The group Fund Education Now has issued grades for candidates for statewide offices and the legislature based on their legislative votes on four bills – SB 6 (the reviled bill on teacher tenure and merit pay), SB 2 (which put Amendment 8 on class size on this fall’s ballot), SB 2126 (the expansion of the Corporate Tax Credit program for school vouchers), and (wait for it) SB 4, the bill on high school graduation requirements, among other things. That’s right: SB 4, which attracted “no” votes from only one senator and twelve representatives, is still being condemned by Fund Education Now.
What does Fund Education Now have against SB 4? This is what they say:
End of Course Exams -Test development and administration to cost districts millions, intentionally unfunded by legislature, replaces FCAT for designated subjects, raises bar on Diploma.
SB 4 initiates statewide end-of-course exams in Algebra 1, Geometry and Biology 1. At $1.5 million per exam per year to develop and administer, that is $4.5 million per year of state money. There are some concerns about the computer facilities required in the schools to administer these tests online as intended, but I haven’t seen many complaints about that. There are additional EOC’s in English/Language Arts 2, Algebra 2, Chemistry 1, Physics 1, Earth/Space Science, United States History and World History “waiting in the wings” – SB 4 says they will be implemented at some indefinite future time. If you implement all ten of these exams, that would cost $15 million per year – of state money.
If there is an “unfunded mandate” somewhere in the testing scheme, it is in the need for the schools to have reliable computer networks to administer the tests online. But that doesn’t seem to be what FEN is talking about.
Indeed, SB 4 does raise the “bar on Diploma.” However, FEN doesn’t say specifically why that is a funding issue.
Need more chemistry teachers? Oh yes! With 40,000 new chemistry students per year in Florida’s high schools by 2014, there is a need for more teachers qualified to teach chemistry. But there are already enough science teaching positions in the state’s schools to meet the demand. After all, the state already requires three science courses for graduation, and SB 4 doesn’t change that. We just need more of the existing positions to be filled by teachers qualified to teach chemistry. That might cost a little money, but not a huge amount (previous analysis here).
Fund Education Now damages its case by continuing to pick on SB 4. It should walk away from SB 4 and focus on its other concerns.