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State Lawmakers Get Graded on Education

May 23, 2014 - 6:00pm

Just as students get their final grades back at the end of the year, Florida lawmakers have received grades of their own based on their commitment to furthering the quality of education in the Sunshine State.

The Education Report Card from the Foundation for Floridas Future doles out "A" to "F" grades for legislators who are keeping the promise of a quality education in Florida through demonstrations of leadership.

Nearly 200 lawmakers were graded on seven core principles: rigorous academic standards, standardized measurement, data-driven accountability, effective teachers and leaders, outcome-based funding, school choice and digital learning.

A team of researchers from the foundation gathered to rank legislators in each category on a scale of 0 to 100 to determine their final grades.

Some legislators fared well and even made the foundation's honor roll for their work. In the Senate, John Legg, Andy Gardiner, Bill Montford, and Jeremy Ring all made the honor roll, while Reps. Manny Diaz and Erik Fresen earned spots on the list from the House.

Incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, spearheaded a bill that would give parents of children with disabilities a certain amount of money to help pay for approved tutoring, therapy, textbooks or other educational expenses.

It is important that children with unique abilities and their parents have every opportunity available to them and this bill accomplishes that endeavor," Gardiner told Sunshine State News.

Other lawmakers, however, didnt do so well. Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, flunked the foundations report card, being the only senator to receive an F.

During this years legislative session, Bullard was one lawmaker who raised concerns over the expansion of the states voucher program. The Cutler Bay Democrat was particularly vocal over his distaste for the bill, going so far as to say that an organization in support of the legislation had been offering jobs as incentive to vote to pass it.

Bullard never specified which organization or lawmakers he was referring to.

Several House members received high marks for their work for Floridas education. Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, was one state representative who received an A grade.

Thank you@AFloridaPromise for honoring me with an "A" grade, Trujillo tweeted Friday. Bettering our children's education is my priority.

Other House members didnt receive great marks. Rep. Mark Danish, D-New Tampa, was one legislator who received a failing grade. Danish attributed his failing marks to the fact that the foundation is dominated by conservatives.

"They say it's not partisan, but it's definitely biased," Danish told Tampa-10 News.

But the foundation says thats not necessarily the case, considering the fact that Democratic senators made their honor roll list. In the Senate, 64 percent of the 14 Democrats listed received an "A" or a "B" grade.

All Democrats in the House, however, received failing grades.

I think its interesting that were giving lawmakers grades just like the students in our schools. Were holding them accountable for their support for student-centered policies, said the Foundation's Deputy Communications Director Allison Aubuchon. Teachers, parents and the public can use that information to see how their lawmakers support this issue.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen atAllison@sunshinestatenews.comor follow her on Twitter at@AllisonNielsen.

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