Friday, June 23, 2017

Seven-OH-Six-Niner

Preamble: A FB friend was debating with a FB friend and tagged me, like a pro wrestling match, to take over. I make it a point to stay out of FB arguments, as the space for comments, and readers' internet attention spans, are not sufficient for a full and respectful exchange of views. Thus, the dreary tendency of social media debates to descend into arguments and then name-calling. (Not saying that would happen here.)

Disclosure: I teach secondary mathematics in a traditional public school system, currently assigned to a magnet high school. I am an advocate for public schools (and that does not include charter schools, however much they want to call themselves public schools--because they are not) and belong to several advocacy groups.

Full disclosure: 7069 is a prime number. And with that math geekiness moment out of the way, I will not use snark in this post. Many bloggers do. It seems to be expected of the medium but, unfortunately, that at times gets in the way of a respectful exchange of views.

HB 7069 was passed in the overtime portion of the Florida legislative session in Spring 2017. Although it incorporated the carefully crafted compromise between the chambers and parties, the compromise did not include the legislative priorities of the House Speaker, Richard Corcoran (R--Land of Lakes). Speaker Corcoran took the compromise bill on the last day of the regular session (the last day it could be passed) and put out a new and unexpected budget bill (HB 7069) that incorporated the compromise but also put in his demand for a new charter sector called 'Schools of Hope.'

Because he made it a budget bill, the chambers were able to consider it during the overtime days and pass it.

Thus, as we consider why education advocates and professionals denounce the bill, we arrive at the first category of protest: PROCEDURE.

The Florida legislature is notorious for spending 58 or 59 days of its regular session, first in committee, considering draft legislation, and then in session, debating and voting on legislation that passed through all relevant committees, allowing bad bills to die, only to find that in the secret budget negotiations of the final days that REJECTED BILLS show up, bad policy as considered by almost all, in a budget that must have an up or down vote.

Thus, bad legislation bypasses the democratic process to be enacted into law by a few, key leaders including the Speaker of the House and the Senate President.

This is what happened with HB 7069. The provisions insisted upon by Corcoran had already been rejected. His tyrannical move at the end of the regular session to put those rejected policies into a budget bill and force its passage is an abuse of the democratic process.

(As a matter of recent historical note, that is how Florida also got the Best and Brightest bonus program. Rejected by committees, its backer, Eric Fresen, got it put into the final budget.)

The second category of protest is CONFLICT OF INTEREST. (I am being nice by not labeling this category corruption.)

Richard Corcoran's wife is the founder of a charter school: Classical Prepatory School. His ally, Manny Diaz (R--Miami), collects a six-figure salary as the Chief Operating Officer of a charter: Doral College. Michael Bileca (R--Miami, also Chair of the House Education Committee) is listed as the founder and Executive Director of a charter: True North Classical Academy. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fabiola-santiago/article151418277.html

Thus, even before we can begin to debate the merits of the bill, we have to recognize the self-serving interests of the men who forced it through.

Maybe I should label this category 'CORRUPTION.'

In better days, such men would recuse themselves from the vote and argue that it passed on merit.

But they don't bother with those niceties anymore. Not in Florida, anyway.