Responsibility or punishment? Randy Fine and Democrats clash to hide funds
Despite characterizations from Democrats that a measure rewarding school districts that followed the state’s masking policies would punish those that did not, the House’s chief elementary-secondary education budget negotiator said the proposal was about accountability.
Chairman of the PreK-12 House Credits Subcommittee randy good unveiled the “Putting Parents First Adjustment” last week, a surprise for Democrats and officials in the 12 districts punished under the proposal. The measure takes $200 million from the compensation of administrators who earn more than $100,000 a year and uses those dollars to increase funding for the remaining 55 districts.
As the House Appropriations Committee considered the House budget proposal on Wednesday, Fine defended the policy proposal against questions and attacks from several Democrats. The adjustment is part of Florida’s education funding program portion of the broader $17.6 billion the Chamber wants to spend on preK-12 education in the coming fiscal year.
“We’re talking about $200 million to reward 55 school districts who did the right thing and send a message to 12 that you’re hurting your kids, don’t do it again, follow the piece of paper we’re handing out from this legislature ,” Well said.
Prior to the 2021-22 school year, Governor. Ron DeSantis, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education began imposing rules to prevent public schools from requiring students to wear masks. The Legislative Assembly met in the fall, at the request of the Governor, to pass a measurement codifying this and other rules into law.
Despite the state government’s threat to withhold pay from local education officials for violating masking rules, the majority of Florida public school students attended classes in districts that at some point , flouted the state’s masking policy.
Over the past 20 years, Americans have normalized themselves by ignoring laws they disagree with, Fine said, noting that both Democrats and Republicans do.
“When you do that, you no longer have democracy. What you have is anarchy,” Fine said.
Children suffered because school districts ignored state masking laws, he said, saying children suffered developmentally from not being able to see each other’s faces.
While the deductions target district administrator salaries, Democrats like Wellington Rep. Matt Willhite argued that it takes a whole system to properly educate students. Democrats also argued that the measure was punitive, but Fine dismissed that characterization, saying instead that it held administrators accountable.
“The people who were subject to punitive action in the last 12 months were the students who were in the school districts,” Fine said.
House Democrat Policy Chairman, Tampa Democratic Rep. Driskell Fencecalled it unfortunate and dishonest to punish school districts for trying to stay above politics and keep children safe.
“We can try to call it accountability. But a rose by any other name is still a rose, and a punishment by any other name is still punishment, and that’s what we do. It’s punitive in nature,” Driskell said.
Fine told the committee that her son went to a “government-run school” where he had to wear a mask even though he had a doctor’s note saying otherwise. However, his family decided he would follow the district’s mask policy because he is Fine’s son and “didn’t want to be a soldier in the fight over this.”
Fund Education Now’s Marie-Claire Leman argued that the majority of parents of students in the 12 school districts in question supported the district’s decision to ignore state masking rules and instead follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of United States and local authorities
“This is done to further divide our electorate,” Leman said. “A lawmaker is coming up with this because they think they can, and the rest of you are going to go along with it, stoking those divisions and allowing…state money to be used for campaigning. “
Some, like Elizabeth Walkerwhose child attends Lincoln High School in Leon County, supports the measure but said the state has not done enough to get parents to report districts that violate the law and seek legal redress.
“Their choice to openly challenge HB 1B shows their disrespect, not just for lawmakers and our systems of government, but for parents and children,” Walker said. “They don’t care about the rights of families, only the exercise of authority and control over them.”