Governor Scott signs education bill leaving local school leaders divided

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - With the stroke of his pen Governor Rick Scott will create change in school districts across the state. The controversial education bill signed Thursday has local school leaders divided.

"This legislation provides nearly $419 million to Florida's K-12 education system so that Florida's students have an opportunity to receive a great education," Governor Scott said.

He signed House Bill 7069 which expands teacher bonuses and puts more money toward scholarships among other things. Some changes don't sit well with Bay District School Board member Ginger Littleton. She says some federal funds, or Title 1 funds, are affected by the bill.

"We've used them in a very flexible manner. So that we could spread the money across the schools with the neediest schools getting the most services," Littleton said, "Now every school gets whatever it's earned no matter what the need is."

Littleton strongly opposed the bill. She says it was a deal made in backrooms without review from the district.

However, others say it's a step forward. It now gives local tax dollars to charter schools.

"The majority of our parents are homeowners and pay property taxes," Larry R. Bolinger, CEO of Bay Haven Charter Schools said, "we have not been able to access those tax dollars."

Littleton disagrees with this change.

"We're going to send public money to private management companies for charter schools and we have no oversight," Littleton explained, "They are not accountable to anyone."

She says the bill gives charter schools too much power, like the ability to override local zoning ordinances.

"In this bill a charter school can relocate next to you and you don't have anything to say about it," Littleton said.

"The traditional public schools have advantages that the charter public schools do not," Bolinger said. "But this does even the playing field a little bit more."

Governor Scott released a statement on the signing saying in part, "This legislation combined with the historic $100 per student increase in funding I called for during the special session will put all of Florida's students on a pathway toward success."