School is out for the summer and report cards are in — for Florida legislators.
The Foundation for Florida’s Future released Florida’s 2015 Education Report Card, grading Florida legislators on each one’s progress in improving the quality of education in the Sunshine State.
Among the most meaningful education advances in the Florida Capitol last session, according to the Foundation, were policies promoting fewer and better tests for students, improved evaluations and benefits for teachers, expansion of scholarship accounts for students with special needs – the state’s ad hoc voucher program — and investment in education technology.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush created the Foundation for Florida’s Future shortly after his 1994 unsuccessful gubernatorial run.
For the 2015 legislative session, the annual Report Card ranked lawmakers using seven benchmarks: rigorous academic standards, standardized measurement, data-driven accountability, effective teachers and leaders, outcome-based funding, school choice and digital learning. Each lawmaker was graded on a 0-100 scale based on legislators’ voting records and demonstrations of leadership, with some receiving “extra credit.”
Making the Honor Roll for the Senate with “A+” grades (over 100 percent) were President Andy Gardiner, the Orlando Republican (with an exact 100), as well as Republicans Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Meyers (106), Don Gaetz of Niceville (110), John Legg of Lutz (115) and Kelli Stargel from Lakeland (the top overall score with 111).
State Sen. Jeremy Ring of Margate was the only Democrat on the list of “A” grade lawmakers – in either the Senate or House – with a 102.
One Republican senator received less than an “A” – Thad Altman (89), representing Brevard and Indian River counties.
The sole “F” grade in the Senate went to Democrat Dwight Bullard, who represents Hendry and Monroe counties and parts of Collier and Miami-Dade. He was given a 57.
For the House, earning top spots on the Honor Roll – nearly all Republicans – are Speaker Steve Crisafulli from Merritt Island (100), Miami’s Michael Bileca (112) and Erik Fresen (100), Richard Corcoran from Land O’Lakes (100), freshman Robert “Bob” Cortes of Altamonte Springs (108), Manny Diaz, Jr. from Hialeah (108).
Best performing Democrat was Tallahassee’s Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda, who made the Honor Roll with a “B” grade of 85.
Rehwinkel-Vasilinda was singled out as an example of “growing bipartisan support for student-centered reforms.” Last session, the Foundation said she played a critical role in improving Florida’s education system.
In all, 75 House members received “A” grades or above — also all Republicans.
The worst-performing House Republicans were Ray Pilon of Sarasota and Charles Van Zant of Keystone Heights, who each received a score of 85, earning them a “B.”
The honor for the Foundation’s worst overall performance was Democratic state Rep. Barbara Watson, who represents Miami Gardens. She received a 22, for an “F” grade.
“Lawmakers maintained their commitment to Florida students and teachers,” said AFloridaPromise Executive Director Patricia Levesque in a statement. “As a Florida parent, I am grateful. Thanks to their actions to refine and expand policies, Florida is continuing to measure student learning, giving more parents access to educational choices and supporting our state’s hardworking teachers.”
The complete 2015 Education Report Card is at www.AFloridaPromise.org.