Charter school assigns supporting education bill as extra credit

HIALEAH GARDENS, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida charter school has asked students to complete petitions supporting an education bill but some say this is going too far.

The controversial House Bill 7069 has caused a bitter battle between school districts and charter schools over money.

When 7News spoke with Governor Rick Scott, he would not specify whether he’ll sign off on HB 7069. “I’m going line by line through the budget. I have a lot of options,” he said. “I’m going to act in the best interest of kids.”

The bill would boost the funding for charter schools, but public schools say that it’s at their expense.

The issue has gotten so intense that some are questioning whether charter schools like Mater Academy have gone too far.

7News obtained directions given to teachers at Mater Academy in Hialeah Gardens that tell them to review the bill and then direct students to complete the online petitions or write an hand-written letter in favor of the bill for “extra credit.”

The principal at Mater Academy, Judith Marty, denies the allegations. “No. We don’t force anybody to do anything,” she said.

When asked about the directions that specifically said the teachers will tell the students to express support for the bill, Marty said, “I didn’t send that direction. No.”

Marty said she has been out of town at a conference and was surprised to see the directive given to her teachers. “This went a little too far,” she said.

The instructions also said that “teachers will guide the student to write emails” to the governor’s staff and ensure that students “express support for HB 7069.”

The principal admitted that the instructions should have been reworded, but Mater Academy isn’t the only charter school which has done this.

On one school’s website, they offer parents five volunteer hours for writing to the governor.

The Miami-Dade County Teacher’s Union president called it “despicable” and says, “What is most disturbing is they are using students for political purposes.”

“I think it should have never been worded that way, and I will talk to whoever worded it,” Marty said. “Remember, I was in California, so you’re showing me something I have not seen. After I talk to you, I will call my assistant principals and say, ‘What is going on. Why the letter?'”

Scott said the bill has not gotten to his desk yet, but once it does, he’ll have 15 days to decide whether or not to sign it.

The lobbying effort, however, is sure to heat up between now and then.

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