Passage Of HB 7069 Ignites Worries About Hartsfield Elementary School

May 9, 2017

The passage of a massive education bill has Leon residents concerned that the district could lose one of its schools: Hartsfield Elementary. But that’s not necessarily the case.

Hartsfield Elementary School
Credit Leon County Schools

It’s too early to determine the results of House Bill 7069. That’s the 270-plus page education conforming bill that covers everything from school testing to how districts distribute local education funds. Part of the bill also changes the way the state deals with low-performing schools, those that get D’s and F’s. Under the bill, schools that get two consecutive D’s or an F-grade would face new sanctions. If a district can’t improve the school in two years, then it would be required to reassign students, turn to an outside operator, or convert the school to a charter school, which could be managed by the district:

Until or unless we get new information from the state, I don’t think we should rush to worry that they’ll be a charter school in August," says Leon County Schools Assistant Superintendent Gillian Gregory.

Gregory She says there are questions about when changes would kick in and whether the rules are retroactive. Leon County Hartsfield Elementary School has received two D-grades.

“We have a meeting with the Department of Education next week …and we’re hoping to get guidance from them at that point. We’re closely watching this bill and we’re very concerned about its implications for our most fragile schools. But I don’t think it’s appropriate to rush and worry that Hartsfield will be a charter school come August 1st.”

If districts choose a charter option—which is driving concerns locally, it would mean teachers would no longer have union protections. Chris Moya with the firm Jones Walker lobbies for Charter Schools USA. He believes reactions to the bill are overblown.

“What they’re  [the legislature] trying to do is say we won’t accept failure factories in the minority and low-income areas. They’re trying to shake the system and save the children who are being left behind. I don’t think we’re going to see growth in the number of charters because they’re district managed charters.” 

The Florida Department of Education says it hasn’t done an analysis on the bill yet. The measure is heading to Governor Rick Scott for him to either sign or veto, amid growing calls for him to do the latter.