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Legislature passes immense education bill on final day of session

After the gavel marking the end of the Florida Legislature's current session officially sounded on Monday, many lawmakers left Tallahassee feeling less than satisfied not only with the legislation that wasn't passed, but which was also sent to the desk of Governor Rick Scott.

Indeed, one piece of massive legislation negotiated behind closed doors and passed during the waning hours of the session is generating considerable criticism from not just advocacy groups, but lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.

The legislation in question is House Bill 7069, a 278-page education package covering at least 20 different topics.

According to reports, HB 7069, released late last Friday, was the product of closed-door budget negotiations and, owing to its status as a budget bill, could not be amended, meaning lawmakers could only vote for or against it.

While HB 7069 passed by a vote of 73 to 36 in the House on Monday, it went on to be passed by a far narrower margin -- 20 to 18 -- in the Senate. Indeed, some Senate Republicans were less than enthused by the massive bill advanced by their counterparts in the GOP-controlled House.

“Couldn’t we have hammered out some solutions that would’ve been kinder to our public school partners and not let the House make all these dramatic changes?” said Sen. Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze).

While a complete breakdown of HB 7069 is clearly beyond the scope of a single blog post, some of the more notable provisions include:

  • Requiring all public elementary schools (not charter schools) to provide students with 20 minutes of recess per day
  • Requiring local school districts to funnel some of their construction funds to local charter schools
  • Requiring all "highly effective" teachers to be paid a $1,200 bonus and all "effective" teachers an $800 bonus over the next three years (subject to available funds)
  • Requiring major changes to the state testing system, including eliminating the algebra 2 end-of-course exam and moving back the start date for state testing

It's worth noting that the highly influential Florida PTA and Florida Education Association also spoke out against the bill, urging lawmakers to vote it down.

It remains unclear whether Governor Scott will veto the measure. Indeed, many political pundits have indicated there is equal incentive for him to stop the massive bill in its tracks or sign it into law.

Stay tuned for updates …

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you are a parent or teacher with questions or concerns relating to an education law matter.

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