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By Florence Brainerd, FRA Legislative Advocate

March 2007

2007 General Session

Newly elected Governor Charlie Crist announced in his inaugural address in January that the State of Florida is “STRONG, and it is promising”.

His concerns are property insurance, taxes, health care, education, environment, and stem cell research, to name a few.

He ended his speech with a reminder to the legislative body “It is we, and not they, who are the servants.

So let us serve them well.”

In his speech, Governor Crist proposed that almost $300 million be spent to increase teacher salaries, $3.8 billion for class size reduction, $26 million to recruit and employ an additional 400 reading coaches – that’s one reading coach for every 20 teachers, $10 million for a virtual tutoring program, and funding for state universities and community colleges without raising tuition.

House Speaker Marco Rubio on Opening Day Session expressed his own ideas for better education:

1) Do away with the sunshine state standards and create a new curriculum comparable to leading world education systems;
2) Insure all Florida children graduate high school and go to college or be nationally certified in a trade or career;
3) Recognize that, while we must hold all children to the same high standards, some need more help than others.

In a recent House Education Budget Committee meeting, members broke ranks with the Governor’s budget plans, offering less for teacher bonuses and a 5% tuition increase at universities and community colleges.

In the $1.2 billion House Education Budget, this represents about $200 million short of the Governor’s proposal.

Education Issues

Of the many education bills filed so far this session, a few deal with reading issues and one with teacher preparation programs:

HB 451/SB 1214 - Teacher Preparation Programs – Rep. Proctor & Sen. Wise.

This is not a “friendly” to the profession. It was made a rule several years ago, and then repealed.

HB 332 – Student Progression – Sen. Wilson.

This is a second-try bill and has no Senate companion bill. It has been Temporarily Passed twice in committees.

HB 1435/SB 630 – Teaching students in grades 1-3 – Rep. Holloway & Sen. Wilson.

Those reading below grade level would be placed into an intensive reading lab. Principals are encouraged to ask for donations for instructional materials.

HB 1567/SB 344 – Voluntary PreK Program – Rep. Gelber & Sen. Wilson.

It revises the number of instructional hours required, credential requirements, calculations for funding, etc.

Capitol Days In Tallahassee

FRA’s Capitol visit on February 21-22 included President Mary Ann Clark, President-Elect Deb Wellman, and Governmental Relations Interim Chair and former President Margaret Janz, as well as Legislative Advocate Florence Brainerd.

With “white paper” list of FRA Issues in hand, the group visited with key education leadership in the House, Senate, and DOE. The message was simple – “continue the funding and interest in reading at the middle and high schools, but please remember to keep the status quo in the early grades”. Teacher Quality was emphasized as well as supporting “qualified” reading coaches in every school.

IRA Government Relations Workshop

Legislative Advocate Florence Brainerd attended the IRA Government Relations Workshop in Washington, DC in February on behalf of FRA.

After two days of engaging speakers and information, a jaunt in the snow to the nation’s capitol was made by all the attendees, visiting Senators and Representatives from respective states and districts. The visits were made personal and professional by the congressmen and their aides. They were all very well informed on Florida education issues. Attending members of the workshop were armed with IRA education issues and were briefed before meetings with their congressmen.

Many IRA issues addressed were similar concerns of reading associations throughout the nation.
For example –

  • Reauthorization of “No Child Left Behind Act”, with suggested changes.
  • Adolescent Literacy
  • Teacher Preparation
  • English Language Learners

Interim Commissioner of Education

Jeanine Blomberg has been appointed interim Commissioner of Education until a committee search finds a suitable candidate to replace John Winn, who retired in February.

Chief of Staff Blomberg has been with DOE since 1976.