TAKE ACTION: Tell Senate Education Appropriations to fund salaries not more vouchers and bonuses

Senate Bill 7070, which has already passed the Senate Education Committee, is headed to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Tuesday, March 19.

Rather than addressing the massive underfunding of our public schools, the bill would establish a new voucher scheme — named the “Family Empowerment” program — and would double down on the failed “Best and Brightest” bonus program.

Enter your address below to tell the members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education to oppose SB 7070 and the funding of more voucher and bonus schemes.

Tell the members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education to oppose SB 7070 and the funding of more voucher and bonus schemes.

  • Florida’s public schools consistently rank in the bottom ten in the nation for per-pupil funding. The lack of basic funding deprives our students of the resources they need and keeps teacher and education staff professional salaries in the bottom five in the nation.
  • Florida currently has a teacher shortage crisis, and our kids are feeling the repercussions. We can’t adequately recruit and retain high quality teachers when the Legislature won’t invest in our educators.
  • SB 7070 fails to adequately address the growing teacher crisis in Florida. The bill switches one failed bonus scheme for another by amending the Best and Brightest program with more hard to obtain bonuses. If the Legislature wanted to adequately address the teacher shortage in Florida, this bill would replace bonuses with much needed and long overdue salary increases for Florida’s educators.
  • Teachers need salary increases they can count on, not bonuses. Teachers can’t count on a bonus when applying for a home loan or qualifying for low interest rates on a car loan. They can’t budget their families’ finances on whether or not the Legislature will give them a bonus one year and not the next. And bonuses do not count towards teacher retirement.
  • The Florida Department of Education estates that more than 10,000 teacher vacancies will need to be filled by the start of the next school year. Each year the number of teacher vacancies grows, rather than decreases.
  • We began the school tear with more than 4,000 teacher vacancies. Halfway through the school year we still had more than 2,200 opens teacher positions advertised—700 more than last year. More than 200,000 students began their second semester without a teacher. Double the number of students did not have a certified teacher to teach the course they were responsible for instructing.
  • Unlike the current vouchers which use “tax credit” schemes as a way to divert public money into unaccountable private schools, this new voucher would be funded directly from general revenue.
  • The Florida Supreme Court has already ruled on this issue. In its 2006 ruling in the case of Bush v. Holmes, the Court declared:

    “The diversion of money not only reduces public funds for public education but also uses public funds to provide for an alternative education in private schools that are not subject to the ‘uniformity’ requirements for public schools.”

  • Supporters of the voucher refer to it as a way to help “low-income students,” but a family of four with an income of $77,250 would be eligible for the voucher in the 2019-20 school year. By 2022-23, the income threshold is raised to $96,572—more 1.5 times the median family income in Florida.
  • Our legislators must address the over 10,000 teacher vacancies projected next school year. This means increasing the base student allocation so teachers and staff can get the raises they deserve.
  • While the current accountability system is flawed, we strongly believe in accountability. All schools that receives taxpayer dollars should be held to the same meaningful accountability standards. To do otherwise is a disservice not only to the students who attend the unaccountable schools but to the taxpayers who fund them.