State Education Update: House & Senate Agree…

State Education Update: House & Senate Agree…   

“The ‘House’ always win…”

Citrus expected now to get $92K less than last year’s budget

Florida Legislature_20170417065447On Friday, April 28th, the Florida Legislators PreK-12 Education Budget Conference Committee convened.  In a most unexpected move, the Senate in their first “Offer” on the budget, the Senate accepted the House position on the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) formula, closing any further negotiations on the FEFP. Bottom line is that the House’s much lower funding of schools is what will ‘again’ happen in Florida this year. (Follow this link to see the Senate Office and Meeting Pack:

This agreement includes a ‘rollback’ of the Required Local Effort (RLE) millage rate to 4.322 mills (down from 4.638 mills) and a reduction in the Base Student Allocation (BSA) of more than $27 per student.

What does this mean for Citrus County Schools? The House’s Budget FEFP funding proposal would decrease $92,000 (or -0.09%) from this year’s 4th budget calculation.

Unfortunately, that is not the whole story. For local school boards the state has continued over the years to increase the specific categorical spending.  This current House budget includes $400 million on the controversial “Best & Brightest” teacher bonus program ($200 million), and the new controversial out of state Charter benefiting “Schools of Hope” program ($200 million).  This means even if we had level funding, because of these categoricals that require local districts to only use those funds as stipulated by the Legislature we have much less funding for locally determined needs.

What concerns me now is what current programs and services as a School Board we will have to look to cut or reduce to fund for these categoricals.  Many of these categoricals are ‘personal agenda pet programs’ at the state level and that continues to drive up the cost of public school education.  Why again is the State Legislature telling local governments how to spend local taxpayer moneys.

It is important to remember that the State Legislature sets the Required Local Effort (RLE) millage rate to be collected from the local property taxpayers, NOT the local school board.  The local school board must then use the funds established by the State Legislature to provide the best education possible, while being good stewards of taxpayers’ moneys.  Citrus County Schools has the lowest statutorily allowable education taxes in the State.  Citrus does not have any additional millage rate, sales taxes or other taxing mechanism.  Nearly all the surrounding counties have additional educational funding mechanisms to assist in meeting our students’ educational needs.  This makes every budget and funding decision we make critical to meeting our students needs.

I believe local governments know better what our local needs are and that the State and Federal governments should reduce the number of categorical locally mandated spending.  This would permit those existing dollars to flow to local communities without the need to increase the tax base.  In the current budget, we have now reduced funding and increased categoricals.  This makes funding challenges even hard.  In private business that would be like spending more, while generating less profits.  That is not a good practice.

I want to continue to thank our local State legislative representatives, Rep. Ralph Massullo, M.D. and Senator Wilton Simpson.  These leaders continued to listen to local elected officials and have been working behind the scenes for our schools and community.  It is sometimes difficult to clearly see the results of their labors, but please be assured they are working hard for us during these challenging times.

Much is still taking place, both on the final budget and final bills being passed.  In the end, we will work to continue to provide and make decisions that are best for our students, schools and community.  We must be successful because our kids are counting on us.

Legislature Tells Schools Boards No Standing Required for Pledge

Legislature Tells Schools Boards No Standing Required for Pledge

Law passed in 2016 session, School Board Disagrees

CaptureA year ago the Florida State Legislature passed a “train bill” HB 7029 by huge margins.  I was against that bill (as I remain today) for many items that were in that bill.  Tuck into HB 7029 at the last minute was language that mandated that local school boards must, “… student shall be informed by a written notice published in the student handbook or a similar publication pursuant to s. 1006.07(2) that the student has the right not to participate in reciting the pledge. Upon written request by his or her parent, the student must be excused from reciting the pledge, including standing and placing the right hand over his or her heart.” This bill was signed into law and is now Florida Statute 1003.44.

The law previously permitted students to opt out of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance but still required students to stand.  Citrus County School’s policy reflected that as well.  I shared about this new change in Florida Statute last year in two articles; and Unfortunately, at the time few people seem to me upset about it then.

Today during our School Board Workshop when the policy was presented for review I spoke out again about this new Florida Statute.  The rest of the school board also spoke up and disagreed with this law.

The Board asked the School Board’s attorney, Wes Bradshaw to present alternative language which would meet Florida Statute but emphasizes that students are required to stand for the Pledge, unless requested in writing by the parent or guardian.

If you are interested in watching the video on this part of the School Board Meeting visit;

Varsity Sports Exemption Gets Boost from Senate

Varsity Sports Exemption Gets Boost from Senate  

Senator Flores Introduces Amendment

envision2-COLLAGEEvery train has some ‘cool’ cars too!  SB 926 maybe this year’s educational train bill and there are some good parts to it. This amendment is one of the good parts.

For a number of years I have been lobbying anyone that would listen in the Florida legislature to revise Florida Statute 1003.4282 to better apply participation in competitive athletics to the physical education wavier in high school.

This session Citrus County’s Florida House of Representative Ralph E. Massullo, MD, graciously ran HB 6015 and Senator Debbie Mayfield ran the Senate companion bill SB 782.  Yesterday in SB 926’s final committee stop in the Senate Rules Committee, Senator Anitere Flores introduced an amendment that includes the language that Rep. Massullo and Sen. Mayfield have in their bills respective bills and included it in SB 926.  This is most encouraging and positive. Sen. Flores’s SB 926 with this amendment passed Senate Rules Committee unanimously. Next SB 926 moves to the full Senate floor.

If passed what could result is a significant number of students that participate in interscholastic sports would no longer have to also take P.E. at the school or virtually and thereby give up other course options.

Florida law requires that a student achieves one-credit in physical education for graduation.  Currently there are P.E. waivers that a student can get if they successfully complete marching band, JORTC, dance and on a stricter basis, interscholastic sport, due to the courses’ physical endurance work. This amendment would improve the current statute to read, “Participation in an interscholastic sport at the junior varsity or varsity level for two full seasons shall satisfy the one-credit requirement in physical education.”

I appreciate Sen. Flores bring forward this amendment and Senator Wilton Simpson, who has also been encouraging and helping improve this statute.

Stay tune…

Is another new train bill’s whistle starting to blow?

Is another new train bill’s whistle starting to blow?  

2017 educational train bill may be getting ready to pull out of the station

a28a097187a9bf81e1263f276934e6e1Last year Florida saw the passage of HB7029, a “train bill” that wreak havoc for Florida public education. (see blog; Legislators are boarding a ‘Chartered Train’ Wreck, Feb. 28, 2016)

Many right now having begun to express that they are anticipating the creating of at least one “train” of education bills this legislative session– combining all or part of several bills into one omnibus “train bill”.

How this can happen? In general, to be eligible to be added to a train, in some cases, legislators are satisfied if a bill has passed at least one committee of reference while, in other cases, the more stringent requirement that a bill pass all committees of reference is pursued.  But, in either case, there are always exceptions and ways to work around these general practices, particularly as time begins to grow short toward the end of the session.  These efforts to move bills through committees of reference and line up amendments to bills that are moving will continue and happen rapidly in the coming weeks.

We need to be watching for this protentional train that is coming.  Florida public education doesn’t need another train wreck like last year.

Please continue to speak up to Legislators.  Again, we have some fair minded-common sense leaders locally representing us in Senate Simpson and Rep. Massullo, but they cannot do this heavy lifting without other good legislators.

Follow these links to contact our State Senators and State Representatives.

Chronicle Weighs in on Charter Bills

40341-12Chronicle Weighs in on Charter Bills

Chronicle: “Transfer of $200 million to charter schools stands only to weaken public schools, harm Florida’s students and potentially enrich connected lawmakers”

I encourage you to please read this important and excellent op-ed column by the Citrus Chronicle Editorial Board, “Charter Push a Betrayal of Public School Students”, published in Thursday, April 13, 2017,

I want to thank the Chronicle Editorial Board for once again clearly understanding the continual tragedy the Florida Legislature is doing to public education and for the wrongful bias towards charter schools.

Keep in mind that HB 15/SB 1314 and HB 5105 charter capital funding is on top of the House budget proposal would provide $100 million in PECO (Public Educational Capital Outlay) funding for the maintenance and repair of charter schools and only $20 million for public schools. The Senate budget is the same as last year that provides $75 million each to charter and public schools.

Let’s not forget the attendance differences, there are about 300,000 Florida charter school students, compared to approximately 2.7 million Florida public school students.

Please continue to speak up to Legislators.  Again, we have some fair minded-common sense leaders locally representing us in Senate Simpson and Rep. Massullo, but they cannot do this heavy lifting without other good legislators.

Follow these links to contact our State Senators and State Representatives.

Gradebook Podcast tals to FSBA about 2017 Legislature

Gradebook Podcast tals to FSBA about 2017 Legislature

Andrea-Messena-2015Please listen to the Tampa Bay Times Gradebook podcast with host Time Education Reporter, Jeffrey Solochek as he interviews Florida School Boards Association’s executive director Andrea Messina to talk about the current Florida Legislative session.

Ms. Messina I have the highest respect for and she is one of our state’s leading public educational policy experts.  Ms. Messina is a former English teacher, Charlotte County School Board Member, and FSBA Professional Development Coordinator.  She was my new school board member, teacher when I was first elected to office and she is still someone I reach out to on many school board issues.

This Gradebook podcast addresses several issues that the Florida legislature is working on– in particular, capital dollar funding for school districts.

Ms. Messina does an excellent job explaining how current proposed legislation looks to further reduce, the already reduced capital funding to local school districts.

Please take the time and listen to the Gradebook Podcast: