May 19, 2017

Miami Dade public schools to host town halls on Legislature's K-12 spending plan

Carvalho at MH editboard 031417 (1)@ByKristenMClark

Miami-Dade County Public Schools — namely through its superintendent, Alberto Carvalho — has been one of the most vocal opponents in the past couple weeks against the Legislature’s approved K-12 spending for 2017-18 and related legislation (HB 7069) that has $419 million earmarked for special programs and myriad policy critics say would diminish traditional public education.

Now Florida’s largest school district is taking its opposition on the road to amplify its message in local neighborhoods — by hosting a series of six town hall meetings next week in Miami-Dade County.

The purpose of the events is “to discuss the financial forecast for Florida and the proposed budget for public education for next year,” the district said in a news release.

RELATED: “Veto schools bill and ‘starvation-level’ K-12 spending, critics urge Gov. Scott”

“Miami-Dade County Public Schools and the economic development of our community will be greatly impacted,” the district said. “Please stay informed, and help maintain world-class educational opportunities for our nearly 350,000 students.”

The district wants “PTA members, M-DCPS alumni, community groups, taxpayers, students, employees, and all who care about education” to attend.

The events will be held:

-- at 6 p.m. Monday at Miami Northwestern Senior High School in Miami.

-- On Tuesday, at 6 p.m. at Miami Palmetto Senior High School in Pinecrest, and at 7:30 p.m. at John A. Ferguson Senior High School in Miami.

-- On Thursday, at 6 p.m. at Miami Senior High School in Miami, and at 7:30 p.m. at Miami Beach Senior High School in Miami Beach.

-- at 4 p.m. Friday at the School Board Administration auditorium in Miami and televised on WLRN Channel-17.

The debate over the 2017-18 budget and HB 7069 has staunchly divided traditional public school advocates and supporters of school choice and charter school expansion.

Both sides are escalating their public awareness campaigns to urge Gov. Rick Scott to either accept or reject the Legislature’s funding and policy decisions. 

As of Thursday evening, the nearly 10,000 phone calls, emails, letters and individual petition signatures received by Scott's office were 3-to-1 against HB 7069 and/or the education budget.

Meanwhile, school choice proponents are stepping up their advocacy of the bill, in particular, through organized phone banks, letter-writing campaigns and even, in some schools, offering an incentive to parents if they write letters of support for the legislation.

Neither HB 7069 nor the main budget act have yet reached Scott’s desk. Once they do, he’ll have 15 days to either sign them, veto them or let them become law without his signature.

Gov. Scott on schools bill: 'If people want to get involved, get involved'

683365390

via @ChabeliH

At a press conference Friday on statewide job numbers at the offices of LATAM Airlines in Miami, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he had no yet heard that two charter schools in Hialeah were offering parents an incentive in exchange for letters supporting a massive K-12 public schools bill.

“I was not informed somebody was doing it that way, but if people want to get involved, get involved,” said Scott, who added that he encourages constituents to engage with elected officials.

MORE: "Charter schools to parents: Write to Gov. Scott, get volunteer hours"

Asked more broadly for his take on HB 7069, Scott said he wants "to make sure every child has the opportunity to get the education they deserve, whether you go to a traditional public school or a charter school."

Scott has not yet given any inkling as to his plans for vetoing parts or all of the budget.

"The budget got to me just at the last minute; it was basically done in secret. So I'm reviewing just like everyone else is," Scott said. "From my standpoint, I'm going line by line through the budget."

Neither HB 7069 nor the main budget act have yet reached Scott's desk. Once they do, he'll have 15 days to either sign them, veto them or let them become law without his signature.

Photo credit: Gov. Rick Scott in Miami on May 15. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Hialeah charters: Parents get break from volunteering if they lobby for HB 7069

Cityofhialeahedacademy_text@ByKristenMClark & @KyraGurney

Some school choice advocates in South Florida are going so far as to offer incentives to parents in order to amplify the perception of public support for a controversial K-12 public schools bill that many are clamoring for Gov. Rick Scott to veto.

At least two privately managed charter schools in Hialeah — Mater Academy Lakes High School and City of Hialeah Educational Academy — publicly advertised this week that they would give parents five hours’ credit toward their “encouraged” volunteer hours at the school, so long as they wrote a letter or otherwise urged Gov. Rick Scott to sign HB 7069.

“It is IMPERATIVE that the Governor, and the rest of the State of Florida, see what a POSITIVE DEMAND there is for this education bill,” read an alert on the homepage of Mater Academy Lakes’ website Thursday evening. “This is the strongest legislation supporting the charter school movement since charters were first established in Florida 20 years ago.”

“We need all of our Bear Family to show their support for HB 7069 and encourage your friends, family and children to get involved as well,” the message continued.

A similar alert was blasted across the City of Hialeah Educational Academy’s website, too, offering the same volunteer-hour credit to parents if they attended a pro-HB 7069 event at the school this past Wednesday or Thursday.

The school also sent email and text alerts to its parents asking them to “use all realms of social media to advocate for House Bill 7069!”

Full story here.

Image credit: The City of Hialeah Educational Academy issued calls to actions to their parents through email and text alerts, such as this one, asking them to praise HB 7069 on social media. (Special to Herald)

Most of public wants veto of HB 7069, Gov. Scott's office indicates

Rick2+jungle+lnew+cmg

@ByKristenMClark

By a margin of at least 3-to-1 so far, Floridians are telling Gov. Rick Scott they want him to veto a controversial $419 million K-12 public schools bill House Republicans pushed through at the end of session, according to information requested from Scott’s office Thursday evening.

In the 10 days since lawmakers approved HB 7069, the state’s Republican governor has been inundated with roughly 10,000 emails, phone calls, letters and petition signatures urging him to either sign or reject the bill.

Both sides have been vocal, but the cries from the opposition — advocates of traditional public school — have been greater in number so far, based on tallies provided by Scott’s office.

But is that the full picture? Maybe not.

Full story here.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero / EL Nuevo Herald

Florida colleges: Funding cuts to us - amid favor to universities - is 'demoralizing'

Galvano 2015@ByKristenMClark

As Senate President Joe Negron aims to make Florida’s 12 public universities “elite” destinations, state lawmakers this spring voted to give an extra $232 million next year to those institutions — while simultaneously cutting $25 million that has helped the state’s 28 state colleges serve students who are most in need.

The stark difference in funding priorities was received as a decisive insult to institutions like Miami Dade College and Broward College — and the tens of thousands of students they serve: That they don’t matter as much as the universities.

“That, I think, is what is the most demoralizing part of the conversation. ... we’re disinvesting in them,” MDC Executive Vice President and Provost Lenore Rodicio said in reference to the 800,000 students served by the Florida College System. “This population of students, in a sense, don’t count as much as students who are more elite, more high performing.”

Bill Galvano, a top Senate Republican who helped craft the 2017-18 higher education budget, said there’s a longer term plan to help the colleges, too, and that any inference by the colleges of a sleight is “short-sighted.”

But with Negron, R-Stuart, laser-focused this year on the universities first and foremost, administrators at state colleges feel those efforts came at their students’ expense — especially when the state banked $1 billion in reserve spending it could have tapped to, at least, keep the college system’s funding level.

“When we had record windfall of money for the state budget, we [the colleges] appear to be about the only place that got cuts,” Broward College President J. David Armstrong said. “It’s bad for Florida’s future. It sends a message to Floridians that perpetuates social and economic inequities.”

Full story here.

Photo credit: Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. AP

May 18, 2017

Corcoran responds to superintendents: Focus on 'building beautiful minds,' not 'beautiful buildings'

SP_410741_KEEL_16_FLGOV (1)

via @martindvassolo

Two days after Gov. Rick Scott hinted at vetoing a controversial $419 million, 278-page education bill that narrowly passed the Legislature a week ago, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran visited the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation and said he was hopeful the bill will survive Scott’s veto pen.

“I haven’t spoken to him, but I don’t know, there’s still a lot of time,” said Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, after a meeting at Florida International University on Wednesday morning. “Hopefully it’ll go well.”

The massive K-12 public schools bill, which drew sharp criticism from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents on Tuesday, is part of the 2017-18 budget. It includes a $234 million bonus package for most teachers and some top principals and a $140 million “Schools of Hope” program to help struggling traditional public schools and bring in private charter schools to give parents in these areas an alternative.

It also requires school districts to share some capital funding with charter schools, which the association said would take much-needed money away from traditional public schools.

RELATED: "In Liberty City, Corcoran praises Miami Democrat for supporting schools bill"

The association’s president called on Scott to veto the education funding bill, HB 7069, along with $23.7 billion in primary funding for K-12 schools, arguing the approved 0.34 percent increase in spending per student was not acceptable.

The bill, which passed the Senate on May 8 by a vote of 20-18 after passing the House 73-36, was a top priority for Corcoran, who called it “the most transformative, accountable, beneficial K-12 public education bill in the history of the state.”

“I know a lot of these superintendents, they’re good guys, but I wish they would focus more on not building $20- and $40 million Taj Mahal buildings,” Corcoran said. “What’s more important than beautiful buildings is beautiful minds, and this bill is about building beautiful minds.

More here.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

In Liberty City, Richard Corcoran lauds rogue Democrat for supporting 'Schools of Hope'

Liberty_Square_Groundbreaking_MJO_15

@ByKristenMClark

Miami Democratic Rep. Roy Hardemon had an unlikely and influential ally showering him with praise in his legislative district Wednesday: House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

“[Hardemon] doesn’t care who’s got power. He doesn’t care what the status quo is. He doesn’t care whether he gets elected,” Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, said in brief remarks on stage for the groundbreaking of the Liberty Square redevelopment project, with Hardemon at his side.

Hardemon, a freshman lawmaker, secured himself in Corcoran’s good graces last week, when he broke from the House Democratic caucus to support a controversial $419 million K-12 public schools bill that Corcoran and House Republicans unveiled and successfully pushed through in the final days of session.

Hardemon was the only Democrat in either the House or Senate to vote in favor of HB 7069.

“He doesn’t fear. What he cares about is his community,” Corcoran said, before touting a key provision of HB 7069 that’s meant to help neighborhoods like Liberty City.

Full story here.

Photo credit: Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, left, R-Land O’Lakes, sits with Rep. Roy Hardemon, D-Miami, while they attend the groundbreaking ceremony to for the Liberty Square Rising project in Liberty City on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Matias J. Ocner / For the Miami Herald

May 17, 2017

National school choice group: HB 7069 'helps successful charter schools grow'

@ByKristenMClark

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.)

RELATED: "Veto schools bill and ‘starvation-level’ K-12 spending, critics urge Gov. Scott"

“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.

May 16, 2017

Superintendents unite around call for HB 7069, K-12 budget veto

@ByKristenMClark

Florida's school district superintendents are speaking in one voice now against HB 7069 and the Legislature's approved K-12 public schools spending for next year.

The association representing the superintendents is joining a chorus of calls on Gov. Rick Scott to veto HB 7069, as almost all of the state's school boards and a slew of other groups are doing.

The superintendents also want Scott to reject $23.7 billion in primary funding for K-12 schools, over opposition to the Legislature's approved increase of only 0.34 percent in spending per student.

“Florida superintendents cannot support HB 7069 or the budget due to the negative impact on public education,” said Escambia County schools Superintendent Malcolm Thomas, the president of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. “The budget fails to meet the basic funding needs of Florida’s nearly 2.8 million public education students, and despite some good education policy in HB 7069 the overall damage to public education far outweighs the good. With a united voice, we call upon the Governor to veto HB 7069 and the FEFP in support of Florida public education.”

Here's the letter from the superintendent's association.

Florida school boards: Education bill 'substantially flawed,' 'unworthy' of Scott's approval

Andrea-Messena-2015@ByKristenMClark

Add the Florida School Boards Association to the growing list of groups calling for a veto of HB 7069, the mammoth $419 million K-12 public schools bill Republican lawmakers unveiled and passed in the final days of their annual session.

In a letter to Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday, the FSBA -- which represents 64 of the state's 67 elected county school boards -- calls the bill "substantially flawed and unworthy of your approval to be enacted into law."

"One of our many objections to the bill is that, during a legislative session when leaders proclaimed to be the epitome of transparency in the legislative process, this massive bill was cobbled together behind closed doors," wrote FSBA executive director Andrea Messina and FSBA president Tim Harris, a Polk County School Board member.

"Because the bill was unveiled so late in the process, there was no realistic opportunity for members of the public and, by their own admission, some members of the legislature to even read the bill in full, let alone carefully evaluate its contents and repercussions," they said.

MORE: "Veto schools bill and ‘starvation-level’ K-12 spending, critics urge Gov. Scott"

Among the contents of the bill itself, the FSBA raised concerns about provisions they see as "confiscating the constitutional authority of the locally elected school board," such as new regulations on how Title I dollars can be spent.

"We welcome all suggestions of strategies to improve the delivery of these services and acknowledge that room for improvement exists. However, we cannot condone proposals that fail to recognize local conditions and priorities and that would gut successful district programs and deprive eligible and highly vulnerable students from receiving services," Messina and Harris said in their letter.

They said the FSBA also found the "Schools of Hope" plan and the "Best & Brightest" reforms "deeply troubling," while "our most significant concern" surrounds a formula change requiring districts to share with privately managed charter schools local tax revenue earmarked for capital projects.

Read the FSBA's full letter here.

The FSBA represents every elected school board in the state except for three: those in Nassau, Indian River and Seminole counties.

It's not to be confused with the conservative Florida Coalition of School Board members -- which speaks for just 50 of the 356 individual school board members statewide. The coalition is among the staunch supporters of HB 7069, heralding its passage as "Christmas for ed reformers in Florida" and as checking off "nearly everything on our list" of session priorities.

The coalition's leaders have strong ties to Republican lawmakers: Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fischer himself was a founding member and director of the coalition in 2016 when he was a Duval County School Board member. Also founding members and still on the board are: Martin County School Board member Rebecca Negron -- the wife of Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart -- and Collier County School Board member Erika Donalds, the wife of Naples Republican Rep. Byron Donalds.

Photo credit: Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association. (Courtesy of FSBA)