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Florida Labor Leaders, Parents Urge Veto of Education Bill

Florida schools identified as struggling could be closed and replaced with charter schools under legislation now headed to Gov. Rick Scott's desk. (kconnors/morguefile)
Florida schools identified as struggling could be closed and replaced with charter schools under legislation now headed to Gov. Rick Scott's desk. (kconnors/morguefile)
May 15, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- After barely surviving a Senate vote, the $419 million education package - House Bill 7069 - is now headed to Gov. Rick Scott's desk; while many are hoping its journey will end in a veto.

After debating a number of education issues, the Florida Legislature conducted closed-door meetings in the final hours that resulted in a nearly 300-page bill. The final draft included more than 60 different policies that impact public education.

One such policy is a controversial $140 million program that could close some struggling schools as early as this summer and use public money to build charter schools. Rich Templin with the Florida AFL-CIO said the bill leaves people across the state hanging.

"There are schools right now across the state that may or may not be closed in July,” Templin said. "There are parents across the state who don't know if their school will be open in August or not. There are teachers who don't know what their pay situation will be."

The legislation passed by the narrowest of margins after more than two hours of largely negative debate. Even several senators who supported some of its less-controversial measures - from teacher bonuses to guaranteed recess for elementary students - admit many parts of the bill will need to be fixed in the 2018 session.

Marie-Claire Leman has three kids in Tallahassee public schools, and works with the education advocacy group Common Ground. She called the "pass it now, fix it later" approach "irresponsible," and warned that kids will be the ones who pay the price.

"Once you've closed a school, you can't fix that - it's closed,” Leman said. "Even if you come back in the next legislative session to try to improve what you passed the previous year, it's too late for the schools you've closed."

Because the education bill was attached to the overall state budget package, lawmakers had no opportunity to amend it. If Gov. Scott does reject the bill, it isn't expected to have enough support in either chamber to override a veto.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL