Lee schools superintendent calls for veto of education bill

FORT MYERS, Fla. Dozens of Lee County teachers stood behind Superintendent Dr. Gregory Adkins on Wednesday as he called on Gov. Rick Scott to veto a controversial education bill.

Scott is expected to sign the measure, known as House Bill 7069, that would expand the use of charter schools in Florida and provide bonuses to high-performing teachers and principals. If the bill becomes law, it would take effect July 1.

The governor nonetheless deflected questions on the bill with state lawmakers in the midst of a three-day special session to hammer out the budget.

“We’re still reviewing (HB) 7069 but I believe that we’re on a pathway to have a very good special session,” Scott said. “I am going to work to make sure that everything we do is good for all students.”

Adkins’ message was clear.

“This legislation will harm our schools, cut programs to our students and make it harder to recruit effective and highly effective teachers,” Adkins said.

The superintendent sent a letter to Scott in May outlining his concerns over the bill, which the legislature passed during its regular session. It would cost the school district at least $45 million over the next five years, according to Adkins.

“House Bill 7069 takes your tax dollars and requires us to send them to for-profit corporations that run charter schools,” he said.

Adkins pointed to rapid growth in the district’s student population and expressed fear the bill would erode job security for teachers.

State Sen. David Simmons, a Republican from Altamonte Springs, floated a idea to rework the bill late Wednesday.

Simmons, who chairs the chamber’s education budget-writing subcommittee, proposed gutting many of the provisions of the bill and using the funds contained in it to boost school spending across the board.

One of Simmons’ proposals would take $100 million from the “schools of hope” program, which would in part aid charter schools that open near academically struggling public schools, and instead devote it solely to providing more services at the struggling schools.

Another would take $389 million from HB 7069, essentially defunding everything except a program for students with disabilities.

Information from The News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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