We started this week with two versions of the flexibility bill that I and others had championed for two years now. Turns out, a lot was riding on these bills on Thursday...more than we knew.
Depending upon your view point, one version of the bill offered a 100% solution, the other version, an 80% solution. The difference between the two boiled down to a single item – where the Students First Act that passed in 2011 was placed in the bills. We had reformed the tenure process in 2011 and I wanted to ensure those changes were protected. I was adamant that the tenure for current and future employees could not be affected by this bill and the Senate version prevented a school from flexing out of tenure at all. The House version allowed a school to offer traditional tenure route, or an alternative tenure route, to future employees. Some Senators did not like the alternative track and thus, we were at a deadlock.
Who knew what, how much they knew, and when they knew it will be debated for some time. What ensued next is best described in this article. I encourage you to read it.
As a personal note, I’m certain everyone has read the news articles and watched the newscast of the spectacle on the Senate floor Thursday night. It was not good. I not only had a front row seat, I was in the middle of it all. At one point during fiasco of a debate I looked up into the gallery and out onto the Senate floor and realized this was something like a scene from the recent movie “Lincoln”. Not our best showing as a legislative body.
At the present, everyone is focused on how the bill was passed and the new school choice (tax credit) section. I would like to reiterate that the flex portion we’ve championed for two years now remains intact. This benefits every student, teacher and school in the state. The tax credit portion only comes into play for children in persistently low performing schools. The goal is to have all schools performing at or exceeding standards. Additional information on the bill and comments from the Governor, Speaker, Pro-Tem and House sponsor are linked here.
I encourage everyone to read the Fact Sheet and the Accountability Bill but I guide readers to a few key points on the flexibility and tax credit below:
Teacher Pay Protected - (Page 12, Line 7)
Tenure protected - (Page 12, Line 10)
No Charter Schools - (Page 12, Line 18)
Failing School Tenure - (Page 12, Line 20) - current employees are protected, future employees have option.
Failing Schools Defined - (Page 6, Line 23)
School Choice - (Page 18, Line 8) - a parent has the choice of pulling their children from a failing school and placing them in another non-failing public school or a private school.
Gaining School Maintains Control - (Page 18, Line 17) - preventing over-crowding, the gaining public school maintains control if they are able to accept new children from outside their zone.
Income Tax Credit - (Page 15, Line 1) Parents exercising school choice, pulling their children from a documented failing school, placing them in a private school, can receive 80% of the state portion that the failing public school would receive from the state in a tax refund. The school maintains 20% of the funding. This tax credit only comes into play if a child is zoned for and moved from a failing school.
Federal Funds - (Page 10, Line 24) Funding such as Title 1, Child Nutrition and Special Education are not affected for the child.