Here we go again!

Last Thursday, the House voted 66 yeas to 43 nays to pass HB 7055.  Once again, legislative leadership rolled good and bad policy into one massive conforming bill, hoping that rank-and-file House members and the general public would believe that the good in the bill outweighs the bad. (Spoiler alert, it doesn’t.)

What is HB 7055? Just like last year’s infamous HB 7069, it is an omnibus megabill that that runs to 198 pages, is as hard to understand as a Shakespeare play, and is almost as tragic.  Included in this train bill is HB1, the Hope Scholarship, which would allow students to transfer to another school—public or private, secular or religious—if bullied, harassed, robbed, or assaulted.  The bill provides no guarantee that the victim will be safer at a new school. It never addresses what happens to the culprit, who—apparently—can remain on site to target additional victims. Instead, it simply creates a whole new voucher program that will funnel an estimated $40 million of our tax dollars into private schools. It sets a new precedent by offering subsidies even to those who can well afford to spend their own funds on private school education. Bottom Line: The Hope Scholarship expands taxpayer-subsidized private school choice without offering sustainable solutions or increasing private school accountability.

Also included in HB 7055 are a vast range of additional, unrelated provisions.  One would allow principals to manage more than 1 school. Another would offer students in grades 3-5 who earn a 1 or 2 on the FSA ELA exam a small subsidy to use for private sector reading interventions.  Still another would make it more difficult for districts to shut down unsuccessful charter schools. Others would allow for paper and pencil administration of statewide assessments through 8th grade, an increase in Title 1 funding for high schools, and expansion of the Principal Autonomy Program.  Most egregious is a provision that is not even in HB 7055, but rather in the House budget bill: it links K-12 appropriations to passage of HB 7055, thereby presenting lawmakers with an ultimatum—“pass HB 7055, or we won’t fund schools.”

With the effects of HB 7069 still unknown, why is legislative leadership pushing through another bill that is hard to read and tied to the 8-billion-dollar education budget?

Please stayed tuned…as HB 7055 moves to the Senate for consideration, we will be sending out action alerts. We are going to need our collective voices to stop this train in its tracks.

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