Vice President of the Florida Education Association Joanne McCall provides an effective response to Andy Gardiner’s shrill attack on the teacher’s she represents for their lawsuit against SB 850. With two days left in this year’s session, Gardiner allowed his bill addressing personal learning accounts for severely disabled students to be attached to SB 850 along with several other pieces of education legislation. Gardiner’s opinion piece cynically carved out his own bill as a metaphorical bloody shirt to demonize the state’s teachers as being against children with disabilities and their families. McCall explains in the Tampa Tribune:
Incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner, in his July 25 commentary in the Tribune (“Union trying to limit choices for students with disabilities,” Other Views), seemed to miss that point when talking about legislation that he favors concerning personal learning accounts for students with disabilities. This provision and another bill expanding the state’s corporate voucher program failed to pass in the Legislature on the day before session ended. The bills were filed, went through the committee process and ended up not being approved.
On the final day of the session, both these failed bills were attached to Senate Bill 850. When SB 850 was filed in February, it was a five-page bill that expanded Florida’s collegiate high school program. During its travels through committees in the Florida House and Senate, additional provisions were added that were unrelated to collegiate high schools. Three weeks from the end of the legislative session, the bill had grown to 40 pages and included provisions dealing with public school improvement and accountability, amendments to the Career and Professional Education Act and items related to dropout prevention, school hazing and middle grades reform.
The Florida Constitution contains restrictions to the Legislature’s authority to create laws, stating that “every law shall embrace but one subject … and the subject shall be briefly expressed in the title.” The legislation passed on the final day of session contains multiple subjects — including the expansion of vouchers — and these multiple subjects are not expressed briefly in the bill’s title.
And it’s not just that the bills were attached at the last minute, but they were changed from their final versions that had failed the day before. For those reasons, the Florida Education Association filed a lawsuit challenging the way SB 850 became law.
McCall’s much more measured tone as compared to Gardiner’s ear-piercing, selective outrage better serves Floridians as a better illustration of education policy and legislation.