Tonight, the Palm Beach County School Board approved a “call to action,” urging Governor Rick Scott to veto the state’s budget and House Bill 7069, a sweeping education bill crafted on the last day of session and approved without input from educators or the citizens of Florida.
It is rare that the Board or School District use our public platforms to advocate on an issue; however, vetoing the budget and sending legislators back to Tallahassee is critically important to our school district, our employees and most importantly our students.
HB 7069 arose from closed-door negotiations between House and Senate leaders, who took portions of 55 bills and turned them into one 278-page piece of legislation. It was released late on Friday, and approved by both the House and Senate on Monday.
District leaders are still analyzing HB 7069 to gauge its impact on our District. Here is what we do know:
- The “Schools of Hope” provision in HB 7069 steers $140 million in education funding to charter school companies that agree to turn around low-performing schools. Charter companies agreeing to take on these schools do not have to serve all students and will receive more money than traditional public schools.
- While it is unclear how much additional per pupil spending charter schools will receive to turn around schools, the original estimate was twice the per pupil amount that District schools receive. This is an extraordinary amount of taxpayer money for an approach that has not been piloted or proven in Florida.
- Instead of receiving “Schools of Hope” Funding, traditional Florida public schools will receive a 0.34% increase, or roughly one-third of one percent increase in per student funding. This paltry increase comes at a time when Florida’s economy is growing by over 4% per year.
- HB 7069 also places restrictions on how districts can spend federal Title I dollars, which are earmarked for schools with large populations of students on free and reduced-price lunch. The state Legislature is now dictating to local school districts on how federal dollars can be spent, despite our proven track record of improving low performing schools and closing achievement gaps. Last year, in Palm Beach County, there were 21 schools rated a “D” or “F” by the state Department of Education that improved their grades and are now no longer monitored by DOE.
- HB 7069 requires School Districts to share local school property taxes designated for the maintenance and construction of traditional public schools with charter schools, many of which are managed by “for profit” private companies. This transfer of local capital improvement property taxes to charter schools could exceed $230 million over the next ten years in Palm Beach County alone.
Legislators need to start over, and not make substantial education policy without input from educators. Already the Sun Sentinel’s editorial board has weighed in and urged Governor Scott to veto the bill; you can read their editorial here. Dr. Avossa has also spoken to WPTV Channel 5 about the legislation, and you can watch that interview here.
To the Palm Beach County delegation, we ask you to hold the line and remain steadfast in your opposition to HB 7069. Senator Negron, the Senate President, is the only Senator from Palm Beach County that supported HB 7069. Senator Negron can be reached at Negron.firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 487-5025. He also can be reached through his social media accounts; he is on Twitter at @joenegronfl, or on Facebook at facebook.com/joenegronfl/. Rick Roth was the only House member to vote for the bill; he can be reached at email@example.com or (561) 625-5176.
Thank you for supporting our public schools and the School District of Palm Beach County. Click here to learn more about HB 7069.