Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Referring to the complexities of SB736 and appearing in small type off the left of a Miami Herald article, the question is asked "How much will all this cost?"

"No one knows. Department of Education officials say they will use a big chunk of the state’s $700 million federal Race to the Top grant to develop new tests and help train districts to use the new evaluation systems. But a legislative analysis said districts will likely need to spend their own money to finish the job. The state also will face 'significant' costs to evaluate charter schools’ compliance with the new rules."

Is it possible that the legislators, policy makers, and staff have no idea of costs? I believe they know and have known for two years that this piece of legislation has a hefty price tag leaving local school districts no alternative than to seek property tax increases to meet all the requirements of this unfunded mandate. The hint of that knowledge came last year with the inclusion of a forced millage increase in the first version of SB6. It was dropped, but it is clear, fiscal impact has long been on legislators' minds.

Senator Nan Rich reminded Senator Stephen Wise that the results of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded grant to Hillsborough County Schools would inform meaningful legislation.
"Why don't we wait?" she asked Wise. "We have an incredible pilot going on in Hillsborough. Why would we not wait for the results to know we have something that is working?"

Wise responded by saying that if the Legislature stalls, nothing will get done. The time is now to lay the framework for improved teaching, he said, leaving plenty of time to get it done.
"If we continue to stall and delay there are kids who will be irreparably damaged," Wise said.
Bill proponents persist in a philosophy that there is plenty of time and money to get this wrong and no time to get it right. They persist in pass it now, fix it later legislating. Citing kids "who will be irreparably damaged" if the bill does not pass is disingenuous rhetoric that cannot be defended and ignores all evidence that the contrary is true. Such rhetoric sounds like desperation.

In simple English, this is an unfunded mandate and experimentation, which ultimately local communities will pay for through increased taxes. If it were otherwise, we would have heard that. Instead, when it comes to costs, there is absolute silence. And that is unacceptable.

Call your Florida Senator and Representative and ask for a NO vote on SB736 on the grounds of fiscal irresponsibility. Then, make one more call to Governor Scott's office and ask him to reject this poorly written bill that arrive at his desk. Governor Scott has no recourse but to reject
this bill for the very reasons he rejected Speed Rail.

The bill may be voted on as early as tomorrow in the Senate. All signs it will be in the House very soon after and off to the Governor.

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