Blog

,

Call to Action: Ask Governor Scott to Veto 7069 and Support Public Schools

Governor Rick Scott has a decision to make. Will he veto HB7069, the massive education “train” that seeks to create a separate for-profit charter school network, rolling out the red carpet to out-of-state charter corporations, while simultaneously decreasing funding to traditional public schools and eliminating local control over charter expansion in communities? Or will he sign the bill and hope lawmakers can fix it before it completely destroys Florida’s public schools?

CALL TO ACTION: Contact the Governor’s Office. Tell him to #Veto7069 and save public education. We need everyone’s voice. Massive transformation of public education policy should be done only after fully vetting such policies and carefully considering citizen and educator input.  We cannot continue to underfund our traditional public schools while opening our coffers to out-of-state for profit corporations. Speak out against HB7069’s elimination of local control of our tax dollars and our communities. Call, write and ask your friends to join the effort.

Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

(850) 488-7146

Despite an outcry from citizens across Florida, HB7069, a massive education budget conforming bill narrowly passed the Florida Senate and has moved to Governor Scott’s desk.  The bill’s bad policies are outlined here. The policy was crafted from a wide array of education bills, during secret budget meetings between House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron and behind closed door meetings between lawmakers. Citizens and stakeholders have spoken out against the policies as well as the legislative process that created this “monstrosity” of a bill. The bill was criticized by such diverse groups as the Florida PTA, the League of Women Voters of Florida, the Tea Party Network, the teachers’ union, the Florida School Boards Association and from district superintendents around the state. On the Senate floor, Senator David Simmons admitted the bill had significant “rough edges,” appeared impossible to implement and would require lawmakers to return in September to “fix it.” He also implied, the way HB7069 was written, that some schools would be required to close before “Schools of Hope” supports could be initiated. Why return in September to fix bad legislation if the Governor’s veto will allow legislators to go back to the drawing board and create legislation that stakeholders might actually support?

Calls to veto the bill are coming from stakeholders across the state and across the political spectrum. Here is just a sampling:

  • The League of Women Voters of Florida wants Scott to veto the entire budget on the grounds that it “starves” public schools, has no new money for the Florida Forever program and was crafted in too much secrecy.
  • Educators from Bay County “urged every parent and property owner to call Gov. Rick Scott and ask him to veto it.”
  • Palm Beach County’s public school system called on parents Wednesday to pressure Gov. Rick Scott to veto the Legislature’s proposed state budget and a sweeping education bill, saying that both would harm the school district’s financial ability to teach children.
  • Palm Beach County Superintendent, Dr. Robert Avossa outlines his concerns and calls for a veto in the interview linked here.
  • Leaders from St. Johns criticized the measures.
  • Polk County school officials called the Florida Legislature’s budget “hurtful,” “unconscionable” and “impossible for us to afford services for our schools to operate properly.” Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend “has nicknamed the bill “Schools of Fraud” — a play on the Legislature’s “Schools of Hope” name.”
  • Lake County complained about the lack of testing relief among other things.
  • Pinellas Superintendent Mike Grego opposes 7069. “This budget does not favor this district or any other district,” he said. Board member Terry Krassner asked Dr. Grego to pen a letter to Scott asking him to veto HB 7069.”
  • Parents and School Leaders from Miami-Dade are opposed to the policy in 7069″ “You’re hearing a chorus of significant concern across the state,” (Superintendent) Carvalho said. “Parents, teachers, and principals, quite frankly, are scratching their heads about a rushed piece of legislation.”
  • Broward County Superintendent, Robert Runcie urged citizens to join him speaking out against 7069 and the education budget.
  • The Florida PTA opposed the massive conforming bill.
  • Dr. Karen Effrem, executive director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition explained her concerns in “The National Pulse.”
  • Kathleen Oropeza outline her concerns at FundEducationNow.org.
  • The teacher’s union urged a veto of both 7069 and the education budget.
  • The Tea Party Network is also calling for a veto.

When the teachers union and the Tea Party Network are on the same side of an issue, politicians should take notice.

With massive bipartisan calls for a veto of 7069, who is still supporting the legislation? I can answer with 3 letters: J-E-B.

Support for HB7069 and its attached budget come from charter school and  school choice/pro-privatization activists, specifically Jeb Bush’s Foundations and its astroturf school board member coalition, The Florida Coalition of School Board Members (FCSBM):

Collier County School Board Vice Chair Erika Donalds supported the measure expanding charter schools, despite its significant negative impact on the Collier County Schools budget (see her support and the concerns of her county here). Ms. Donalds is married to State Rep Byron Donalds, who serves on House education committees and owns a charter school. Erika Donalds is the past president of the FCSBM and continues to serve on their board. When HB7069 passed the Senate (by one vote) Donalds declared Christmas had come early. (Apparently, School Board member Donalds forgot to ask Santa for public school funding.)

State Rep. Jason Fischer, from Jacksonville, also  defended HB7069 despite significant concerns from the superintendents of both Duval and St. Johns County. When asked if HB7069 was “an effort to privative pubic education”, Fisher dodged the question. Fischer was a founding member of the FCSBM and received significant campaign contributions from charter school corporations and their executives.

From the beginning of session, the main support for “Schools of Hope” legislation has come from Jeb Bush’s Foundations (whose powerful lobby has controlled Florida’s education policy for decades) and its astroturf school board organization, which was created to advance “School Choice” and the Bush agenda of education “reform” (aka privatization). The Florida Coalition of School Board members was created, in 2015, as an alternative to the established Florida School Boards Association (FSBA), when the FSBA elected to support a lawsuit challenging one of Jeb’s pet projects, Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship/Voucher program, which is a money laundering scheme that allows state tax dollars to be funneled towards parochial schools. The established FSBA represents all 67 county’s duly elected school boards. The rogue FSCBM represents a few dozen individual members.

Connections to the Bush Foundation are clear. Here is a photo from their June 8, 2016 Education Policy Expert Network Event, showing FSCBM Vice Chair Donalds nestled between Shan Goff, the Florida Policy Director of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), and Foundation for Florida’s Future Executive Director and FEE CEO Patricia Levesque.

The event was hosted by the FEE, the Foundation For Florida’s future called it a “joint event” and it was free to FCSBM members (non-members had to pay 1,950 for the one day event). Topics included “How can our organization (FEE) help your coalition grow” and “ExcelinEd and FCSBM Partnership Opportunities.” When members downloaded the Agenda and Maps ( from the FCSBM event announcement) the meeting agenda was printed on FFF letterhead.

There can be no doubt that the FSCBM, the FFF and the FEE are intimately connected. The FCSBM should be viewed as another advocacy arm of Jeb’s reformers. It is not surprising that the sole support for HB7069 comes from these organizations; their goal is to privatize public education, something the rest of Florida’s stakeholders, frankly, don’t want.

Please call the Governor: Ask him to oppose the privatization of public education. Ask for a budget that doesn’t fund corporate charter networks at the expense of our public schools. Let the lawmakers go back to the drawing board and pass reasonable legislation that supports public schools.  Thank you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *