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House Approves 'Schools of Hope' Bill to Save Failing Florida Schools

April 13, 2017 - 3:30pm
Chris Latvala and Mike Bileca
Chris Latvala and Mike Bileca

Hope is on the horizon to turn around Florida’s failing schools.  On Thursday, Florida House lawmakers approved a plan to turn around failing public schools and “bring hope” back to Florida students.  

Legislators approved the “Schools of Hope” bill by a vote of 77-40. Democrats unanimously voted against the bill.

HB 5105, sponsored by Reps. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Mike Bileca, R-Miami, would speed up the time for school districts to turn around failing schools in Florida. The proposal would also set aside $200 million in startup costs to attract new charter schools for students attending failing schools statewide. 

The allotted funds would pay for teacher recruitment and extending school days. It would affect 77,000 Florida students stuck in 115 “D” and “F” schools statewide. 

Under current law, Florida schools are given three years to turn around failing schools, but HB 5105 would slash a year off that timeline and give districts only two years to fix “failure factories.”

Members debated the proposal for hours, disagreeing over how effective the bill would be and how much ‘hope’ HB 5105 would actually give to students trapped in failing schools. 

To opponents of the measure, the proposal was too risky -- and the rewards were less than certain.

“Essentially that is what this bill is doing…[is] hoping [schools] would have that same success again,” said Rep. Kamia Brown, D-Ocoee, who criticized the measure for ‘throwing money’ at out-of-state charter programs. “That key word is ‘hope.’”

“This is a deeply flawed bill,” said Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura. “It seems to me, that to some degree, this is a departure that is not...based on facts and evidence. Despite some good intentions, all stakeholders, including our kids, have really not been taken into sufficient account here.”

Geller and House Democrats contended there was no guarantee the legislation would actually work and urged their fellow lawmakers to instead pump the $200 million into the public school system. 

Florida has been there, and done that, Republicans said -- and to no avail.

“We’ve done that already,” said Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia. “We’ve tried that, and it didn’t work.”

The time is now, GOP representatives said, to change the course of Florida’s failing schools.

“It’s time that we provide families with more options than they are currently [given],” said Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia. “It’s time for a new approach and new strategies. It’s no longer okay to say ‘no’ to these kids sitting in these failing classrooms.”

All 115 schools targeted in the legislation have been failing for at least three years, while one school in Jacksonville has received a failing grade for over 10 years. 

“I firmly believe the best opportunity for our traditional public to see these examples of excellence,” said Rep. Bileca.

“A zip code should not be the determining factor of a student's success in Florida,” 

The charter schools, called “hope operators” would operate under a performance-based agreement, receiving a yearly letter grade similar to public schools. If a school fails to meet the agreement, school districts could put the kibosh on the charters and shut them down early. Part of the performance-based agreement for charter schools would require schools to be graded like all other public schools statewide. 

HB 5105 is a relatively new bill in the state legislature, but lawmakers wasted no time pushing it through committees at warp speed after introducing it late last month. 

A top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, the bill aims to have nonprofit organizations with histories of success head to Florida and make success stories out of failing schools, but it appears it might not be that easy.

A POLITICO article found many of the organizations Corcoran mentioned to put failure factories on the path to improvement have no plans to open up schools in Florida at this time.

The bill now heads to the Senate for approval.



The schools are "failing because the state is using a "ONE TOOL" fits all approach to decide what meaningful learning is taking place. You cannot use one assessment to reliably discern whether or not a child has made learning gains, then use the same test to judge the teacher and the whole school. You would not use a thermometer to judge a person's overall health, so why should we use ONE TEST to determine all of these very important decisions. No matter what side of the politics you're on, it makes no sense to use one tool. Oh and by the way, how can you determine IF the charters/ private schools are doing better job, when most do not have to take that same assessment? The test company is robbing the kids blind, and the state is skewing the results to further the agenda... Way to go FloriDUH....

The Dems and Teacher Unions will block every effort to improve our educational system in Florida. They want Trump to fail at all cost, no matter who it hurts. If there is improvement in our schools during the Trump administration, Floridians will not know about it. I see Letters to the Editor in the Sun Sentinel from people who think President Trump has done NOTHING to Make America Great Again so far. I feel so sorry for these people because they are not getting the news they deserve from the mainstream media - especially biased, agenda driven newspapers. Thank you, Sunshine State News!

If you want to improve the schools -- get rid of the teacher's union and stop their union from being able to donate the dues $$$'s to politicians (they donate mainly to the dems). When the politicians are no longer 'owned' by the teacher's union -- you will see them actually start caring and helping the students.

Isn't this what you said that was what was gonna happen when you wanted the Lottery in Florida?

Thank you.... they robbed the state funding now they say public schools are failing, but can guess why? "They" want to privatize and rob some more from our kids.

Lawmakers plan to give money to Charters, but hold them less accountable. To not hold Charters to the same standards is unfair to public schools and disastrous for students. I don't understand how doing so could be either legal or Constitutional. At the very least it is crooked and hypocritical

GEEZ..!!! House Lawmakers, in their "HEY, LOOK AT ME !" frantic grasp at personal attention could 'screw up' a Birthday Cake when they put their "block heads" together..! WHATSAMATTER BOYS?!?!?...can't wait until Trumps SecEd Betsy DeVos "puts out a plan" before you "put in your two cents" trying to look smarter than you ever had hoped to have been before (when the "playing field" was ALL YOURS and Florida's schools were STILL letting in flawed teachers and turning out flawed students)??? The National Teachers' Union, under Randi Weingarten is a useless "cancer" that only protects incompetent teachers (and the Union itself) and are anomalous to a "Right to Work" State. Randi Weingarten was once the President of the New York City Teachers Union too.... and that system consistently turned out abject failures who couldn't read or write and were virtually unemployable...

Spoken like someone who has never been near a public school. Of course flawed teachers and flawed students are in the system ....they are HUMAN BEINGS. Until parents and the community pitch in and do their part, students won't succeed. Without every engine part working, the car won't run! Wake up and do your part instead of pointing fingers and complaining. Be part of the solution instead of part of the problem!

Anybody "proofread" this nonsense? (If they cant do it in 3 years, let's make them do it in 2 years, and give them 200 million more taxpayer dollars to fail sooner). The democrats won't participate in this because they are laughing themselves silly.

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