First Amendment Foundation joins call for Scott veto of education measure

IMG_1635 (1)Add the First Amendment Foundation to the chorus of voices asking Gov. Rick Scott to veto a sweeping education bill.

The proposal includes $419 million for teacher bonuses and other spending outside of the main per-student education funding in the state’s annual spending plan.

Associations representing Florida school boards and school superintendents have asked Scott to axe the bill (HB 7069), perhaps best known for its inclusion of a funding program for “schools of hope,” including charter schools in areas with academically struggling traditional schools, and an expansion of the “Best and Brightest” teacher bonus system.

In a letter to Scott sent Tuesday, FAF President Barbara Petersen said her open-government organization isn’t objecting to the public policy in the proposal, but has concerns related “only to the lack of transparency in the process by which major policy decisions regarding Florida’s education system were decided.”

The measure — which includes pieces of roughly a dozen separate bills considered during the legislative session — emerged from budget negotiations late in the legislative session that ended earlier this month.

The policy decisions included in the bill “were largely decided in secret by a small number of legislators,” Petersen wrote.

“The secretive process precluded any opportunity for public oversight or input on major changes to Florida’s education policy.   Alarmingly, local school officials were also shut out of the process, as were many legislators who were ultimately asked to approve this voluminous and complicated legislation decided in a manner closed even to them,” she went on.

“Our citizens deserve the respect and the commitment of our elected leaders to uphold our Florida Sunshine laws, a 33 years old tradition and benchmark of good government,” Petersen, a lawyer, concluded.