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School Board discusses legislative priorities

By Staff | Aug 1, 2012

Recommended legislative priorities were discussed during the Lee County School District board meeting Tuesday afternoon that continues to focus on adequate and stable funding, along with what is in the best interest of the students.

Bob Cerra of Cerra Consulting Group said the state budget is going to eventually turn around and provide opportunities for the legislature to increase money and put it towards something that will be helpful.

Some of those areas include increasing the amount of school days, as well as the school year, along with enhancing student services and improving funding to support increased instructional time.

“Enhancing student services should become a top priority,” Cerra said.

Board member Jane Kuckel said the priorities should include sited research studies as well to indicate where the research stands.

The priorities also include charter school equity, Cerra said, to re-establish charter school administrative fees. He said the goal is to provide regulatory equity between charter schools and regular schools.

“The average district was spending twice as much on services than being provided,” Cerra said, which was made possible because of a study done by the Legislature.

He stated that charter schools are given leeway on the flexibility of a number of laws.

Board member Jeanne Dozier asked if they should include additional verbiage regarding the charter schools. She said the district acts as the overseer, which empowers them to have more authority.

“We just experienced something that is affecting our district with two charter schools,” she said. “We might want to consider putting in a talking point to segue what happened … give an example of how many thousands of dollars we are talking about.”

Dozier said if the district had more authority over the day-to-day operations, it probably would not have gone so long without being noticed.

“Something we might want to put in here to identify and educate our legislative body because of that,” she said. “I think we need something to segue.”

Another topic Cerra touched upon was capital outlay needs, which are the exact same as the previous year. He said it is important to re-establish an appropriate share of PECO (public education capital outlay) dollars, which are state dollars for capital outlay.

“One point in time that source was kicking out over a billion dollars every year,” he said. “In each of the last two years, charters received in the neighborhood of $55 million and public schools received nothing. That is not what we think PECO is established for.”

The last point that was discussed was the state accountability system due to the number of challenges the district is facing. Cerra said the district knew the writing test was going to be scored in a different way, FCAT 2.0 administration and the cut scores were going to be changed.

Cerra said the state of Florida and the Department of Education had problems implementing the rules.

The language put forth will require an independent review that is designed to create fairness for students, teachers, administrators and districts. Cerra said it will require a minimum 12-month notice if any changes to the accountability system take place.

“I hope we make a difference,” Kuckel said. “After this election I think we need to grab a hold of our legislators very early on … get some responses from them. We have to be a little more assertive this year.”

Dozier said there are already some individuals out there that are having discussions around public education.

“They want to be brought up to speed very rapidly and understand what our need is,” she said. “The beginning of conversations are taking place right now.”

Dozier said it is imperative to build these relationships early on and extend the hand of education to them.

“They need for us to be able to provide them with the background knowledge,” she said.