North Florida lawmakers score high in education report card

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A total of 10 state legislators representing parts of North Florida made a grade of ‘A’ or better on their education report cards for 2017.

The nonprofit organization Foundation for Florida’s Future released yearly report cards on Thursday for all state legislators. The grades given are based on individual efforts to improve the quality of education in Florida and include details such as voting records on student-centered policies and initiatives.

Originally founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 1995, the Foundation for Florida’s Future began issuing the annual scorecards back in 2008. Bush continues to serve as President of the public policy organization.

Among those that made the “honor roll” this year were Republican Senators Aaron Bean and Rob Bradley, as well as Republican Rep. Jason Fischer.

“With great enthusiasm, Sen. Aaron Bean led the charge in the Senate to increase quality charter options by creating a pathway for high-impact charter operators with a history of success to enter our state,” the organization said of Bean’s efforts. “Sen. Bean also shared how KIPP Jacksonville Schools is helping students realize their full potential.”

Bean, who received a grade of ‘A+’, was involved in introducing several education-related bills, that were deemed companions to the highly-contested HB 7069, which ended up being signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott earlier this month.

The omnibus bill includes bits and pieces of Bean’s SB 796, which called for new eligibility criteria for high-impact school operators, an elimination of regulatory barriers that delay access to “high-quality” schools and funding for the creation of high-impact schools in low-performing districts.

Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, also received a grade of ‘A+’ for his educational efforts during the 2017 legislative session.

“Sen. Rob Bradley advocated for a number of student-centered policies, including legislation designed to give teachers more time to teach and empower parents with information to support their child’s learning,” the organization said.

Parts of a Bradley co-sponsored bill, SB 926, were included in the final form of HB 7069. Legislative language calling for the dissemination of more accurate information regarding student grades and academic progress to parents was picked up by the bill. Also adopted was language regarding excused absences for religious purposes and therapy associated with autism spectrum disorder.

The newly elected Republican Rep. from Jacksonville, Jason Fischer, was noted for the educational experience he brought to Tallahassee. Fischer was the lone representative from North Florida to receive an ‘A+’ for their efforts.

“Rep. Jason Fischer used his past experience as a local school board member to provide valuable insights on how Florida can best serve the needs of students,” the organization wrote. “Whether advocating on behalf of students with special needs or those needing additional reading resources, Rep. Fischer demonstrated his commitment to overall student success.”

Other North Florida legislators who ranked high on the scoreboard with a grade of ‘A’ were Senators Travis Hutson and Keith Perry, as well as Representatives Cord Byrd, Bobby Payne, Cyndi Stevenson, Clay Yarborough and Travis Cummings.

Those that didn’t make the honor roll and were given a grade of ‘B’ or lower included Sen. Audrey Gibson and Representatives Kimberly Daniels, Tracie Davis and Jay Fant.

It should be noted that lawmaker’s grades are determined by calculating favorable votes cast for each piece of student-centered legislation that was available to be voted on during the regular session. A total of 23 senators and 77 representatives received a grade of ‘A’ or higher.

“Thanks to the leadership and courage of our legislative champions, Florida students and their families are this session’s true winners,” said the foundation’s Executive Director Patricia Levesque. “We thank Florida’s leaders for their dedication to improving the lives of students through access to a quality education.”

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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