Saturday, February 19, 2011

SB736: Entering the Twilight Zone

Posted for

Sandra in Brevard

A fast moving thriller or spicy romance novel would be more entertaining and satisfying than reading a legislative analysis. Since accuracy and facts are hard to come by, I spent some time reading the now four analyses written for SB736. The analysts deserve credit for having written the document in clear English, free of mumbo jumbo, and easy to read. They cannot be blamed if the bill they describe does not make sense.

I noted a change in Section 5. Fiscal Impact Statement. In the two versions presented to the Appropriations Subcommittee, the sentence, the fiscal impact of this bill is indeterminate, has been deleted. Instead there is a paragraph describing what Race to the Top funding will cover and assistance to be provided by the DOE.

Florida’s Race to the Top (RTTT) grant will support the development of a revised teacher evaluation system as provided in this bill. Grant funds will enable the Department of Education to develop end-of-course assessments, item banks and components, such as the value-added model, for the evaluation system. The DOE will assist school districts in their development of assessment items that may be used for locally developed assessments.

During the next three years the grant will provide funding for the development of end-of-course exams in most subject areas. Additional resources may be necessary to maintain an assessment item bank or platform at the conclusion of the grant period.

District practices relating to the evaluation, compensation, and employment of instructional personnel and school administrators that are not consistent with the bill will need to be revised and implemented in accordance with bill implementation timelines.

SB736 is on the schedule for the Senate Budget committee on February 23. One can only hope that committee members are competent to conduct a complete cost analysis. Here are a few questions that need to be addressed:

1) Districts who agreed to participate in Race to the Top are recipients of funding. The analysis is silent on the costs required for those districts who chose not to participate and where the finds would come from.

2) While the DOE will provide "resources" to school districts, the analysis is silent on the amount of local monetary and manpower resources required to implement SB736 requirements. What is the fiscal impact on school districts and where will that funding come from?

SB736 is a complex bill with complex requirements. While the legislature and the Governor wrangle over further cuts to the education budget, the public has a right to have the facts on SB736.

Read the legislative analysis here:

Missed a blog on SB736 or want to read one again? You will find them all here.


  1. Madpole commented recently that this sounded like a "boondoggle." That got me thinking. This is beginning to sound to me like a boondoggle on steroids. We are told that Florida has made great progress, so good that legislators have to implement greater measures and data collection. Democrats and Republicans are all in the same zone on this one..sounds like the Twilight Zone to me. Seems like they are saying the patient's broken leg has been successfully healed, but instead of giving the patient crutches to promote healing, we decided to put him on life support, see what all the tests tell us, and cannot say how much that will cost.

    P.S. I got myself a new avator...more colorful.

  2. Sandra, If I recall, last year the cost guesstimates the various districts came up with, just for test development ranged from 60,000 to over 250.000 per test, with some districts needing as many as 200 tests..

    Eighty some districts, average say 150 tests per district, in round figures is 15,000,000 per district at 100,000 per test, almost 1.3 Billion just to develop the tests. On top of that we need to add in costs to administer, grade and analyze the tests, then analyze what the results mean. Of course there will be fees to upgrade the tests every year, last year's version will be out of date..

    We're talking big money. Regardless of where it comes from, Federal, State or Local, ot's till coming from the taxpayers.

  3. Grumpy - Last year SB6 sponsors said they had to pass it in order to get Race to the Top funding, without explaining why we needed RT3 to begin with. So, all that testing you mention is getting funded through RT3 for those school districts who signed on. Not all school districts signed on. I have no idea if the school districts who did sign on have to spend any of their own money. You also bring up a good point on the administration and upgrading of tests. If they cannot or will not say what increased burdens this will cause now, or how they will pay for districts who did not sign on to RT3, then no wonder we hear nothing about future costs.

    At the same time, if the legislature is unable to pass legislation that links teacher pay to student achievement data according to a timeline from the federal Office of Education, Florida may have to give back some money to the feds. On this specific point, frankly, I don't have all the facts. After awhile, there are just too many loose ends to follow up on. Maybe someone reading has an answer to that question.

  4. Sandra, my other point is, it doesn't matter whether the funding comes from the District. The State or the Federal Government, it still comes out of taxpayers pockets.

    It's ture an unfunded mandate from the state for a specific specific local program stings a little more than looking at your paystub every week, it is still coming out of your wallet.

  5. In this case, Florida signed on voluntarily and the legislature seems to be piling on voluntarily, increasing the burden on the wallet down the line, to communities. So I think it does matter. I know whose nickel this is on, but it isn't just a nickel. It's more like a credit card without limit to pay for a solution in search of a problem.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.