Florida State Senator Gary Farmer (District 34)
Transparency. We hear that word a lot these days. The public craves it. Our elected officials promise it. And the republican form of government under which we operate purports to guarantee it. But this year, we watched perhaps the most abusive lack of transparency and public input, coupled with process manipulation, ever witnessed.
I’m referring, of course, to HB 7069, the 274 page K-12 education monstrosity that was rolled out for the first time at 8:25 p.m. on May 5. It contains portions of 55 other bills, several of which have never been considered or voted upon in a substantive committee of reference. As a State Senator, I never had the opportunity to amend, debate or vote on many of the provisions in the final version of the bill until it was sprung upon me as a conforming bill. Conforming bills are supposed to be purely budgetary, and not contain new substantive policy. They cannot be amended; they can only be voted up or down.
Further degrading the deliberative process was the posture in which this bill was presented. It was part of a deal between the two chambers. Now, end of session deals are hardly new. But here, the substance of the bill was ceded entirely to the House, which presented the Senate with its take-it-or-leave-it approach only after all other related education bills – including a compromise bill passed unanimously by the Senate – had died due to expiration of the regular legislative session.
Much has been said about the horrific policy contained in this bill, and how it is designed to further the ultimate goal of privatizing public education. I will not rehash the bad policy here. It is also disgraceful that good hearted, grassroots issues like recess and funding for students with disabilities were hijacked into this legislation in an obvious attempt to gain votes. I feel for the parents and groups who advocated for these beliefs, but commend them for nevertheless recognizing how harmful HB7069 is and calling for its veto.
The reality is that, on something as critically important as the public education of our children – a task for which we are obligated as a civilized society – the two legislative chambers were muted by the lack of transparency, deliberation or debate. A robust and nurturing education is the right of every child. It is morally reprehensible that we have starved our public schools for so long; we have created the self-fulfilling prophecy of failing schools. To now provide hundreds of millions of dollars to out of state, unproven charter school management companies with funds we have withheld from our public schools is insulting and outrageous. Because the bill itself would ultimately lead to destruction of public schools, and because the process by which it was passed was deceitful and excluded meaningful input and feedback, I call on Governor Scott to veto HB7069. For the children.
I implore you to please call Governor Scott and urge him to veto HB 1769. Please look below for Governor Scott’s office phone number. Thank you for standing with me to protect Florida’s children.