About 200 teachers and school staff members made sure Governor Rick Scott knew they oppose an education bill awaiting his signature. They demonstrated outside Beach Boulevard’s Angie’s Subs in Jacksonville Beach where Scott was stopping Tuesday during what he called a statewide victory tour after reaching budget deals with the Legislature.
Protesters organized by the Florida Education Association were lined up in front of the sub shop more than an hour before Scott was scheduled to speak. They were wearing ponchos in a drizzle, holding signs and chanting, “Public schools deserve your time, Veto 7069.”
School boards and teachers’ unions across Florida oppose the sweeping education bill, HB7069. Though it increases teacher bonuses, it would give schools less time to improve before they’re closed down and possibly turned into charters, which is one of the Duval County school board’s main concerns with the bill.
Dixie County teacher Lindsey Whittington, also chanting outside the shop, said her main worry is funding for children living in poverty.
“Dixie County Is predominately low-income so the Title I funding is a big concern to my school,” she said.
The bill would require all federal dollars for low-income students follow them to their schools, but district leaders argue they can help more of those students by reserving a portion for districtwide programs.
However, state representative Jason Fischer, a former Duval School Board member who helped craft the bill, said schools should get the money directly.
“This bill will ensure that money will follow children more than any of the other bills in the past,” Fischer said. “If you’re a low-income student at a charter school statewide data shows that only about 54 cents on the dollar actually follows you from the school district to the school your parents chose for you.”
Fischer, who spoke at Scott’s conference, called the bill “one of the most transformative education bills to pass the Florida Legislature in quite a long time.”
And as the crowd waited for Scott, Angie’s owner Ed Malin passed out brownies. He said he can understand the pros and cons of the bill.
“I love it when people, especially this many people, take an active role in shaping the government,” Malin said.
After Scott spoke about the special session, FEA President Joanne McCall shook his hand and asked him to kill the legislation.
“We really need a veto on that bill because the 2.8 million kids across the state deserve that,” she said.
Scott thanked her for coming.
“I’m still reviewing it,” he said.
He added: “What I really care about is what’s good for kids.”
Last week, lawmakers increased per-student funding, something Scott applauded, but many school boards believe the House bill’s potential harm outweighs that good.
Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride