Local leaders respond to new education legislation

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A Florida House bill signed into law Sunday could threaten teachers unions while aiding bullied students.

The legislation, House Bill 7055, covers topics including new membership requirements for teachers unions as well as the "Hope Scholarship" for children subject to bullying.

Under the law, teachers unions that do not have at least 50 percent membership out of all of the educators they represent could be decertified.

"I think in the long run, more teachers are going to recognize the benefits of union participation and union membership as a result of the decertification bill," Alexis Underwood, President of the Association of Bay County Educators said.

She reassured teachers that the ABCE is above the threshold.

"ABCE is safe. We are over that 50 percent mark. We continue to work hard every single day to recruit new members and new educators," she said.

Also covered in this legislation is increasing per student funding as the scholarship giving bullied students the option to transfer schools.

"We really try to allow the parent and the child to be able to make decisions on where their kid wants to go to school," State Representative Jay Trumbull, who voted in favor of the bill, said.

According to the legislation, it gives students the option to either transfer to another public school or attend private school."

The bill reads, in part, "Beginning with the 2018-2019 school year, contingent upon available funds, and on a first come, first-served basis, a student enrolled in a Florida public school in kindergarten through grade 12 is eligible for a scholarship under this program if the student reported an incident."

"There's detrimental issues that happen to a child whose gone through the process of being bullied and I think that as much of a step up we can give that child and his family, I think the better and the greater outcomes that child will have moving forward," Representative Trumbull said.

We're told the bill provides $500 vouchers for low-performing students to use for after school tutoring and summer programs.

The bill also expands the Gardiner Scholarship for children with learning disabilities.

According to the Florida Senate website, the bill will go into effect July 1st.