Our First Concern
One of the veterinary clinics where I work has a bold headline at the bottom of all written pet records: “We consider your pet’s health our first concern.” This is to assure our clients that our top priority is not making money, or the joy of wearing scrubs, or petting adorable animals.
Wouldn’t it be nice if our current state Legislature had a similar motto? I’d love to see it somewhere in the vast 200 page bill HB 7055, which the Florida House passed on February 8. They could’ve sneaked it in anyplace, even at the end of the 11 pages reserved for the bill’s formal title alone – a clear notice of intent: “We consider your children’s education our first concern.”
Can you imagine it? I’m afraid you’ll have to, because it’s obvious from the content of this bill—which Florida Education Association (FEA) president Joanne McCall called a “monstrosity”—that quality public education is not their top priority. My incumbent opponent, in typical lock step with her Republican party, voted in favor of this awful legislation.
The FEA and Florida’s Teachers
The FEA represents 2/3 of the state’s 180,000 teachers, advocating for fair pay and representation and the necessary resources to support students across Florida. It’s no wonder they opposed this bill. HB 7055 is strongly anti-public education. It hobbles unions and funnels tax dollars away from already-starving public institutions, into charter and private school coffers.
Due to its decidedly anti-teacher intent, democratic lawmakers roundly opposed this bill. Rep. Kionne McGhee called it “HB 7069 on steroids.” (HB 7069 was last year’s massive and ill-conceived education bill, chock full of proposals still being challenged in court.)
In the FEA’s estimation, nothing in this bill does anything to address the serious day-to-day concerns of educators. There’s no help to be found for school infrastructure and teacher salaries, much less chronic teacher shortages—and HB 7055 has nothing to say about the high-stakes testing of Florida’s accountability system, which teachers and parents alike have repeatedly questioned.
Bully Voucher = Bad Idea
Even measures that initially sound reasonable, like the new bully voucher, are poorly conceived at best and hugely problematic at worst. Sending bullied students to private schools using public funds diverts up to $200 million dollars in taxpayer money to private and religious institutions. This siphons off the very cash flow that could be used to combat bullying on a broader scale. Additionally, Rep. Jared Moskowitz points out that children who have been victimized should not be forced to abandon their schools while the bullies remain.
Rep. Janet Cruz agrees. “I never want to see a child be bullied,” she said, “but I didn’t teach my daughter because someone bullied her that we should run away.” The State should be helping schools find constructive solutions to keep bullies under control and let the victims learn in peace.
Moving Forward Together
HB 7055 sends a very clear message to educators across Florida: public schools are being sold off, and our teachers are being sold out. But we will not sit idly by. Together we can stand up for our students throughout the state, and support their greatest advocates—the people who guide and mentor them in the classroom every day.
As always, thanks so much to each and every one of you for supporting my campaign. Please consider donating now so I can join the Legislature and work to make Florida schools better for each and every one of our kids…and the fine people who stand up for them in the classroom.
~Dr. Linda Jack