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Governor Scott signs HB 7069, the massive and controversial education bill

As we reported last month, the final day of the Florida Legislature's most recent session was anything but uneventful. For proof of this fact, one needn't look any further than the massive 274-page education package -- House Bill 7069.

To recap, HB 7069 was released just days before the end of the session following closed-door budget negotiations. Indeed, owing to its status as a budget bill, it couldn't be amended, meaning lawmakers could only vote for or against it. While it passed, it did so by the slimmest of margins, including a 73 to 36 vote in the House and a 20 to 18 vote in the Senate.

While there was some uncertainty as to whether Governor Rick Scott would sign or veto the mammoth measure, all doubts were erased last Thursday when he did indeed sign HB 7069 at an Orlando-area Catholic school flanked by its two biggest proponents House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Land O'Lakes) and Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. (R-Hialeah).

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

  • $140 million earmarked to help high-performing charter school networks expand in struggling school districts (i.e., Schools of Hope)
  • Expansion of the Best and Brightest Scholarship for three years with all "highly effective" teachers being paid a $1,200 bonus and all "effective" teachers being paid an $800 bonus
  • Major changes to the state testing system, including eliminating the algebra II end-of-course exam, allowing school districts to use college-entrance exams in lieu of state exams, and moving back the start date for state testing
  • Public elementary schools (not charter schools) providing students with 20 minutes of recess per day
  • Requiring local school districts to funnel some of their construction funds to local charter schools
  • $30 million allocation to the Gardiner Scholarship, which supplies money to special needs students

It's worth noting that some changes were made to HB 7069, as Governor Scott ordered lawmakers to hold a three-day special session in early June to address multiple issues, including a new public school budget.

In particular, he had issues with the original budget calling for spending to be increased by a mere $24 per-student. It was subsequently boosted to $100 per-student, raising the K-12 budget to $20.6 billion.

The bill's signing has generated considerable criticism among traditional public education advocates from school boards and superintendents to teachers unions and parent groups, with all vowing to pursue changes during next year's session.

Democratic lawmakers have made a similar vow, with some even suggesting that HB 7069 should be challenged in court on the grounds it was passed illegally.

Stay tuned for updates …

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

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