Florida Legislature Fails on Education Budget

Ryann Greenberg

The Good…The Bad, and the UGLY.

The Florida Legislature really out did themselves this time. Heading to Governor Scott’s desk is the omnibus bill for education dubbed the non-conforming bill HB 7069. It’s been compared to a pork belly bill that comes out of Washington. This bill was put together largely out of the “sunshine” shoving multiple bills together to make it easier for lawmakers to swallow as they passed through the Florida House and Senate…

This is going to be a deep dive so buckle up..


Source: Active Learning Research

The Good…

Mandatory Recess — This bill mandates 20 minutes of mandatory recess for K-5 which parents have been asking to get passed for many years now. Studies show that increased physical activity increase academic achievement and parents are pushing for this in their schools. Interestingly, this would only be enforced in public schools, not charters. Why would this not be equally enforced in both public and charter schools? This is what parents had intended. There is also an increased cost associated with this mandate of recess as it would increase the school day and schools will need to pay for the staffing. Unfortunately, the Legislature didn’t include funding for this. Where do they expect the money to come from? Out of the sky?


Opt Out Florida Network
Assessments — TESTS! Parents throughout Florida have long complained about all the constant testing & assessments Florida’s students undergo and rightfully so. The grassroots parent group the “Opt Out Florida Network” has been at the forefront to advocate against the constant testing. Kids have reported experiencing extreme pressure, anxiety, sleepless nights… All because of a test. Teachers teach TO the test, their bonuses depend on it and so do the schools bonuses.

Although the legislature didn’t go far enough to curb testing, it’s starting the process at least. This bill would only eliminate the Algebra II EOC exam yet it includes money to “study” allowing the ACT/SAT count as the 10th grade ELA and Algebra I EOC exams. It requires schools to move the FSA to the last 4 weeks of school and that all 3rd through 6th-grade exams be paper based. The paper-based exam requirement is most likely in response to the computer issues students had when the state went full digital on many FSA exams in 2015. An effort, no doubt that would have made the scores available to students and schools quicker, but caused a lot of headache with connectivity issues.

The Bad…

Schools of Hope — The “Schools of Hope” section of the bill allows for the closing of failing public schools and allowing charters to open up in their stead. At first one would think this is a good idea… they are closing schools that are under performing however, it’s just not that simple.

According to the grading system set up for schools, public schools do have some failing schools. Established by the Florida Legislature, grades for schools are calculated based off how well kids perform on the mandatory Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) tests from third grade until graduation. Of the public and charter schools required to take the FSA in Broward County, 51 have a D or F for 2016. Currently, there are 18 Broward County Public Schools that could be affected by the “Schools of Hope” portion of the bill. This bill only allows for public schools to be closed, not the current for-profit charter school operations that have a D or F grade. Why should the for-profit charter schools get a pass?? Are they not also failing students?
Public schools have invested a lot of our tax dollars into building existing structures, putting technology infrastructure, etc. in place. I don’t think a lot of thought was put into this decision of closing schools by the legislature. What did they think would happen to those closed school buildings as this bill was thrown together in such a hasty and non-transparent way. This is what happens when you leave little time to debate during the session. With the lack of committee hearings, the only debate was on the floor for the final vote.

What funding options did they consider to boost the programming for the kids in those schools who essentially aren’t able to perform on a test? Let me repeat that so it sinks in… KIDS who can’t perform well on a TEST! Essentially a school’s ability to remain open and whether teachers and schools get bonuses depend entirely on how well kids perform on this FSA. Talk about a heavy burden! Any parent can see how messed up this is.

Even the for-profit industry agrees that performance on a test is not a valid measure of a school or academic gains by students. When discussing scores, Barbara McLean-Smith, principal of charter school Rio Grande, didn’t think an F for her school was an accurate measurement.

“My students had learning gains, but the test scores did not reflect it,” she said. “I do think there should be accountability, but I don’t think it should be based on that one test.”  Orlando Sentinel

We have invested MILLIONS of dollars in these for-profit charter school companies only to have them close their doors some years later. In Miami-Dade alone, almost $7 MILLION went to charter schools that later closed. Any property purchased by those for-profit entities with our tax dollars are considered property of that entity. The land, building, equipment is all theirs even if they close.

“That’s definitely a concern as a taxpayer,” said Jaime Torrens, chief facilities officer for Miami-Dade schools. “If a school closes, whatever property was built with these public dollars, it doesn’t come back to the public. It remains with the owner of property.” — Miami Herald

Why would we waste more money with HB 7069?

Sharing of Millage Dollars —The bill would require the school boards to share the local millage dollars (money collected through property taxes and allocated towards the school district) that normally would fund the area’s public schools and shift a portion of it towards funding the charter schools. REALLY? This equates to a $12.7M dollar impact for Broward’s public school funds being shifted towards charter schools. This would take funds away from already cash-strapped school districts who have budgeted items they have to plan for, and without any type of warning, we are going to expect them to cut $12.7 million dollars from their budget? From staffing (retirement pension, healthcare, salary), student textbooks, technology, etc… we are going to say sorry, you have to completely rethink your budget on a whim. How many jobs will this effect? What is the Florida Legislature thinking??

PECO Dollars Decreased — Public Education Capital Outlay dollars (PECO) reduced drastically. This bill would reduce the State of Florida PECO money to $25 million from $50 million. For Broward County School District, this equates to 2.5M of facility maintenance, school bus maintenance and replacement, the updating of technology… all this would not be able to be done if this bill passes. We all know that technology changes within a blink of an eye. If we want our kids to be able to compete and learn these technologies, don’t we need to have them in our schools? School maintenance is already suffering from leaky roofs and mold/air quality issues. How are we going to ask the school districts to scrape together the money to keep the educational environment a safe place to occupy with this bare bones budget?

Misc provisions — Other odds and ends in this bill include exempting for-profit charters from zoning laws as well as certifications for teachers. This not only compromises the safety of students but also makes me wonder what qualifications they would adhere to when hiring teachers. At the end of the day if the charters aren’t required to do something they will not do it.

The Ugly…

No doubt there is a lot of pull from both sides of the aisle about for-profit charters vs. public schools. Out comes the ugly political campaign waged that will show which has more power in votes. Public schools are not for profit and have to accept all students, while most charter schools are run by for-profit entities have a lottery system and also can pick and choose students based on scores. Charter schools seem to have taken advocacy to a whole new level in their “Schools of Hope” dream for more public dollars.

Tax-Payer Funded Commercials — Something that has never been seen before is an actual commercial funded through tax dollars from the House Speaker Corcoran’s office. It’s very unprecedented, much like the lack of “sunshine” he used while crafting the bill. I am completely shocked at the use of our money to push this agenda. At least he could pretend to be somewhat neutral since I’m sure he does represent SOME kids at the public schools in his district.

Volunteer Hours for Support of HB 7069 — For-profit charter schools are hailing this as a windfall in funding for them and enticing their parents to call in support of the bill with a credit of 5 volunteer hours. Charter schools require parents to volunteer a certain number of hours while public schools do not. If public schools did give volunteer hours for advocacy, it would be considered ILLEGAL! It’s a double standard that can’t be ignored.


L-to-R. Speaker Richard Corcoran, Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., Rep Michael Bileca

Who Profits?

Rep. Manny Diaz, Rep. Michael Bileca, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The three architects of this bill stand to profit off the passage of HB 7069 through their connections to charter school companies. Rep. Michael Bileca is listed as the executive director of the foundation that funds the True North Classical Academy. Rep. Manny Diaz serves as the Chief Operating Officer collecting a salary from the charter Doral Collegewhere they have only 15% of their students who are enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program and less than 2% of students with special needs requiring Individual Educational Plans. This creates an easy win for profits when you limit the kids in your                                                                                              school with socio-economic or special needs.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s wife is heavily involved with the charter school business.

Some lawmakers have close relatives who are founders of charter schools.

One of them is the powerful House Speaker, Richard Corcoran, the Land O’Lakes Republican whose wife founded a charter school in Pasco County that stands to benefit from legislation. He was in Miami Wednesday preaching the gospel of charter schools as “building beautiful minds.” —Miami Herald

This is the same House Speaker who just used taxpayers to create a commercial in favor of the bill… Hmm….? With all these conflicts of interests, it’s clearly a slap in the face of ethics laws meant to prevent those profiting off of their work in the legislature.

Based on this in-depth analysis of the bill, our children clearly don’t deserve this. Public education funding is being stolen by for-profit institutions through slight of hand by those they employ and donate to. I’m not ok with that. Public education should be protected from this type of waste of public funds. If you agree, please call the Governor and ask him to VETO the bill. Take the time to do this today before it’s too late. Don’t think your voice doesn’t matter. You can prevent the legislature’s attempt at defunding public education in Florida with your phone call.

TAKE ACTION! → → →CALL 850–717–9337←←←

Ryann Greenberg is a mother of two children attending public schools in the Broward County School District. She is also a very active member of her PTA and community who advocates for many different issues surrounding education, the school-to-prison pipeline, ending for-profit prisons and the environment. She also is a “Sunshine” advocate who always pushes for government transparency. You can follow her on her Facebook page.


In Broward County, the school board spend per student is roughly $7,700. The national average is $11,000 per student. Broward County Schools is the 6th largest school district in the nation yet we don’t spend at least the national average?? (Edweek.org) What’s wrong with this picture? How are we going to spend even less per child to give them an education.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *