Florida lawmakers to vote on bill unpopular among local school leaders

Florida lawmakers will vote Monday on whether to finalize several budget-related bills.

Among them is a measure that would make big changes to Florida schools.

Incentivizing charter schools, adding mandatory recess, increasing bonuses for teachers are parts of a massive education bill state lawmakers will be voting on Monday.

But many education administrators, like Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, have called the bill inadequate.

Vitti is heavily critical of the bill, including the “Schools of Hope” provision, which would incentivize the establishment of charter schools across Florida.

Public schools that earn a D or an F grade for three years could be closed and reopened as a charter school, or some of the students at that failing school would be transferred.

That potentially includes Ribault, Matthew Gilbert, and Northwestern middle schools.

Vitti tweeted out,“Schools of Hope will inevitably lead to multiple urban school closures and overcrowding outside of the urban core #norealsolution."

This provision, as well as the entire bill, has support from certain local lawmakers, like Rep. Jason Fischer, a former Duval County School Board member.

“It’s clear our schools have been failing for awhile," Rep. Jason Fischer said over the phone Sunday with Action News Jax. "And people have to do things differently.”

Another criticism of the bill is a perceived lack of transparency from lawmakers. The education provisions were crammed into an 278-page bill Friday.

Action News Jax Kevin Clark asked parents Sunday if they trust that lawmakers could read the entire bill in three days and make an informed decision Monday. Most said no.

Vitti tweeted, “This bill was completed in the Tallahassee shadows, behind closed doors, without public input.”

Fischer shrugged off the allegations of a lack of transparency.

“We’ve been debating education policy since we started having committee week," Fischer said. "None of the ideas that I think that have been put forward are ideas that haven’t discussed at any point.”

Action News Jax reached out to several lawmakers Sunday night but did not hear from them.

Lawmakers have already voted Friday to send session into overtime, for Monday's final voting.

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