I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Virtual Town Hall Meeting with Senator Don Gaetz 1-13-2016

The Florida Coalition of School Board Members hosted an online, town hall meeting of its membership and Senator (and former Senate President) Don Gaetz yesterday evening.  Counties from all around Florida were represented on this webinar, the subject of which was legislation that is important in the upcoming session.

Senator Gaetz was extremely gracious as he described several bills of interest, fielded questions from our members, and gave his thoughts on what would be necessary for these bills' passage this session.

SB 672, the Education Options Bill, passed out of the Senate 39-0 yesterday, and the Senator believed it would pass in the House as well, where it is headed today.

SB1360, Alternative Assessments Bill, allows local districts the option to choose alternative, paper and pencil and/or computer based assessments from known entities like ACT or SAT--or such districts could stick with the FSA.  Gaetz described passing this bill as a "heavy lift."

SB 1426, Membership Organizations:  We were all delighted to hear that Senator Gaetz has signed-on as a co-sponsor to this bill, a bill which we strongly support because it gives individual school

 board members the option to "opt-out" of paying dues to taxpayer funded advocacy organizations.  This is a priority bill for FCSBM this session, although Sen. Gaetz says this will be a tough bill to pass.

SB 684 Choice In Sports--allows parents to enroll their student in any school in Florida that has space available, to participate in sports that are not offered at the home school.  Gaetz stated that there would be significant penalties for any "recruiting" that might be attempted under this bill, but he feels strongly that parents should be able to move their students from their zoned school if particular sports are not offered---and we all agreed.

When asked his thoughts on the recent SBOE decision on cut scores, Pres. Gaetz was circumspect.  "I'm not the expert on setting the cut scores, so I believe in the process."  "I hope I'm wrong, I really do, but I hope this was not done for political reasons in order to regain the public's trust in Florida's accountability system by setting the scores lower.  I hope I am wrong on this, I don't want this to be the reality" He reiterated.

When asked about the best way to help advocate for these bills, the Senator gave several tips.  "Get media attention on these bills, write letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, etc.  Additionally, let the sponsors of each bill know that you strongly support the bills and that you appreciate their standing in the breach, putting themselves out there with some of these bills."   He continued "Calling your area delegation is helpful, but go and see them face to face and tell them which bills you support and why---nothing is more effective than visiting your delegation face to face."

We thanked Pres. Gaetz for his time, and we plan to have one or more of these calls with him prior to the end of the session.

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