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Ed Board Expresses Concerns About State Budget

Florida’s public education board had its say on a controversial ed bill and the state budget Tuesday.  Public school officials and a state lawmaker presented opposing views on how education policy played out during the legislative session.

Republican Representative Mike Bileca is defending the legislature’s work on education policy. Bileca calls a $25 increase in per student funding “historic”. And he plays down concerns that many districts will lose money under the state’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.

“We did provide an historic level of education funding, however we chose to do it with elements not in the FEFP [Florida Education Financing Program]. A lot of the targeted money is going into what I said was the main focus of the legislature, which is how to we close the achievement gap, how do we effect change for perpetually failing schools?” 

Bileca addressed the State Board of Education Tuesday. He’s talking about House Bill 7069. A big feature of the bill is a plan called “Schools of Hope” rolls back regulations to allow charter schools to open near failing public schools. The bill also covers issues such as recess, teacher bonuses, and an expansion of scholarships for students with disabilities, and its worth about $400 million.

“I am not going to debate schools of Hope, because schools are hopeful places," said Miami Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

He’s part of the Florida Association of District Superintendents, which, along with a wide variety of organizations, is calling for a veto of the bill. Carvahlo says he’s concerned with language that requires districts share a portion of local funding with charter schools, saying it will hurt his district’s bond rating. And he’s also concerned about the state’s overall education funding.

“Budgets are a reflection of value," Carvalho told the board.  "We budget what what we value. So the question is this: if we aren’t in the middle of a recession. And the dollars are available, what is the reason …its difficult to understand.”

Neither the bill nor the budget have reached Governor Rick Scott’s desk, but when they do, he’ll have 15 days to decide whether to sign or veto one or both.