2015 Florida Legislative mid-session recap

April 17, 2015 by



2015 Florida Legislative mid-session recap


Fund Education Now: 2015 Florida Legislative mid-session recap

Activity in Tallahassee has slowed considerably.  Many education bills are stalled as the fight over the budget and the impasse over Medicaid expansion grows ever more divisive. Unfortunately, this disagreement may end up having a negative effect on public school funding. The education bills aren’t going away, but they’re taking a back seat since the one thing the legislature must do is pass the budget.  There is talk of a special budget session, so it’s likely that these bills will move at a moment’s notice.

Following is a list of the most concerning issues:

Both the House and Senate have released initial proposals which differ by more than $4.2 billion dollars centered largely on differences regarding healthcare. Both increase K-12 funding by about 4% or $750 million. The Senate provides an increase of $152 in the Base Student Allocation, which is more than the proposed House budget. While the House provides for digital funding, the Senate does not.

In addition, to the dispute over accepting Federal funding for the Low Income Pool (LIP), other factors that could threaten education funding are $ 690 million in proposed tax cuts and an underestimated enrollment of an additional 10,000 students in Florida public schools. Although Florida has a reserve surplus of $5 billion dollars, the legislature has a history of cutting education funds and passing costs onto districts instead of dipping into reserves to fund schools.

Charter Expansion/Open Enrollment/Transfers millage dollars to charters 
HB 7037/SB 1552/SB 1448/HB 1145  School Choice/Charter Expansion
The massive HB 7037 passed out of the House. It’s been sitting in Senate messages and there’s talk of pulling it back to the house to add amendments.  It builds on the efforts of previous sessions to accelerate the expansion of charters, regardless of need through funding a pseudo-marketing/oversight arm, at Florida State University called the Florida Charter School Innovation Institute.  Erodes the power of local school boards by allowing “open enrollment” across district lines, allows students to transfer to another classroom based on concerns about the teacher, creates a “charter school district” giving principals increased autonomy from local district rule, allows unrestricted replication of high performing charters in high-need areas.  Removes eligibility requirements for enrollment in public K-12 virtual education and allows more charter school systems to act as a Local Education Agency for purposes of administering Federal funding.

In addition, this bill requires districts to give charter school developers a portion of the money raised through millage levies to fund district capital school improvements and new construction.  Charters received $100 M and $50M over the past two years via PECO. The issue is two-fold: PECO dollars must be allocated each year to charters by the legislature and so far this has not happened in 2015. Second, Voter-approved millage increases are the sole source of capital funding for district schools. HB 7037 states that charter chains must be given a percentage of local tax dollars to pay for & improve buildings the public may never own.

This vastly increases the money sent to Charter chains to purchase real estate and develop schools. It represents approximately $137 million dollars. If the legislature does not designate PECO to charters this year or in future years, districts will have to pay millions of dollars that they cannot possibly afford in locally raised tax dollars to support unfettered charter school growth.

Digital Learning
SB 1264 – Digital Classrooms by Legg is scheduled for its last committee stop on 4.21.15.  This bill is significant because the technology was not addressed in the testing bill/HB 7069.   This bill establishes requirements for digital classroom technology infrastructure planning by the Agency for State Technology or a contracted organization; requires the Office of Technology and Information Services of the Department of Education to consult with the Agency for State Technology in developing the 5-year strategic plan for Florida digital classrooms; specifies conditions for a school district to maintain eligibility for Florida digital classrooms allocation funds.

Allocates $10 million to be spent by the Agency for State Technology (AST) on a vendor of their choice. Look for amendments to this bill to address the technology funding deleted from the testing bill.

HB 7069 was signed into law by Gov. Scott this week.  The bill address some issues raised by districts, teachers and parents, which is good. The fact remains that the law does not go far enough. Most of Florida’s standardized tests and the rules used to punish students, teachers and schools remain intact. That said, public education advocates have made an impact regarding Florida standardized testing and HB 7060 reflects that. Read a full description of what this bill does and does not do here.


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April 17, 2015 by


HB 7069:  Important Points about Florida’s newest testing law

Florida’s testing bill, HB 7069, was signed into law by Gov. Scott during week 7 of the 2015 session.


The law address some issues raised by districts, teachers and parents, which is good. The fact remains that the law does not go far enough. Most of Florida’s standardized tests and the rules used to punish students, teachers and schools remain intact. That said, public education advocates have made an impact regarding Florida standardized testing and HB 7069 reflects that.


What HB 7069 did not change: 

  • Florida statewide high stakes tests will still be administered in grades three through 10.
  • Test scores still will be used for calculating school grades.
  • Teacher evaluations will be based in part on test scores
  • Third graders are still subject to mandatory retention based on test scores
  • High school students will be denied diplomas based on scores from 10th grade state reading tests and the end-of-course Algebra 1 exam
  • Timing of the test still disrupts learning and the results are not available early enough to inform teachers and parents


What HB 7069 alters:

  • Results of diagnostic tests, not standardized tests will be returned to schools and parents within 30 days.
  • Results of standardized tests due by the end of the school year
  • Caps total testing time for state and locally required tests to 45 hours or 5% of the school year
  • Reduces testing by eliminating requirement for district-wide exams for non-state assessed courses/subjects
  • Frees districts from the requirement to perform progress monitoring/additional testing
  • Affirms Gov. Scott’s executive order to eliminate the 11th grade FSA for English/Language Arts
  • Eliminates requirement for certain 11th grade students to take the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (PERT)
  • Allows districts the flexibility to decide how best to remediate middle and high school students. In addition to remedial classes, districts can now choose options such as tutoring and summer classes.
  • Requires independent verification of the psychometric validity of results before they are used to evaluate teachers or publish school grades.
  • Teacher evaluations: Reduces impact of standardized test scores from 50% to 33%
  • The 2014 FCAT test results will be linked to the 2015 FSA until its validity is established. This will ensure that the same number of 1s will occur regardless of student performance on the new test. The same process is in place for 10th grade ELA FSA and the Algebra 1 EOC. Six good cause exemptions remain for third grade and ACT, SAT and PERT concordant scores remain for high school.


HB 7069 leaves technology concerns out:

The final version of the bill curiously passed without addressing technology or the critical infrastructure Florida needs to successfully administer computer –based assessments. Concerns such as minimizing loss of instruction time or displacing students from computer classes during the testing window were left unaddressed.



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Fund Education Now Report Card: Accountability for Legislators

August 11, 2014 by

2014 Report Card

Veto SB 850

June 4, 2014 by


Tweet @ Your Legislators!

April 11, 2014 by

Have a message for Tallahassee politicians? If you can squeeze it into 140 characters or less- you can tag them in a tweet. Here is the list of all twitter handles for the Florida House and the Florida Senate. Not everyone has a Twitter account so feel free to send them an email instead.

2014 Florida Senate Twitter Handles

2014 House Twitter Handles

Tweeting is easy so if you don’t have an account, set up one here.


April 9, 2014 by

Growth of CTC -Chart NR 3

End school grades, a rigged plan backed by a failed leader

August 6, 2013 by

Shared from the Orlando Sentinel 

By Kathleen Oropeza, Guest columnist

August 2, 2013

Florida’s school grades are not statistically valid. They’re not true. They are not measuring what is “real.”

This disturbing admission from the Florida Board of Education last week is made more scandalous by the resignation of Florida Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett. Now, districts must deal with his “safety net,” which spares 155 schools from being deemed an F and leaves 107 on the chopping block, facing sanctions and potential closure.

Bennett, handpicked by Gov. Rick Scott, came to Florida fresh from being fired by Indiana voters. He was caught red-handed manipulating the Indiana A-F school grades in official emails to favor a major political donor and for-profit charter-school developer.

Scott, aided by former Gov. Jeb Bush, made disgraceful choices in appointing Bennett and his predecessor Gerard Robinson. Both men manipulated data for political convenience and resigned, unable to defend the indefensible.

For 15 years, Florida politicians have held up our A-F school-grading system as the education-reform gold standard for the nation. A whole expensive, unpiloted system was built on viewing our neighborhood schools, filled with our sweet children, as A’s or F’s.

School grades are the single high-stakes arbiter of property values, teacher pay, school funding and quality. Dozens of states have been lobbied heavily to adopt Florida’s A-F school-grading system as the foundation of their reform agenda. Now this same system has been exposed as invalid. Worse, it’s deliberately rigged by the reformers themselves to permanently keep certain teachers, children and schools from ever rising above an F.

As parents, we teach our children empathy for others and the importance of fair play. How do we tell our children that although their grades are improving, their school is an F? How do we explain that a school grade is not true, but arbitrary?

It was deeply disappointing to hear Board of Education members insist that it would be better to let 25 F schools balloon to 262 F schools because those students need the “truth.” Where’s the truth in a statistically invalid system? Will there ever be any truth when we need task forces and emergency meetings to flip the facts? Our children deserve so much better than this.

Our governor-appointed Board of Education routinely uses its considerable power to shape outcomes. Who can forget the FCAT Writes disaster a year ago, where student scores went from 1’s to 5’s in one phone call?

Then there was the No Child Left Behind waiver crisis last summer that threatened to throw hundreds of schools into F status because of Florida’s choice to record English language learners and exceptional-student education test scores in a punitive way. The solution to that self-induced drama was another “safety net.”

Sadly, teachers and school leaders have warned politicians, the Board of Education and profit-driven policy influencers for years that Florida’s A-F accountability system is a house of cards. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, politicians stick to the script, rigidly intent on hawking Florida’s “good news.” Such blind faith exposes the lie. Florida’s A-F school-grading system cannot be a model of success on one hand while seeking to rapidly grow the number of F schools on the other.

Education reform is a political tool. Using data manipulation, Florida politicians and their appointed boards can create one crisis after another, doom children, deceive parents, destroy teachers and pass radical laws that give for-profit charter developers and others unfettered access to our public tax dollars.

Manufactured crisis is exhausting. Bennett’s solution to reduce the number of schools hurt by failed metrics is a short-term fix for a deep problem. Florida’s A-F school-grading system has lost credibility and needs to go.

Florida must return to an elected commissioner of education who answers directly to us. The people of Indiana used their votes and got it right. The last thing Florida public education needs is an appointed reform puppet.

Our children deserve a leader who believes in them and will fight for them, and who views the job through the powerful lens of love. It’s time for the state to stop wasting our money tweaking a fiasco and start showing some empathy for the real human beings who are the heart and soul of our schools.

Kathleen Oropeza is co-founder of FundEducationNow.org, a nonpartisan Florida-based education advocacy group.


Copyright © 2013, Orlando Sentinel

Parent Trigger Resolution

March 6, 2013 by

LULAC’s Parent Trigger Resolution  lulac-resolution-parent-20trigger-final-1

NAACP’s Parent Trigger Resolution naacp-resolution-pt-2011-18-13


February 27, 2013 by

“Poner en Secuestro” (Sequestration) es una serie de recortes automáticos al  presupuesto Federal que tomara efecto el 1ro de Marzo, si el Congreso no toma acción.

Da un “click” aquí y dile a tu representante al congreso que proteja a los niños de Florida y evite el “Secuestro Presupuestario”.

Estos recortes son enormes, de hecho, “El Secuestro” eliminara $86 millones en IDEA y Título 1 en el estado de Florida. Sufrirán nuestros niños más vulnerables y necesitados. Aparte de Florida el único otro estado que sufrirá recortes es California.

El Departamento de Educación de Florida perdería servicios críticos para 95,000 estudiantes K-12 ademas de 750 maestros en 130 escuelas.El programa de niños con impedimentos perderá $31 millones y 380 de los maestros más esenciales. Cerca de 2,700 niños pre-escolares  del Programa Head Start

serán afectados por los recortes presupuestarios ademas, 8,000 estudiantes de colegio quienes perderían el programa “Work-Study” que les provee el puente crítico entre el colegio y su vida profesional.

Es imperativo que le dejemos saber a nuestros representantes electos nuestro sentir en cuanto a daño que sufrirán nuestros niños de implementarse el “Secuestro Presupuestario” (Sequestration).

La delegación de Florida y sus colegas en el Congreso deben estar conscientes que el “Secuestro Presupuestario” es un problema de adultos que perjudicara en última instancia a nuestros niños. Enviamos representantes a Washington para que encuentren soluciones bipartitas que hagan sentido.

El “Secuestro Presupuestario” tendrá un impacto negativo a largo plazo el las vidas de nuestros niños y en la economía de Florida. Tener acceso a sólo uno de estos programas podrá significar el éxito o el fracaso para estos jóvenes. Estos programas cambian la vida de nuestros niños de una forma positiva.

Si los “adultos” en el Congreso permiten que pase la fecha límite, causarán un daño inmerecido a los niños de Florida.

Sólo quedan unas horas, toma acción ahora y dile a la delegación de Florida que usen el poder que nosotros le otorgamos para evitar el “Secuestro Presupuestario”. El tiempo se acaba, llama ahora o escribe un correo electrónico al la delegación del estado.


February 26, 2013 by

HILLSBOROUGH CO sequester_impact


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