Why even have Legislation Education Committees?

Why even have Legislation Education Committees?

For the second time in two years the legislature is circumventing the Senate’s Education Committee

FL Senate Committee on AppropriationsLast week Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Senator John Legg shared that the Education Committee had completed its work for the 2016 session and baring any directions required from Leadership the Senate Education Committee would not reconvene for the 2016 session. This meant that any education bills which would need to come before the Education Committee were essentially “dead”. Given some of those pending bills I was not disappointed.

Amount the items which these bills brought back; Best & Brightest teacher bonuses, capital funding reforms for charter schools, open enrollment for public students, high school athletics proposals, and more than a dozen other education-related policies.

On Wednesday a couple of Senators some which I value and respect attempted to revive some of those bills by filing amendments to bills Heard in the Senate appropriations committee. While this procedure was certainly within the rules it gives concern of not going through the intended process of their respective committees. Even the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Tom Lee cautioned members to “be particularly cautious about your vanity” or measures that were rejected in other committees.

Those amendments did pass with the exception of some amendments to the amendments. (Parliamentary procedure conversation for another day.) These bills will now move onto the senate chambers for a full Senate debate and vote.

Follow these links to two detailed stories on this;

http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/attempt-to-revive-recess-bill-withdrawn-from-florida-senate-committee/2266910

http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/senators-unsuccessful-in-stopping-progress-on-best–brightest/2266898

One of those items is the controversial teacher bonus system Best and Brightest Scholarship, which ties teacher’s ACT and SAT scores to bonuses, many of which were tests taken by these teachers when they were in high school. Another is the very concerning high school athletics change which would give high school students school choice, essentially making them “free agents”.

What makes this even more disturbing is that the entire reason we have the Best and Brightest Scholarship in law today is because it circumvented the normal committee process and was resurrected in a special budget only legislative session.

Unlike with the house did last year the Senate I can respect has move this on for a full Senate vote there by permitting open debate before approving these bills.

Over the years I have come to truly appreciate and respect the process of bills going through committee. It gives legislators the opportunity to ask questions and gives constituents the opportunity to inform legislators of concerns they have or support they have on respective Bill language. In a perfect situation the results are a bill that is equitable to the parties and improves our state and communities.

I want to thank Senator John Legg for his work as Chairman this year in the education committee. I may not always agree with every bill that came through the committee, but I value that a positive open conversation was available and his office was very accessible when needing to express support or concerns.

I now pray that common sense will continue to prevail this legislative session.



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