A Bold New Takeover of Florida's Public Schools

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Today Florida Governor Rick Scott definitively stated that he wasn’t ready to sign HB-7069 at his Miami press conference. His priority is to fine-tune the budget. This is why he called for a 'special session' next week. He also said he now wants to add $210M to the FEFP Budget and will ask legislators to discuss that in session next week. But don't let that confuse you!

HB-7069 has not been signed or vetoed yet. We need all hands on deck. Almost immediately House Speaker Richard Corcoran, said this funding increase would appease the opponents of his bill. That couldn't be further from the truth.

While meager school funding in Florida has been an issue for over a decade, the funding amount was not our primary concern with this rushed bill. HB-7069 recklessly puts both feet on the gas pedal and accelerates the corporate takeover of our neighborhood public schools unlike ever before. It makes the threat of the demise of public education imminent. For instance, if this bill is not vetoed, an estimated 115 Florida public schools will be immediately handed over to out-of-state charter chains with more and more in subsequent years.

For these designated 'Schools of Hope,' charter operators are not required to hire certified teachers. In other words, the neediest students won't have teachers with degrees in education nor will they have teachers who pass a State certification test. These are, of course, requirements in traditional public schools. Does this make sense to anyone?

Given that Florida already has 341 closed charter schools, is this even a fiscally responsible Bill? How many more charters will we open and close like t-shirt shops on A1A before we realize we've lost a year's worth of an education budget?

Also embedded within this inflated 278 page bill, are reduced restrictions, such as bypassing local zoning laws, reduced accountability, and preferential rules only for charter schools. Does this give parents high quality choice or does it just enable more private entities to grab our tax dollars and our property.

On the public school side, this bill contains unfunded mandates, such as, a new recess requirement. The sponsors boldly exempt charter schools of this costly requirement. Is that giving parents 'quality choice?' Reps Corcoran, Bileca, and Diaz neglect to mention this unfair advantage as they aggressively promote 7069 around the state. They also neglect to mention that all three have direct ties to income/investments with charters as documented.

While it's nice that Governor Scott suggested a slight funding increase, that doesn't allay real fears of an unfair, wholly destructive bill. Increasing per pupil funding and mandating more capital dollars to private entities only simply makes it more attractive for outside charlatans to come in.

What happened to that important quest for accountability and the extensive investment in Florida standards? That's completely gone with this bill. You won't be able to measure students in the same county against each other let alone in the same state. P

Please don't insult Florida tax payers' intelligence. Call this bill what it was crafted in a back room to be called: 'Florida's Corporate Takeover Of Public Education' Bill. How many of the 278 pages actually help children learn, achieve, or advance? This bill has everything to do with padding wallets of charter operators, their management firms, and charter school investors.

Parents Across Florida opposes this destructive bill for the reasons stated above and, most critically, because HB-7069 was never allowed open review, discussion, or debate in the Senate.

We urge you to contact Gov. Rick Scott on (850) 488-7146. Ask him to please Veto 7069.

Rita M. Solnet

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