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Politics

Jeb Bush Foundation Grades Lawmakers on Education Reform Votes

June 26, 2013 - 6:00pm

The Foundation for Florida's Future, a nonpartisan education reform think tank founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, published its sixth annual legislative report card Thursday, grading lawmakers on how they voted on six bills.

This year, Florida leaders voted to improve and build upon the student-driven policies that have shaped education in Florida, Patricia Levesque, the Foundation's executive director, said in a statement announcing publication of Floridas 2013 Education Report Card. We know all students can learn when given an opportunity customized to their unique needs and learning styles, and the reforms passed this year will sharpen Floridas focus on student learning to empower each child to thrive.

Fourteen legislators nine senators and five state representatives made Honor Roll for their leadership on certain key pieces of legislation, even though they did not necessarily score in the top of their legislative class: Sens. Anitere Flores, Bill Galvano, Andy Gardiner, John Legg, Gwen Margolis, Bill Montford, Jeremy Ring, Kelli Stargel and John Thrasher; and Reps. Michael Bileca, Jason Brodeur, Manny Diaz, Erik Fresen, and Carlos Trujillo.

These lawmakers acted boldly to empower each child to reach his or her God-given potential, Bush, who serves as the Foundation's chairman, said in a statement. Legislation passed this session will empower parents, arm high school graduates with valuable skills for todays opportunities, support teachers, engage technology in student learning, promote equality and accountability in charter schools, and fund successful, proven programs. These reforms will be life-changing for many Florida students, and I am excited to see where the dedication and hard work of Floridas leaders and educators will take us next.

The Foundation graded legislators according to how they voted, and led the way, on six pieces of legislation:

SB 1108 ("Students with Disabilities") (PASSED) -- Increases involvement of parents of disabled children in educational choices made on their behalf; and allows private therapists to provide therapy in a classroom setting; requires teachers to undergo regular training on how to work with disabled students

HB 867 (Parent Empowerment Act) (NOT PASSED) Would have empowered parents of children who attend failing schools to petition their school board to choose one of several turnaround options, including converting it into a charter school.

SB 1076 (High School Graduation) (PASSED) Allows high school students to earn industry certifications upon graduation and rewards teachers with bonuses if their students do so.

SB 1664 (Teacher Evaluations, Teacher Preparation Program Accountability) (PASSED) -- Tweaks the public school teacher evaluation systems to make sure instructors are evaluated based on students they teach and assessments that measure how they impact their students.

HB 7029 ("Digital Learning") (PASSED) Expands virtual online learning opportunities for public school children

HB 7009 ("School Quality and Flexibility") (PASSED) -- Requires charter schools to maintain websites documenting their academic performance; forbids employees and their spouses from serving as board members of charter schools; ensures that no school may pay out large sums of money to board members when schools close down or when board members are fired.

Among the report's highlights:

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Destin, each scored 100 percent, an A+.

The three highest-scoring Democrats were Senate honor rollees Gwen Margolis of Miami (85, B), Jeremy Ring of Margate (82, B), and Bill Montford of Tallahassee (81, B).

The Senate also produced the lowest-scoring Republicans: Nancy Detert of Venice (78, C), Greg Evers of Pensacola (78, C), Rene Garcia of Hialeah (78, C) and Jack Latvala of Clearwater (65, D).

Education is one of the top issues Florida voters have in mind when they cast their ballots, Jaryn Emhof, the Foundation's director of communications, told Sunshine State News. This report card is a tool to help them see who is putting students first.

Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at 954-235-9116.

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