The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform, a national school choice group, is calling on Gov. Rick Scott to sign HB 7069 -- the controversial and sweeping education policy bill lawmakers unveiled and passed at the end of session last week.
The bill -- which traditional public school advocates want vetoed -- includes sizable financial incentives for charter schools to expand in Florida and other charter-friendly provisions, such as certain exemptions from teacher certification requirements and local zoning regulations, and giving charter schools a cut of local tax dollars earmarked for school capital projects.
In a statement this morning, the Center for Education Reform heralded HB 7069 as a measure that would "helps successful charter schools to grow and to serve more low-income students" and "ensure equitable distribution of Title I funds." (The Title I funding changes are among the more controversial elements of HB 7069, adding to opponents' criticism of it.)
“I am hopeful Governor Scott will continue to demonstrate his ability to rise above politics and support the very priorities upon which his legacy will be built: support for educational choice for families, dedication to students with special needs, and rewards for highly effective educators,” said Jon Hage, chairman of the center's board and the CEO and founder of Charter Schools USA -- an organization that actively lobbies the Florida Legislature in favor of school choice expansion.
The Center for Education Reform is among a limited number of proponents of HB 7069 aside from House Republicans, who crafted it and voted for it. Those outside supporters have largely been confined to school choice groups and other advocates for the state's 650 charter schools, which serve about 250,000 of the state's 2.8 million public school students.
Meanwhile, there's a resounding groundswell of pressure from Florida's superintendents, almost all elected school boards, and a slew of parent groups and teachers unions, which are clamoring for Scott to veto the bill -- as well as the base K-12 spending in the main 2017-18 budget.
Neither the main budget nor HB 7069 have officially been sent to Scott's desk. Once they are, he will have 15 days to act. Portions of the budget itself can be line-item vetoed, but he can accept or reject HB 7069 only in its entirety.