At the insistence of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, numerous major changes to education policy for Florida’s K-12 public schools — from teacher bonuses and daily recess, to testing reforms and expansions for charter schools — were crammed into a single mammoth bill on Friday, with $414 million in spending attached.
All of the policies in the the 278-page bill (HB 7069) will pass or fail as one on Monday, when lawmakers vote on the annual budget.
No changes can be made to the bill. House and Senate members have less than two days to make sense of it before they must cast an up-or-down vote.
If lawmakers’ pass it, the bill ties the hand of Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Should he want to veto the bill, he would be politically responsible for shooting down every policy in it — particularly the parent-demanded daily recess measure.
Corcoran told reporters it wasn’t political strategy to link all of the policies together, but he showed his cards a week ago when he tweeted after midnight Saturday that “the problem with recess is the governor not the Legislature.” (He pointed out Friday that that tweet ended up being true and was simply “just a week early.”)
But the sheer size and scope of the new version of HB 7069 caught many lawmakers by surprise — even those closely involved in negotiating the compromise between both parties and both chambers.
Several senators, in particular, were troubled by the process and said the bill wouldn’t automatically have their support.
Photo credit: Senate President Joe Negron, center right, watches as Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran, left, and House members work out budget differences during a budget conference late afternoon Friday, May 5, 2017 at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. Mark Wallheiser/AP