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Frontline Blog

Best and Brightest Changes

Again this year, both chambers of the state legislature are looking to make changes to the “Best and Brightest” program. The proposals are significantly different from one another, but do have three similarities:

  1. Both the House and Senate proposals remove the SAT/ACT requirement
  2. Both proposals put the Best and Brightest funding into the FEFP
  3. Both proposals limit the awards to K-12 classroom teachers as defined in F.S. 1012.01 (2)(a):

Classroom teachers are staff members assigned the professional activity of instructing students in courses in classroom situations, including basic instruction, exceptional student education, career education, and adult education, including substitute teachers.

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SB 7070 Advances Through Another Committee

Senate Bill 7070  is a bill that should concern every citizen in Florida. As Senator Montford said in today’s Senate Appropriations Education Subcommittee meeting, if this bill passes it will “fundamentally change” education in the state.

The bill includes the creation of Florida’s seventh voucher program—but this one is different from the rest because instead of being funded through “tax credits,” the vouchers would be funded directly from the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) meaning public school dollars would be funneled to unaccountable, private and religious schools.

SB 7070 also revises Best and Brightest. It would remove the requirement for SAT or ACT scores, but the program remains discriminatory. The bonuses would still not be available for our hard-working education staff professionals. Nor are the bonuses available for pre-kindergarten teachers or instructional personnel at any level other than classroom teachers.

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State Board Listens to Educators and Lowers Fees!

Thanks to the State Board of Education and the diligent advocacy of our members and staff, many educators will soon pay less to take or retake Florida Teacher Certification Exams.

At its meeting in Tallahassee on Tuesday, the State Board of Education approved a rule change that reduces fees for re-taking tests, prorates fees for multi-part exams such as the General Knowledge test, and lowers fees overall for subject-area tests.

Under the new fee schedule, a teacher retaking a single subtest in the General Knowledge Test will pay $32.50 instead of $150. Find the new fees here.

We spoke up, and the Florida Department of Education listened.

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Budget Time in the Legislature

You’ve heard the statistics—Florida consistently ranks in the bottom five states nation-wide for educator salary and per-pupil funding.

Class sizes continue to escalate—as do health insurance costs. Meanwhile salaries are stagnant, school buildings are in disrepair, and every year teachers and education staff professionals are simply asked to do more with less.

The evidence of Florida’s underfunding of public education is all around you.

This is why it is vitally important that all members of the Florida Education Association are aware of how the state’s budget is determined and what you can do to fight for your students, your school, and yourself.

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Here comes the train: A closer look at SPB 7070

Over the past two years, public education advocates in Florida have become accustomed to the House ramming through a massive train bill in the final weeks of session.

For those who aren’t familiar with the terminology, a train bill is a bill that combines multiple, unrelated ideas and combines them into one bill, so legislators have to vote the entire bill up or down instead having the ability to judge each component and its merit with an up or down vote.

This year, the Senate is letting the train out of the station early in the form of Senate Proposed Bill 7070 (SPB 7070). This bill contains some ideas FEA has long fought for, including expansion of community schools. But also contain a new voucher program that would further erode funding for public schools; furthermore, the bill does nothing to solve the teacher shortage crisis.
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HB 13: An attack on educators’ voice in the workplace

Remember last year’s House Bill 25 sponsored by Representative Scott Plankon which singled out FEA for decertification? Since HB 25 had the opposite of its intended effect—FEA membership soared instead of decreasing—legislators are now trying another attack on public sector labor unions.

One of the dirty secrets of some legislators is they don’t write the bills the sponsor. Instead they outsource bill-writing to secretive groups like the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

This was the case with last year’s HB 25 as well as this year’s HB 13 which was heard on Wednesday, March 6 in the House Oversight, Transparency, & Pubic Management Subcommittee. You can watch the committee meeting rebroadcast on the Florida Channel.

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Take Action: Tell your legislator to Fund Our Future!

“We are united in delivering one message. State leaders must fund our future. They must invest in neighborhood public schools, invest in the success of our students, and invest in the teachers and staff who work in our schools.” — Fedrick C. Ingram, President of the Florida Education Association

The 2019 legislative session has begun. It’s time we all take action! We all have a role to play to ensure our elected officials listen to us and invest in our community’s schools.

Our students need you. You can be part of the growing movement to support our neighborhood public schools.  We can’t just hope the people we elect will do enough.  We must use our voices to advocate for change, participate in policy making and holding elected officials accountable.

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Final week before session: legislation to watch

Here are a few bills we wanted to flag a few bills that are on all of our radar:

SB 520:  This bill would ensure that the seven counties hardest hit by Hurricane Michael would not lose their school funding due to students moving to neighboring counties because of storm damage. Currently the bill does not have a House companion. FEA SUPPORTS the bill.

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Senate releases education package proposal

Members of the Senate President’s education team — Senator Manny Diaz, Jr. (R-Hialeah Gardens), Chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, and Senate President Pro Tempore David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) — rolled out the Senate’s education plan for consideration during the coming legislative session.

Their proposal was short on specifics but here is what we know:

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Governor’s policy proposals

Perhaps you’ve seen in the news or read in the past few Frontlines that the governor has proposed changes to public education that have us paying close attention, including tweaks to the “Best and Brightest” bonuses and his proposal for more kids to receive vouchers (maybe you also saw this awesome editorial from the Tampa Bay Times regarding the wrong position the governor is taking on public education). While his past announcements have been in the form of press conferences, last Friday the governor released his policy language proposal for these and other policy ideas. Here’s a breakdown for you.

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Get Involved by Staying Informed