On February 20 the Education Committee listened to public testimony on HB 7055. This is the bill that contained over 30 bills rolled into one. The senate amended this to cut down on the number of bills included. However it still contained a large number of bills. Two of the items in this bill are important to Speaker Corcoran: one was the "Bully Bill" and the other is the Collective Bargaining Bill. In the Bully Bill, if a child is "bullied" at their public school, they can request a voucher to attend a private for-profit charter school. This bill was amended somewhat by the senate to include transferring to another public school or charter school and additional parental participation. However, public money still goes to for-profit charter schools. This passed the Education Committee. The Collective Bargaining section says that if there are less than 50% of educators in a union, the union must petition for recertification. The only collective bargaining group this includes are teachers. This section did not pass the Education Committee on a vote of 5-4.
On February 27 the Appropriations Committee met to discuss HB 7055 and 42 other bills. The meeting started at 11 AM and ended at 6 PM with no breaks in between. HB 7055 was scheduled to be item #43 on the agenda. The chair has the flexibility to change the agenda. Thus, this bill started in discussion around 12:30. The bill was around 200 pages long with 17 amendments added to it. Even the legislators were confused as to some of the amendments. The "Bully Bill" section was barely mentioned. One of the amendments included reintroducing the Collective Bargaining bill another added arming teachers with concealed weapons. After over 2 hours, it was decided to postpone the vote. Most of the speakers urged the legislators to oppose many of the amendments to the bill.
At 5:30 PM the bill as amended, was again discussed. Due to time, additional public input was not allowed. The bill passed on a vote mostly along party lines: 9 nays and 11 yeas. (Voting No: Republicans: Anitere Flores and David Simmons: Democrats: Lauren Book, Randolph Bracy, Oscar Braynon, Audrey Gibson, Bill Montford, Bobby Powell, David Simmons and Linda Stewart.) The next step for this bill is the floor of the Senate. This will probably happen the last week of session (Mar.5-9). Because of the large number of bills that are included in this one bill, it is considered by some to be unconstitutional. However, as we learned last year with SB 7069 this doesn't stop implementation of the bill.
FREA and many other school groups oppose this bill. We want to improve public education, not move students to for-profit charter schools using public money.
Call your senator to encourage them to vote NO on SB 7055.