A controversial K-12 education bill is expected to become law Thursday after Gov. Rick Scott gave the legislation his blessing despite mixed reactions over whether or not the bill would truly be a boost to the state's public school students.
Scott's office announced he would be signing HB 7069 at Morning Star Catholic School in Orlando Thursday afternoon.
The bill was a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, but most public school officials vehemently opposed the measure.
HB 7069 stirred up a storm of contention between traditional public school advocates and school choice supporters. The legislation was one of the biggest battles lawmakers duked out during the regular legislative session, just narrowly approved in the Senate by a vote of 20-18.
Supporters argued the bill was a necessary move to increase school-choice options. HB 7069 heavily favors charter schools and school choice for Florida students.
Pushed into the bill was the $140 million "Schools of Hope" proposal, which would pump money into turning around failing public schools. There will also be a daily recess mandate for all public school students, except for charter schools which already have a numerical requirement for recess time.
The state’s Algebra II end-of-course exam will also be eliminated under HB 7069.
HB 7069 will also expand the Gardiner Scholarship program by $30 million, which will provides more scholarships to children with special needs.
Mostly, the legislation -- and thus the public response -- pitted school choice activists against traditional public school supporters and officials, who worried the bill will funnel important funding away from schools and provide students with subpar classroom instruction as a result.
Groups in favor of the measure were quick to cheer Scott’s signature as a beacon of hope for the future of Florida’s students.
“We celebrate today alongside the parents, students, and families of Florida who believe, as we do, that every child deserves the opportunity to succeed academically. FCSBM collaborated with our friends in the legislature to support and provide input on the groundbreaking reform policies signed into law today, and we look forward to their successful implementation for the benefit of all students,” said Florida Coalition of School Board Members president Shawn Frost.
Scott is expected to sign the bill after a contentious legislative session between the governor’s office and the Florida House, which sparred repeatedly over Scott’s top priorities, funding Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.
Corcoran and Scott, once bitter enemies, seemingly buried the hatchet before state legislators came back for a special session. The two reached a compromise to fully fund Visit Florida and to sign HB 7069 behind closed doors.
Scott hasn’t passed all education bills this session. Senate President Joe Negron’s top priority to increase funding for the state’s higher education system received the royal red pen treatment on Wednesday when Scott vetoed a sweeping bill to pump millions of dollars into the state’s college and university system.
This is a developing story. Stay tuned for updates.