Schools to Gov. Scott: Veto "bad" education bill

The budget passed by the Legislature is meeting resistance from school officials.

The message to Florida Gov. Rick Scott is loud and clear from parents, school districts, even legislators saying don't pass a new education bill.

“We are asking the Governor to veto House Bill 7069,” says Melissa Auker, from the PTA.

“I implore the Governor to veto 7069,” says Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins.

"Today, we ask Governor Scott to please veto this bad bill,” says Mindy Taylor, parent advocate with the Alliance for Public Schools.

Some say it takes away funding control at the local level and takes away money from the neediest students.

Even in you don’t have kids in the school district, here’s why you should care: education inequality impacts the bigger picture of our community.  Research shows it leads to increased crime rates, a lower tax base, stunted economic growth and even a weakening democracy without everyone feeling like they play a part in the system.

Opponents to the “bad education bill” say it could pave the way to bigger problems.

“It's a difficult thing to think about,” says Jefferson High School graduate Daniel Erickson.

Erickson says he’s seen the struggles of lower income students, his peers, in the Title One school.

“Poverty is an issue in our schools.  Not having those extra resources will make it that much harder for students to graduate,” says Erickson.

“This bill is a bad bill.  It's not good for public education.  It's not good for students,” says Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins.

Eakins says the state's new education bill is stealing money from Title One schools and students who need the help the most.

“I can't believe you would want to pass a bill that would ultimately hurt our most neediest students.  The ones, by the way, when they do overcome their challenges and we meet their needs, they will be the game changers for the entire economy across the state,” Eakins says.

The Hillsborough County School District says here’s what it stands to lose:

  • Recruitment and retention, in the form of a salary differential, for qualified and effective teachers at 50 of our hard to staff, highest needs schools (approximately $8,000,000)
  • Materials, equipment, and paraprofessional support provided to Differentiated Accountability schools and other schools in need of improvement (approximately $1,800,000)
  • Academic Coaches, skilled in specific content areas, to provide differentiated support to all Title I schools, based on needs ($891,000), resulting in the loss of 16 teaching positions
  • Teacher Talent Developers, who facilitate and provide job-embedded professional development ($3,500,000), resulting in the loss of 28 teaching positions
  • Additional support services, such as school psychological services and social work services (approximately $2,034,500), resulting in the loss 31 student services units
  • Extended School Year Program for all below level primary students in Title I schools ($400,000)

“I voted against the whole package, because I think it eviscerates public schools,” says Florida State Representative Sean Shaw, House District 61.

Shaw says the nearly 300-page bill was thrown at lawmakers in the final days of the session.  He's concerned it also takes away local control from the districts how to best use funds and spreads out money to more schools, including privately-run charter schools.

“I want to see our public schools protected, and I want to see them given the resources they need to succeed.  You don't siphon off resources from public schools that are failing to give them to charter schools to open up down the street.  Then five years later, we're going to say why aren't the schools getting any better,” Shaw says.

“The new law rewards charter schools and hurts public schools: that's just not true,” says a YouTube video by supporters like House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

The animated video touts the bill’s benefits.

“Money was diverted from public education to charter schools: that couldn't be more wrong.  The new law improves public-school spending levels by over $2 million,” the video says.

Opponents say while there are some good pieces to the bill, it doesn't outweigh the negative impact it can have on students and the community.

“Better graduation rates, better students prepared for life and in a career means a greater economy here in Hillsborough County.  It’s going to benefit everyone in this community for our students to be successful.  The way for them to be successful is for us to meet their needs.  The way we meet their needs is to have the right resources and right dollars to support their needs,” says Eakins.

“We have and will continue to request Governor Scott veto House Bill 7069,” says Erickson.

10News reached out to the governor's office.  They say they've had thousands of calls and emails against the education bill:

On HB 7069, the responses are as follows-

  • Emails: Oppose - 2255,  Support - 127
  • Letters: Oppose - 5, Support - 0
  • Calls: Oppose -  517, Support - 144
  • Petition signatures: Oppose - 1050, Support - 247

Responses on the education budget -

  • Emails: Oppose – 277, Support - 0
  • Letters: Oppose - 0, Support - 0
  • Calls: Oppose- 107, Support - 1
  • Petition signatures: Oppose - 0, Support - 0

Scott is reviewing whether to veto at least a portion of the budget.

In the Bay area, Pinellas County is also taking a stand against the education bill.

Read Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego’s letter to Gov. Scott

Congresswoman Kathy Castor is backing opponents, and questions whether federal law even allows Florida to divert Title One dollars.

If the governor vetoes the bill, Rep. Shaw says it may mean lawmakers could be called back for a special session.  Shaw says he’s more than willing if it benefits our local schools and students.

 

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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