Putting Education Reform To The Test

Education And The 2013 Florida Legislative Session

Florida Governor's Office

Governor Rick Scott visits Ocoee Middle School near Orlando as part of his Teacher Pay Raise Pep Rally Tour.

Now that the Florida Legislature has wrapped up its regular session, pundits are weighing in on how education fared.

Lawmakers added a billion dollars back into the education budget, which totals about $20 billion.

But compromises were made.

Some of the big issues were addressed Friday during the Florida Roundup on WLRN 91.3FM in Miami.

A panel of journalists revisited questions raised during the WLRN Miami Herald Town Hall meeting in Fort Lauderdale last February.

The journalists quoted here are Mary Ellen Klas of the Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau and Aaron Sharockman of PolitiFact Florida and the Tampa Bay Times.

Q: Across-the-board raises for state teachers were one of Gov. Scott’s two top goals this session. He got the money, but the Legislature decided how it would be spent. Is this a victory or defeat for Gov. Rick Scott?  

A: Mary Ellen Klas — I think it was a victory. They gave him exactly the amount of money that he wanted to go to teachers and schools – $480 million – so he is claiming it as a victory. He is claiming it in such a way that he has done a whistle-stop tour around the state for the entire week.

It’s pretty clear that they didn’t want to give it to him carte blanche. They made some serious restrictions on it and required these performance measures.

Q: Another issue that was discussed as far as education is controversial legislation known as “parent trigger,” which failed again. Why did it fail? We heard there wasn’t enough interest to get it passed in Tallahassee.

A: Mary Ellen Klas — This year, it didn’t have the same kind of support that it had from the charter school movement the previous year.

The supporters of it did make a strong effort to change the composition of the Senate, and so we had new players that were in the Senate for the first time that weren’t around last year and they were the ones that helped contribute to the pro vote.

On the other hand, we had a series of senators who voted for it last year and they switched their vote this time, which led to its defeat.

They’ve done this question two years in a row, and I just don’t see that this one will be coming back.

Q: Tuition increases – here’s another political football being thrown around in Tallahassee. Will Weatherford, the House Speaker, made a statement that Florida college tuition was cheaper than a cell phone bill. That caught the attention of the folks at PolitiFact Florida…

A: Aaron Sharockman — It sure did, and it actually turns out that Will Weatherford’s largely right. It rated mostly true, that statement, on the Truth-O-Meter.

The bottom line is the twelve state public universities are a pretty good deal, and Will Weatherford believes the students should and could pay a little bit more to make the colleges better and raise the academic standards in higher education. That’s his argument.

Rick Scott has a very different argument that says every time you raise higher education by a dollar, you crowd someone out; you prevent someone from getting that education.

The budget is now on Rick Scott’s desk with a 3 percent tuition increase, and we’ll see what happens. He got the budget on Thursday and that gives him until May 24th to make a decision (about a veto).

Gov. Rick Scott suggested to reporters in Tallahassee Friday that a veto may indeed be on the way.

“I’m going to go through the budget very carefully like I’ve done the last two years, but as you know, I’ve not supported a tuition increase,” Scott said.

Next on the show came a call from Ellen Elias, a civics teacher, and her students from Dr. Michael Krop Senior High School in Aventura.

Q: How did the Legislature do on education?

A: Ellen Elias — The Legislature did not do the greatest that they could have. It’s good that the parent trigger bill didn’t pass. The “raise” to teachers which isn’t really a raise – it’s more just like a bonus – that’s okay.

I don’t get this Legislature. I think what Gov. Scott is trying to do is really just trying to come up with ways to get reelected.

Q: Class, it sounds like your teacher is going to get a raise…Does she deserve a raise? Isn’t that something good that happened?

A: Class — Yes!


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