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Sunday, March 23, 2014

My Lobbying Week in Tallahassee

Lobbying in Tallahassee was very busy and exciting this past week. My lobbying partner and I arrived Monday and were immediately put to work calling representatives.  Then after orientation, we had a rally in front of the Senate Office Building to support a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. 

Tuesday had us going to the House Education Appropriations Committee meeting. I testified against HB 5103, Personal Learning Accounts. This bill will allow ESE students (mostly private or Home-schooled) to take 90% of their ESE dollars to pay for any type of therapy they want, without any accountability.  I don’t have my notes, but I basically explained why I am highly qualified to work with ESE students and am held to very specific accountability rules. Therefore any public money used for private therapies should also be held accountable.    Two PTA parents caught me afterward and said they thought I knew more than anyone on the committee.  How rewarding!

Afterward, we spent a good hour with a professional lobbyist who explained a lot about the bills, the senators and representatives.  Very informative.   He also arranged for my lobbying partner and me to spend some time with Marcia Andrews and Karen Brill (school board members who were also there.)

The remainder of Tuesday was spent running all over the Capitol visiting with the local politicians up there.  Senator Clemens explained to one of the members of our group who is a republican how the powers that be in Tallahassee are NOT what the general public believe.  He never said a negative word, but asked the gentleman to visit with them, talk with them, and then form his own opinion.  I have to share that this CTA member did just that.  He told us he came home with an entirely different perspective than he came up there with.

Wednesday was a very early meeting with our school board members and listening to the Senate Budget Committee proposal.  They have increased the budget, but once is gets divvied up to all the school districts, it isn’t a great as it sounds. 

The remainder of the day was a continuance of visiting senators and representatives; some of whom we had to talk to on their way to other meetings.  I had some great elevator conversations with Representatives Dave Kerner and Bobby Powell.

Wednesday evening was FUN TIME.  AFL-CIO president, Mike Williams took the whole group to a tiny fishing village on the river.  We spent a few hours enjoying each other’s company over good food and drinks, all paid for by the building trades union.

Thursday was our last day lobbying and again, it was busy.  We sat in on the House Education Committee.  After the meeting, I went up to the committee chair to thank her for the hard work she did on the education budget.  She asked us to wait and came over to talk.  She is definitely a clone of her party and we listened politely. Then I spoke about the bill giving teachers Lead money and how a debit card is not the way to go.  She told me she was very interested to hear me speak in committee because she is on it. 

In the afternoon, we went to the House Appropriations Committee where I spoke on HB 0337.  Here is what I said.
"Thank you for providing money to assist teachers for classroom supplies. All of my colleagues and I appreciate it.

The Marzano teacher evaluation standard DQ 5 encourages engaging students through academic games. I create or modify commercially produced games for my students in order to promote student engagement in my classroom. This can be very time consuming so I am actually preparing materials for my classroom in advance during the summer months. Most of those are purchases made in June or July. A debit card received in late Sept or October is too late for me to take advantage of any pre-school sales or the time needed to create things for student use. Accountability for these funds comes in the form of receipts for materials purchased within my window of opportunity

Debit cards distributed and earmarked for educational materials that come after the 1st quarter don't really help new teachers or those changing grades or courses to be prepared when the students start a new school year.  We can wait for re imbursement however if we know how much to spend."
The committee unanimously voted to approve the bill.  They also recommend giving each teacher $260.  The bill as currently written does not specify debit cards, but it is one of the options.   Please continue to write or call your representative and thank them for supporting HB 337, but to make sure they don’t require it be in the form of a debit card.

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