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Statewide Teachers Union Revives Legislator Report Cards, Fails Most Republicans

Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee
Bill Montford facebook

The Florida Education Association, a statewide teachers union, has revived its practice of issuing legislative report cards. It scores lawmakers on their votes regarding the organization’s key issues, and for the period of 2017-18, the union failed the majority of Republicans.

The grade averages what the FEA feels was each lawmakers’ respective score from the 2017 and 2018 Legislative Sessions. In factoring a grade, the union took into account 13 bills from 2017, and seven bills from this year – including several amendment votes.

Joanne McCall, the union’s president, broke down what criteria her organization used after the report cards were issued Tuesday.

“We focused on bills that would expand and create new vouchers for students to attend private schools, permit teachers and education staff to carry concealed weapons on campus, prohibit a school board from granting extension of contracts for effective or highly effective teachers and support personnel,” McCall said.

McCall says the FEA also zeroed in on bills that would change the time frame for struggling schools to be turned over to charter companies, and take away union protection. But McCall says a vote for of one bill in particular, HB 7055, wouldn’t allow any lawmaker to score above a C. For that reason, Democratic Sen. Bill Montford received a C plus.

“Those items that were in 7055 were detrimental to public schools, traditional public schools. And he represents superintendents, and our folks weren’t happy about that,” McCall said.

Montford, CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, has historically been vocal about education issues. He was critical of the 2018 Session’s education funding, which he thought saw a paltry per-pupil increase. But in 7055, a large bill that McCall says “log-rolled” good measures in with bad, Montford felt the good weighed more heavily. He says some portions of it corrected what he saw as missteps made in the 2017 session - like giving school district less discretion to spend Title 1 dollars, and charter schools sharing capital outlay funding with traditional public schools.

“Now, the part of 7055 that they did not like, was the part about the re-certification of unions,” Montford said. “And I understand clearly their concern, I had that concern as well.”

But, Montford says, he and his peers in the legislature are sometimes faced with black-and-white decisions on expansive bills.

“There were several things in this bill that I liked, and there were some that I did not like. But the question is, and the simple fact is, you either have to vote yes or no,” Montford said.

In the Florida House, 47 republicans got a grade of F on the FEA report card, while only a select few Democrats dipped below an A or B grade. Meanwhile 16 Senate Republicans received an F, and no Democrats failed.

McCall says each legislator was mailed a copy of their report card.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.