Florida just passed a controversial new education bill

Like high school, it’s been dramatic.

Last week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed H.B. 7069, a massive education bill that creates major budgetary changes for public schools across the state. The bill diverts funding from traditional public schools and sends it to charter schools, which are also funded by taxpayers but not regulated as closely by the state. ThinkProgress’s Phoebe Gavin breaks down why this piece of legislation was so controversial in the Sunshine State.

You’re watching an episode of “In Session,” a weekly series exploring interesting policy changes on the state level.

TRANSCRIPT:

PHOEBE GAVIN, THINKPROGRESS: As students packed up their backpacks and got ready for summer vacation, Florida passed a controversial bill that intensified the fight between charter schools and traditional public schools

So, let’s back up a second here. Yes, charter schools are public schools, but they are run by private institutions and therefore are not subject to the same kinds of regulations as traditional public schools

MEAN GIRLS: That’s against the rules, and you can’t sit with us.

GAVIN: And because charter schools aren’t as regulated, their results have been all over the map. Sometimes they perform much better than traditional public schools, sometimes they promise parents the world and do worse.

FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH: F-F

GAVIN: In fact, charter schools have a worse track record than traditional schools in Florida. So what does this bill mean for education in the Sunshine State Well,the bill is huge — 278 pages to be exact.

There’s a lot in it, including daily recess and expanding vouchers for students with disabilities, which pretty much everyone can get behind.

But it’s the bill’s provisions about funding for charter schools that has caused an uproar. Districts have a certain budget, millions of dollars across the state, to spend on school construction. This bill forces districts to share that money with charter schools.

10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU: This isn’t a negotiation.

GAVIN: It also sets aside $140 million to build additional charter schools in low-income areas so they can directly compete with neighborhood schools.

House Republicans, who crafted the bill, said traditional public schools don’t need the funds:

HOUSE SPEAKER RICHARD CORCORAN: They are building $40 million Taj Mahals up and down the state.

GAVIN: But opponents, like the Superintendent of Lee County, say the money is essential for the public school system.

SUPERINTENDENT GREGORY ADKINS: It is legislation that has a major impact on our public education system, yet neither educators, nor the public, were ever given the opportunity for input.

GAVIN: The bill was written behind closed doors, it wasn’t even released to the public until 3 days before the end of an already extended session. And since it’s a budget bill, the legislature couldn’t debate or make amendments.

BRING IT ON: This is not a democracy, it’s a cheer-ocracy. I’m sorry, but I’m overruling you.

GAVIN: It only passed the senate by 1 vote. Then, Floridians started weighing in.

NEWS 6: Calling it dangerous and a slush fund for charter schools.

GAVIN: Some charter schools in Miami-Dade county even offered students extra credit if they told the governor they supported the bill. And in the end, Governor Rick Scott chose to sign it at one of Florida’s charter schools that will be receiving funding as a result of the bill.

GOVERNOR SCOTT: We can look at these students, all these smiling faces, their lives will be better. They’ll have the opportunity to live their dreams in this country.

GAVIN: What this controversial bill means for education in the Sunshine state is yet to be seen. But the fact is the bill is diverting money away from traditional public schools towards a system that fails at a much higher rate.

FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF: You’re still here? It’s over. Go home. Go.