We published a story Tuesday in which government relations coordinator for the county, Beth Sweeny (spelled “lobbyist” — and we need one), gave school board members a rundown of the ups and downs of the legislative session this year.
Well, more correctly the two legislative session thus far — and counting — this year.
Our lawmakers pitched a hissy fit in the original one, walking out of session and suing to force themselves back in. It was an inspiring act of responsibility and statesmanship. And it is certainly worth noting that the spat was not the partisan tiff we’ve come to expect. No, it was GOP versus GOP, while Democrats grinned from the sidelines.
The second session ironed out the Medicaid funding brouhaha, sort of, and netted residents an actual budget, prior to the capitol shutting down.
And in another week, they’ll meet again for a second special session, or would it more properly be called a special, special session? We’re treading new ground here.
This one will add to the $8 million taxpayer-funded court battle over illegal House redistricting by Republicans. A Senate challenge is in the works as well. Who knows how much residents will end up paying to force fair elections on those who seem determined to rig them?
Sweeny described the session(s) as “by far the strangest” — and we believe she’s being kind.
Perhaps the most curious school bill that passed legislative muster was one that set aside $44 million (that’s two elementary schools) to give 4,400 teachers statewide a one-time $10,000 bonus. But the qualifications are even “curiouser.” In order to qualify, an applicant would need to have scored at or above the 80th percentile on SAT or ACT tests. Yes, that’s a college entrance exam score.
So the state is rewarding teachers on test scores that may be decades old, and apples to oranges as the tests evolved.
School Superintendant Joe Joyner was quick to point out that teachers his age would not have been required to take test in the first place — thus, they’d be ineligible for the bonus. Additionally, teachers would have to have been scored “highly-effective” in the preceding school year. The basis and outcomes of these scores has been questioned by teachers themselves.
The 4,400 teachers eligible is based on, well, nothing. Should there be more than 4,400 eligible teachers, the pot will be diluted proportionately. We don’t have access to the college entrance scores of state teachers (and likely neither do they), but we are told that about 68,000 teachers were graded “highly-effective” last year. It doesn’t take a high SAT score to do that math.
Another school spiff that educators find odd is a $10 million fund for school districts that mandate putting their students in school uniforms. We’re not going to debate the pros and cons here. But the carrot lawmakers hung on the string turns out to be worth only $10 per student to acquiescing districts — until the money runs out. A national study estimates that it takes $249 to put a student in a uniform for a year. So, the $10 seems much less likely to help a student get dressed than push a personal legislative agenda. If nothing else, the stipend could be used for kids whose families can’t afford the new regs.
There is, however, good news from the aborted session. According to Florida’s First Amendment Foundation, the lawmakers walked out without passing a slew of proposed exemptions to Florida’s Sunshine Law. To date, over 600 have been passed since the sun came out in 1995.
Foundation president Barbara Peterson told Sunshine State News Monday “It could have been a whole lot worse … but only thanks to dysfunction.”
Original article here.