During yesterday’s Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, and quick little sidebar away from the microphones occurred between four senators. The sponsor of the senate version (SB 616) of high-stakes testing reform, Senator John Legg was huddled with Senator’s David Simmons, Bill Galvano, and Alan Hays. The later, Hays, had filed an amendment to Legg’s bill which would have ended 3rd grade retentions and hold harmless all stakeholders from the results of new FSA tests until they were found to be valid.
A few minutes later, Hays pulled his amendment in favor of a watered down amendment by Simmons. Galvano was there to tell his republican colleague that he didn’t have the votes and Simmons made sure that Hays had a way to save face. Legg was there because it was his bill and he had obviously informed Hays that he was going to classify his amendment as an unfriendly one.
During Hays remarks surrounding his amendment and his decision to pull it, it was clear he believed in it. Maybe Simmons did, too. But because there weren’t enough republican votes for it yesterday in Appropriations, that it was best that it not suffer a defeat. Hence, the senate has the spirit of Hays amendment in its place in the form of Simmons’ amendment.
Legg later reportedly refused to meet with a group of parents because they weren’t from his district. They met with Legg’s chief of staff, Jim Browne instead. When addressing the parents concerns about special populations among the bottom 20 percent of a bell curve, Browne curiously replied that “they didn’t care about the bottom 2o percent.”
The words of Legg’s chief of staff indicate that Legg and republican leadership don’t want to be challenged on FSA validity in general and 3rd grade retention in particular even in the face of real test validity issues. While Simmons has done a good job of pointing out to his colleagues that FSA has real validity problems and that Pam Stewart’s FDOE isn’t being entirely candid, he’s not known to bucking leadership. But Hays will.
It’s fair to wonder whether or not Hays thought back yesterday to 2012 when he told Jeb Bush, “No.” Hays had been a sponsor of a controversial parent trigger bill but voted against the bill in a dispute with then senate president Mike Hairodololis. Bush dispatched an influential member of Hays’ community, Gary Lester, VP of the Villages retirement community to call on Hays. Hays held firm.
Bush later attributed the defeat – via a 20-20 tie – was due to the senate’s “Byzantine traditions.” Odd for a guy who doesn’t mind being referred to as Veto Corleone. In 2012, Bush Corleone sent Luca Brasi from the Villages to make Hays an offer he couldn’t refuse, but Hays refused. Who could blame Hays if he thought Bush just used other lieutenants yesterday.
Hays has a lot on his plate during this session – he was ripped by the Ocala Star-Banner today in his role as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, so he cannot be blamed for looking to do a little horse trading. But Hays has demonstrated that he will take on the big boys and it was quite clear yesterday that he believed in his amendment.
Somehow, you just know Hays’ amendment will make its way to the senate floor. A vote by Bush’s lieutenants against Hays amendment or even Simmons’ watered down version will show they aren’t concerned about FSA’s validity and what it might mean for Florida kids.