The Florida Senate passed a proposal to scale back testing in public schools Thursday, but not before some of its most powerful members blasted the education accountability system created by former Gov. Jeb Bush.
"There's too much damn testing going on in this state," said Senate Budget Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon.
Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, described the system as both a "monster" and a "train wreck."
Other lawmakers defended the system and, in subtle ways, Bush himself.
Sen. Kelli Stargel, the Lakeland Republican who chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee, agreed that testing had "gotten out of control," but stressed the importance of having some assessments.
"It's said you can't manage what you don't measure," Stargel said, repeating a Jeb Bush talking point. "You have to measure. You have to know."
Senate Rules Chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, urged his colleges not to forget the success Florida had already attained.
"Success is never final," he said, sounding a lot like Bush.
Even the bill's sponsor, Sen. John Legg, in a moment of impassioned debate, said students "deserve the right to rise," which happens to be the name of Bush's new PAC.
The bill, which aims to eliminate some testing requirements, underwent serious changes Thursday.
Among the provisions added in the Senate: language suspending school grades until the new Florida Standards Assessments are deemed valid.
Lee suggested an amendment to prevent students who take Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams from having to take similar state assessments. But he withdrew the suggestion after learning it would cause the bill to stall in the House, he said.
Lee had some words for Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future, which he said opposed the amendment: "I'm over you."
"The reason you've lost my confidence is because I've got emails from you last night that said that you're so married to this system that you don't have a shred of common sense left," he said.
The overall bill passed out of the Senate by 32-4 vote.
The dissenters -- Sens. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami; Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth; Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami; and Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando -- said the bill didn't go far enough to ease the burden on schoolchildren.
After the vote, the Foundation for Florida's Future released a statement praising Florida's past success and the bill's passage.
"This bill makes good adjustments while keeping Florida on its student-centered path," Executive Director Patricia Levesque said. "We’re pleased the Senate has prioritized our state’s children in the process of achieving fewer, better tests."