May 17, 2017

Miami-Dade delegation hosts Richard Corcoran at a 'thank you' reception at FIU

Corcoran and Dade delegation@MaryEllenKlas

As pressure is mounting for Gov. Rick Scott to veto a sweeping education bill pushed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran that was sold to legislators as a take-it or leave-it budget deal last week, Corcoran will be honored at breakfast reception at Florida International University. 

The breakfast event "thanking Speaker Richard Corcoran for his support this Session" will be from 9:30 to 11 a.m. in Diaz Balart hall on the Maidique campus at FIU.

Corcoran, a Land O'Lakes Republican, has made it his top priority to pass the bill, HB 7069, which includes controversial incentives for charter schools, $234 million in bonuses for top teachers and principals, and a plan to force taxpayer-funded school districts to subsidize capital projects for for-profit charter school operators. The bill was negotiated in secret in the session's final days and, because it was a budget bill, it could not be amended, included provisions previously rejected by lawmakers, and was narrowly approved by the Senate.  

Although Scott has remained silent about his intentions, Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvahlo joined with other superintendents and urged the governor to veto the measure and the $23.7 billion in base funding in the budget to K-12 public schools. He said the failure of the Legislature to fund public schools, while leaving $3 billion in reserves, was a "man-made crisis" "that challenges the values of the state of Florida."

 

 

 

May 08, 2017

Lawmakers will decide major K-12 policy, spending today -- and rest of 2017-18 budget

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@ByKristenMClark

A swift outcry of condemnation came over the weekend from many parents, teachers and school administrators who want the Florida Legislature to reject a $419 million, 278-page K-12 public schools bill — which was decided behind closed doors, which lawmakers cannot change and which they’ll have had only about 72 hours to review when they vote Monday.

House and Senate members will decide the fate of HB 7069 as part of several up-or-down votes on a 2017-18 budget package. The Legislature extended its annual session until 11:59 p.m. Monday with the intent of passing an $82.4 billion spending plan, its single constitutional obligation.

MORE: “All eyes on the Florida budget as lawmakers return to state Capitol for one final act”

Public education advocates, like the Florida PTA and other groups, and superintendents — including Miami-Dade County Public Schools chief Alberto Carvalho — aim to convince their elected representatives to vote “no.” Such an outcome is unlikely but not unprecedented, and it would potentially call the entire budget into question because of the major dollars attached.

“I’ve spoken to so many senators — both parties — who are opposed to so many portions of that bill,” Broward County Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, said. “The question is: Will they have the fortitude to vote no?”

More here.

Photo credit: Carl Juste / Miami Herald

May 02, 2017

After failing to meet deadline, Legislature headed for OT

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@ByKristenMClark @stevebousquet @MichaelAuslen

Florida’s legislative session will head into overtime after two top Republicans — negotiating in private billions of dollars worth of spending and substantive policy — failed to meet a deadline to get an $83 billion budget done Tuesday night, so that the session could have ended on time on Friday.

As time expired Tuesday, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, both said the 60-day session would have to be prolonged, but they didn’t yet know for how long.

“You know the timetable as well as I do, with the 72-hour requirement. We will definitely not complete the budget work prior to the end of Friday,” Negron told reporters Tuesday evening — a few hours after House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, downplayed the increasingly expected delay by saying an on-time budget was still “90 percent likely.”

But earlier in the day, Trujillo was already guaranteeing lawmakers would remain in Tallahassee for longer than they’d planned.

More here.

Photo credit: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, with Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart. Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

April 29, 2017

Corcoran: Gov. Rick Scott is 'the problem with recess,' not Legislature

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@ByKristenMClark

House Speaker Richard Corcoran offered a curious statement shortly after midnight Saturday: It’s not lawmakers who have a “problem with recess” — it’s Gov. Rick Scott.

Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, made the remark in a tweet with no additional explanation. The Herald/Times has requested clarification from Corcoran’s office and also sought comment from Scott’s spokeswoman. (This story will be updated when they respond.)

“Recess moms” were immediately perplexed by Corcoran’s mystery tweet, which was in direct response to a question from an advocate for daily school recess.

More here.

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

April 28, 2017

Jack Latvala: Budget 'driven strictly by the guy that wants transparency'

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@ByKristenMClark

Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, the Senate Appropriations chairman, told reporters Friday that in his 15 years in the Florida Senate he's "never seen" a budget negotiated like the one lawmakers are crafting for 2017-18. 

And he cast blame on one person: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes -- although not mentioning him directly by name.

Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, insisted first on hashing out -- in private -- trades on significant policy priorities they want accomplished this year before they would agree to let public budget conference committee meetings begin yesterday. (Session is scheduled to end May 5.)

RELATED: "Lawmakers — privately — cut $200M deal to help kids in failing schools"

"I haven't seen it to the extent that we've seen it this year of deciding so many issues as a part of the budget process," Latvala said. "I've never seen that before."

"But that's driven strictly by the guy that wants transparency from the other end down there," Latvala added, in a clear reference to Corcoran. "He's the one that said, 'to get this, we need need to do this. To do that, we need to do that.' And all the President did was try to respond, to try to get an agreement so we can have our committees do their work and try to get out of here on time."

Corcoran spokesman Fred Piccolo declined to comment. Corcoran promised "unprecedented openness" and transparency during his time as speaker; however, the budget process appears to be unfolding much the same as it has in previous years.

MORE: "Did House Speaker retaliate against members who supported Visit Florida funding? Jack Latvala says yes"

Latvala also warned Friday that given Gov. Rick Scott's opposition to the budget, there "absolutely" is a chance lawmakers will be back in special session either attempting to override or dealing with a vetoed budget. 

"I'm saying that the governor is very concerned about a number of the decisions that the presiding officers agreed to on spending. That's his prerogative and he gets the last look at the budget,'' he said.

-- Staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed

Photo credit: Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, with Senate Appropriations chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. AP

April 20, 2017

Speaker Corcoran's message to parents wanting school recess: Be patient

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@ByKristenMClark

Speaker Richard Corcoran told reporters Thursday that there’s plenty of time in the final two weeks of the 2017 session for the Florida House to vote on a bill that would require more time for recess in public elementary schools, but he would not commit to holding a floor vote as parents demand.

When asked if the House would take up a parent-supported bill (SB 78), which passed the Senate unanimously two weeks ago, Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, said during a press conference: “What I’d say on that is: We have two weeks left. There’s a lot of activity on the recess bill that’s still happening, and anything is possible.”

The House version of the recess bill — which was significantly watered-down and is no longer supported by parents, health and physical education experts, or the lawmaker sponsoring it — is stalled in a committee that’s not scheduled to meet again. There is no visible action by House members that indicates that status would change.

Full story here.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

April 19, 2017

Florida parents want a House vote on recess. Will they get it?

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@ByKristenMClark

All that Florida parents want is guaranteed daily recess for their elementary school children. Just 20 minutes a day to allow for a brain break and some playtime.

But for the second consecutive year, that relatively simple request seems increasingly in jeopardy — despite overwhelming public and legislative support — thanks to obstruction by a few influential lawmakers in the Florida House.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, won’t have a conversation about school recess, and his top lieutenants offer only deflection when asked what the House will do.

Parents want a vote. In the two weeks since the state Senate unanimously passed its bill to require daily recess in public elementary schools, parents have mobilized, calling for SB 78 to be brought to the House floor.

“The PEOPLE have spoken and they want this bill!” Orlando “recess mom” Amy Narvaez wrote in an email to House leadership earlier this month that was obtained through a public records request.

But despite the public outcry, House leaders have shown no inclination to act.

Full story here.

Photo credit: Omari Accius 6, enjoys recess at Citrus Grove Elementary School on Thursday, February 9, 2017. Florida lawmakers are again considering a statewide mandate for daily recess in public elementary schools. Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald

April 17, 2017

Major education policy will be decided in conference negotiations. Will it be transparent?

Richard Corcoran Jose Oliva@ByKristenMClark

Florida lawmakers thisweek set into motion a budget process that will result in several highly consequential policy reforms affecting public education to become law this year in one form or another.

But if years of precedent are any indication, what exactly those final laws might be will now be determined through deal-making and negotiations that will take place largely in private, behind closed doors and out of the public eye.

The policy ideas — each tied to hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funding — range from reforming oversight and student financial aid for the state’s public colleges and universities to financially enticing privately run public charter schools to compete with failing K-12 neighborhood schools.

MORE: “House fights over $200 million incentive for charter schools, but bill passes”

Citing the fact that such policies are linked to the annual budget lawmakers are constitutionally required to pass, both chambers of the Legislature made a pivotal choice on Thursday to send these substantive education bills to a conference committee. That panel of House and Senate members will be tasked with hashing out a compromise on both the policy and the funding.

Conference is a common annual process for the budget, but lawmakers in recent years have shied away, in most cases, from using it as a vehicle to pass drastic policy reforms that are otherwise amended, debated and voted on on the House and Senate floors.

By comparison to the day-to-day legislative process, conference committee proceedings typically are not transparent and are more unabashedly a display of a preordained outcome.

Leaders in the Republican-led House and Senate reject that conference committee decisions haven’t been open, but at the same time, they’ve also pledged to make the meetings more transparent and accessible to the public this year.

“We’ll have public comments in the conference committee meetings if people want to talk,” Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, told reporters.

Full story here.

Photo credit: Rep. Richard Corcoran, a Land O’Lakes Republican who is now House speaker, talks with Rep. Jose Oliva, R- Miami Lakes, on the House floor during the 2016 session. Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

April 04, 2017

Daily school recess mandate passes Senate. The House remains this year's challenge.

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@ByKristenMClark

Nearly 1.3 million elementary school students in Florida are a major step closer to being guaranteed 20 minutes of recess every school day after the state Senate unanimously endorsed the concept Tuesday.

The easy win for SB 78 — sponsored by Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores — comes one year after chamber leaders wouldn’t even consider the idea.

“This bill is here as a result of moms from across the state having to listen to their children come home — their 7-year-old son come home — and say, ‘Mom, I’m so tired. I hate going to school; I hate going to school because there’s nothing for me to look forward to.’ ” Flores said. “This was a real grassroots effort of moms from across the state, saying: ‘Can you please help? Can you please be the voice in Tallahassee that I can’t be?’ ”

Requiring daily recess in elementary schools is overwhelmingly favored by parents who have lobbied aggressively for the change in Florida law. It’s also supported by a majority of state lawmakers.

But it still faces a potential repeat of 2016 — when the proposal stalled over a single lawmaker’s opposition.

Full story here.

Photo credit: Loana Paine 6, plays on the slide during recess at Citrus Grove Elementary School on Thursday, February 9, 2017. Florida lawmakers are again considering a statewide mandate for daily recess in public elementary schools. Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald

Corcoran: 'It's not one person' determining House's school recess bill

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@ByKristenMClark

Florida senators are poised to pass a bill this afternoon that would give 1.3 million elementary school students a guarantee of 20 minutes of recess every day, something parents have clamored for for more than a year.

The Senate's bill (SB 78) is the preferred version for passionate "recess moms," who have lobbied for a statewide daily requirement in public schools. The House version -- previously identical -- was significantly watered down last week by a subcommittee, so now "recess moms" want House Speaker Richard Corcoran to move forward with the Senate's measure after today's vote.

Corcoran won't commit to doing that -- and he rejects that one person in the Florida House might be dictating the direction of that chamber's proposal.

“It's working its way through the process, and we’ll see what happens,” Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, told the Herald/Times Tuesday morning.

When asked specifically if he'd take up the Senate bill, he said: “I’ve said it from Day 1 until Day 60, these institutions shouldn’t be top-down; these institutions should be an egalitarian place where everyone has an equal voice — and we’ll keep doing that.”

MORE: "Did Miami lawmaker intervene to dilute school recess bill? He won’t say."

On whether one lawmaker was determining the fate of the House's bill, though, Corcoran added: “It’s got to be voted on out of committee; anyone can offer amendments, so it’s not one person.”

Miami Republican Rep. Michael Bileca, Corcoran's education policy chairman, is the only lawmaker who publicly opposes mandating daily recess in Florida's elementary schools. 

Bileca wouldn't say last week whether he intervened to water down the House's bill in a way that eliminates that daily requirement. (House sponsor Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, said the changes were necessary to ensure his bill would move through House committees. Assuming the recess bill clears its next committee, too, it would then have to go before Bileca's committee before it could reach the House floor.)

Corcoran last year joined Bileca in opposing the school recess legislation; they were the only two in the 120-member House to vote "no." But Corcoran supported this year’s original bill, he reiterated Tuesday, because a provision was removed that would’ve barred teachers from withholding recess as a punishment. (Bileca had opposed that provision, too, along with the legislative mandate.)

UPDATE: The Senate passed its recess bill unanimously. Full story here.

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau