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.”
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