 million named the “Best and the Brightest” for teacher achievement as well as to allow for a $140 million initiative called “Schools of Hope” that will help public schools with a poor performance get incentives for new charter schools. This means that schools with low performance could be subject to being shut down and turned entirely into private charter schools all for profit into the pockets of legislators.

Many Democrats opposed this bill saying it would only lead to a privatization of public schools and give public school students an unfair disadvantage for success. Republicans differ from this and say that the relative issues between public and private schools are “irrelevant” and won’t make much of a difference.

Other parts of the bill would make elementary schools have mandatory “free-play recess” every day for 20 minutes though charter schools are exempted from this mandate.

It will also tweak the state’s standardized testing system which many have criticized in the past. The new measure now takes out the Algebra 2 EOC, which is a graduation requirement and makes students take the FSA much later in the school year.

Florida Governor Rick Scott may end up vetoing the bill and has to decide whether he will sign or veto it within the next 15 days or so.