South Florida teachers urge Gov. Scott to veto bill affecting local schools

TAMARAC. FLA. (WSVN) - - Educators across South Florida are asking Florida Gov. Rick Scott to veto HB 7069, a bill with provisions that, they say, can have an adverse effect on the state’s public schools.

Speaking with reporters on Monday, members of the Broward Teachers Union and United Teachers of Dade said the bill cuts money for education and even closes some schools this summer, all to make space for private charter schools.

“I stand before you with education advocates from Dade, Broward and Palm Beach to call on Governor Rick Scott to veto HB 7069 and this devastating budget against public education,” said United Teachers of Dade member Antonio White.

Florida lawmakers opposed to the bill joined union members at the news conference in Tamarac. “It’s pretty much a slush fund, $140 million for private, for-profit charter corporations to open here in Florida,” said State Rep. Bobby DuBose.

The education bill was attached to an overall state budget, and BTU members said the bill will leave students at a disadvantage.

Union members said the bill will allow public funds to be used to construct privately owned buildings for use by private operators for the charter schools.

“Someone wants to make money on the back of our kids, on the back of our babies,” said Dr. Rosalind Osgood with the Broward County School Board. “We’ve had years and years of that, and it’s time for us to stand up today and to stop it.”

According to lawmakers, most legislators did not see the 278-page bill until late Friday, near the end of the legislative session, where they passed it, hoping to make changes.

“This is an unabashed money grab by private entities at the expense of our children,” said State Sen. Gary Farmer. “We owe it to ourselves, to our children, to our community to do everything we can to fight back.”

The bill also renews Best and Brightest Teachers bonus program, which gives teachers and principals bonuses based on their standardized test scores, among other things.

“As a teacher, I am very angry and insulted that they would even tie my salary to a test I took when I was 15 years old,” said Broward County School Board member Robin Bartleman.

“As you know, this budget was done in secret. I didn’t get to see it like you didn’t, didn’t get to see anything until the end,” said Scott. “A lot of these bills, especially these conforming bills, didn’t happen till the end of the last couple of days, and so we’re still reviewing them.”

Scott met with Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho Monday afternoon. “We’re very concerned,” said Carvalho. “No one can answer the question as to why create this crisis, a crisis that will be shouldered by children and by teachers. Not the right thing to do.”

Opponents of the bill indicated that Florida legislators started this session with a $3 billion surplus, and they questioned why they would even take money from public schools. “We ought to be funding education,” said Scott.

“They’re not putting it in our teachers’ pockets or in our schools. They’re lining the pockets of private, for-profit charter school companies, and they’re destroying public education,” said Bartleman.

Union members across South Florida are asking Scott to veto the bill so that legislators can go back to the table and create a brand-new one.

Carvalho said he and Scott agreed there were were some issues with the bill that need to be resolved. It remains to be seen what course of action the governor will take.

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