April, 2015

In a stunning reversal of an excellent amendment, Senator Montford refused to refile his amendment explicitly holding students harmless for the accountability of the hopelessly invalid Florida Standards Assessment to conform with Senator Legg's very  late filed delete-all. A new amendment, coded 416186, filed by Senators Montford, Gaetz, and Legg requires psychometric validity to hold harmless ONLY personnel evaluations and the school grading system. Students are still in grave jeopardy, especially third grade students who are still under the Simmons amendment language, which does not mention the issue of retention at all, mentioning only performance, so not really protecting them from retention. The high school graduation is now tied to the 2013-14 data which, as admitted by the Department of Education,  is not really all that valid either. And the choice on the entity is now rigged to a decision by legislative leaders and the governor who have an interest in choosing an organization that will validate the test no matter what.  Unfortunately, as a co-sponsor, Senator Hays did not have a choice in this matter.  That amendment passed. 
"This is a sad betrayal of our children being done at the behest of the Jeb Bush model of "accountability" at all costs and beyond all reason" said Dr. Karen Effrem, executive director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition (FSCCC), an organizations of over fifty statewide and local groups. "The children and taxpayers of Florida will pay dearly for this as unaccountable foundations, corporations, and political candidates are enriched."
"I have been contacted by several attorneys that are ready to sue the state and districts over this issue, and tragically, this new amendment will only help that effort at a tremendous, but unnecessary cost," said Randy Osborne, director of education for great FSCCC partner Florida Eagle Forum.
"The students and taxpayers of Florida deserve far better than this," said Catherine Baer, chairwoman of wonderful FSCCC partner The Tea Party Network. "This move will only further accelerate grassroots furor at the national and corporate takeover of our schools through the Common Core (AKA Florida) Standards, these horrific tests, and the accompanying data collection system, and will likely hurt candidates at any level that support these concepts."
"Our children should be the first concern of the Florida Legislature, but as we have seen this has become an issue that has left children in a state of confusion and angst," said Danielle Alexandre from another key partner, the Liberty First Network. "We expect more out of our elected officials. To ignore the plights of our youngest students is unconscionable and should not be tolerated."
Also, sadly, we regretfully and apologetically report that on further examination, the problematic third grade retention language from the House IS in the Legg delete-all on lines 786-788.  This will puts ALL third grade students in jeopardy of retention, not just the ones who have a documented reading deficiency and will make opting out much more difficult.  
The three amendments that could have helped this bill be worthy of support, and for which we are grateful and strongly supported, were all defeated. 

1)      Senator Hays' amendment filed this morning, coded 338688, that requires instead of currently leaving optional the teaching of critical topics found in statute 1003.42 including our heritage of freedom in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution; the events of the Holocaust and 911; and the contributions of women, African Americans and Hispanics.
2)      Senator Bullard's amendment now, coded 288222, allowing the district choice of a nationally norm-referenced, already validated test that we discussed yesterday.
3)      Senator Bullard's amendment, now coded 654570, requiring a paper and pencil option at least until the online system is load tested and independently verified as did not happen before the FSA writing test, also discussed yesterday.
There was no time to have you contact senators about these new amendments and changes. We waited to see the outcome before sending this update. We are extremely grateful to Senators Hays and Bullard for their efforts. However, there is now really nothing in this bill worth supporting.  PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATORS TO VOTE NO ON SB 616 AND ANY ADOPTION OF HB 7069!  The legislative sausage making process is ugly and was particularly so today. Thanks to the control by the established corporate interests and political pressure, that effort despite your great work has played out to completion not in our favor. Now we will have to continue to work in the opt-out, constitutional, legal, and political realms. Thank you for your support and for all you do!

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