School board reviews draft of legislative priorities for 2011
Members of the Lee County School Board looked over the draft of the 2011 Legislative Priorities Thursday.
Bob Cerra, the school district’s lobbyist, presented the draft during an afternoon meeting and highlighted any additions or changes. The first issue listed on the draft is platform school funding.
Since the economic crash of 2008, the Lee County School District has seen its budget dwindle from $1.55 billion to $1.39 billion, and district’s lobbying efforts are directed at asking the Florida Legislature to find a more stable funding source.
Superintendent James Browder said he supports an extension of the academic year in Lee County. For many years the district has operated on a 180-day calendar with time off during the summer — historically formulated to help families who farm — but Browder has said he wants to see it extended.
Cerra said the United States is one of the few countries to keep the agrarian school year, but if it were extended, he said costs would go to expanding instruction and not other administrative items.
“The vast majority of the cost of it is flat out in instruction and student services where you would want it,” he said.
Teachers and the school board are also concerned that the Florida Legislature will present a bill mirroring Senate Bill 6, which would institute performance pay for teachers based on student test scores. The district’s platform stresses local control over setting salary schedules.
Cerra said that since 1997 the Legislature has passed 10 different laws on teacher performance pay and that each of these laws have been completely different.
“None of them have built on the previous one, each has been totally separate and different,” said Cerra.
Lee County School Board Member Jeanne Dozier said she asked for the performance pay item to be placed at the top of the draft platform so teachers would know how dedicated the board is on not letting a new SB 6 pass.
“Funding is our most important issue, but we wanted to honor the teachers and we respect our teachers here,” said Dozier. “Putting it in this place on our platform notifies them that we don’t appreciate SB 6 and we don’t want it to come back.”
The school board also wants to demand that the state find a more reliable way of scoring exams like the FCAT. The scores for the 2010 FCAT were delayed into the summer because of software glitches through NCS Pearson’s software, and as a result student scheduling and other important decisions were postponed.
Furthermore, the board members want to stress that if end-of-course exams become the norm, they want to see the state institute a faster, more reliable way of getting the results to schools.
The Class Size Amendment is a huge issue for districts across the state. If districts aren’t in compliance by this school year, they have to pay fines to the state. The Lee County School Board legislative platform asks that those monetary penalties be removed.
The school board will vote to adopt the platform in August before the next legislative session.