Navigating Legi-Speak: When Legal-eeze Goes Wrong

Feb 8, 2013

Every year, several hundred bills are introduced in the Florida legislature. Some range from as little as a few paragraphs, to hundreds of pages. The language is often technical, arduous, and tricky to understand. Such a bill appeared last week in a House Education committee that sparked lots of confusion.

“Well, it’s a complex legal drafting issue. It’s understandable that some people may have gotten confused," says Mike Kooi, head of the Florida Department of Education's school choice office. 

He’s talking about Legal-eeze: the language of laws and statutes, which can trip up even the most seasoned observers of the legislative process. That happened last week in the House Choice and Innovation subcommittee where a bill dealing with charter schools included language that seemed to exempt charter teachers from the state’s new evaluation process. Except, as Kooi explains, that’s not the case:  

“Charter schools are still going to have to develop a teacher evaluation system that meets the requirements of statutes, including that 50 percent be based on student performance.” 

What the proposal actually does is exempt charter schools from things like having to go through due-process. Since charter schools aren’t unionized, that kind of language doesn’t apply to them.