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Lee School Board members get update on state deregulation efforts

Trip to Tallahassee proves productive, attendees say

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Jan 29, 2024

Four members of the Lee County School Board traveled to Tallahassee this month to take part in the 37th annual Day in the Legislature, where a great deal of discussion was had regarding deregulation.

Those who attended were Chair Sam Fisher and board members Debbie Jordan, Melisa Giovannelli and Armor Persons. They joined more than 125 school board members and education leaders around Florida for the Jan. 17 and Jan. 18 event, which was hosted by the Florida School Boards Association

“In Tallahassee, we met with other school board members from throughout the state for an overview and expectation of the next few days. We had briefings on the bills coming forward, budget, and deregulation updates. We went over the Legislative platform for the FSBA as an association,” said Jordan, who represents District 4, which includes parts of Cape Coral and North Fort Myers.

The second kicked off with “Coffee and Conversations with Florida Legislators,” which was an exclusive session where insights on key issues were shared by state Representatives Robin Bartleman and Ralph Massullo. The board also visited the Capitol, engaged with their respective legislative delegations, and attended legislative committee meetings.

Fisher said he truly believes they accomplished a lot during the trip.

“We continued to have many productive conversations with legislators and provide them real world feedback that will help both Lee County schools and schools around the state. In the early stages of this session, the House has already included two of our legislative appropriations in the first draft budget,” said Fisher, who represents District 1, which includes Sanibel/Captiva, Fort Myers Beach, Pine Island and parts of Cape Coral.

Fisher said although many issues were discussed, the most prominent one was the Senate and House Bills on deregulation of education – Learn Local.

“These bills will cut the red tape and allow our public schools to truly compete with other school choice options which, in turn, will contribute to increased student achievement,” he said. “Furthermore, we discussed our requested legislative appropriations and how they will also contribute to increased student achievement.”

The Learn Local initiatives align with the goals in Lee County by promoting innovative student achievement pathways, simplifying assessments requirements; increased flexibility in setting salaries for instructional personnel, crucial for teacher retention; streamline educator requirements for retention and certifications; flexibility in facility costs for new construction, crucial to post Hurricane Ian and rapid growth and fairness in ensuring funds follow the student between various school choice options, affirming the district’s commitment to “choice” in education, Fisher said.

“I agree with Sen. Hudson that removing many of these ‘onerous and outdated requirements in place for the general day-day to administration of our schools…’ will help us “focus on serving and educating our students,” Fisher said. “I look forward to continued work with the Legislature on deregulation to ensure our great State remains an education trailblazer.”

The board was able to meet individuals from the House of Representatives, Senate, as well as the Governor’s Legislative Affairs staff and both the House and Senate Policy Budget staffers.

“I believe that we must stay engaged and let them know what our district, children and team need to be a World Class School System. It is all of our responsibility to pay attention to what is happening in the state for they represent all of us,” Jordan said. “It is important that we keep the dialogue going and let them know the needs of the district and state.”

Fisher said he truly appreciate the support the School District of Lee County has received from “our Governor, Senate, House, and especially from our strong local legislative delegation.”

“Working hand in with our local legislators last year and this year has contributed to legislative success that this district hasn’t seen in many years. These successes lead to continued student achievement,” he said.

The board’s 2024 legislative priorities include deregulation, increased student achievement, safety, teacher certification and retention, post-Hurricane Ian recovery and school facilities utilization.