TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The ink is barely dry on the vote sheets from the end of Monday’s extended legislative session, but still, calls are already being made for Gov. Rick Scott to veto a massive education bill that was cobbled together in secret in the final hours of the session.
Even lawmakers who voted for the bill said legislation should never be handled that way again.
The education package, crafted in secret, eliminates one end-of-year algebra test, adds 20 minutes of recess for public schools and eliminates a complicated teacher evaluation system. There are also $1,200 bonuses available for highly effective teachers.
About $140 million is on the line for Schools of Hope, which are charter schools that offer wraparound services, such as health care and meals. House Speaker Richard Corcoran made Schools of Hope a condition for any budget agreement.
“I think it’s the greatest education K-12 policy that we’ve passed in the history of this state,” said Rep. Corcoran, R-Pasco County. “It does more to transform kids’ lives (and) free up teachers, free up administration.”
The measure only passed the Senate after this warning from Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee: “If we don't (move) to proceed to adopt all of those bills, then we basically have nothing."
Florida teachers are asking Scott to veto the package.
“It is no good for parents,” said Luke Flynt, of the Florida Education Association. “It is no good for teachers. It is no good for our bus drivers or anybody who works in public education.”
More veto requests are coming from the League of Women Voters and the First Amendment Foundation. Both groups object to the secret nature in which the bill was crafted.
And more veto requests may be coming from the school superintendents.
“Twenty of our districts get less money than they did in the current year,” said Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, a former school superintendent. “And expenses are going up.”
The House said a Scott veto would be overridden.
The package has more than $400 million in school spending authorizations. It is also the same package that increases Bright Futures scholarship awards and raises graduation rate requirements for universities, including the University of South Florida, which cried foul over the last-minute change.