Florida Politics

Miami lawmaker will seek new path for school recess after it stalls in House

Kindergartners make plea for recess

Kindergartners at Miami Gardens Elementary School seem to have all the facts down about the benefits recess can bring. These energetic 5 and 6-year-olds feel the need for some sunshine and fresh air.
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Kindergartners at Miami Gardens Elementary School seem to have all the facts down about the benefits recess can bring. These energetic 5 and 6-year-olds feel the need for some sunshine and fresh air.

With House Republican leaders holding up a Senate-approved bill to mandate daily recess in public elementary schools, Florida senators will attempt another route to get the proposal enacted this year.

Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores, the sponsor of the Senate recess bill (SB 78), filed a sweeping amendment Wednesday morning to her measure aimed at reducing statewide standardized tests, which would drastically broaden the bill to include several other policies — including mandatory daily recess.

The 17-page amendment will be considered this afternoon when the testing bill (SB 926) is up for its final committee hearing in Senate Rules before it would go to the floor.

By attaching the recess policy to the broader bill, it gives the Senate more leverage and could force the House into considering it through negotiations. The House also views testing reforms as a top priority this session.

MORE: “House leaders won’t say if they’ll act on school recess. Parents grow impatient.”

In the two weeks since the Senate passed its recess bill, passionate parents have urged House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, and Rules chairman Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, to bring the Senate bill to the floor for an up-or-down vote.

But Corcoran has refused to comment on the House’s plans, and Oliva said last week “that’s certainly a possibility” but that there had been no discussion of that that he was aware of.

Parents are growing increasingly impatient and frustrated by the House’s delay and inaction — given the broad public support for mandatory daily recess and the fact a majority of lawmakers back such a law.

A similar recess bill passed the House by a near-unanimous vote last year with only Corcoran and Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami, opposed. Bileca, now the House Education chairman, continues to oppose the daily mandate and has been instrumental in thwarting House consideration of the original measure.

RELATED: “Senators’ homework pays off in progress on reducing student assessment tests”

With two-and-a-half weeks left in the scheduled 2017 session, it is now commonly the time when lawmakers take bills that were originally narrow and pile on several other different proposals linked only by the broad subject matter, in this case education.

For example, last year, an education omnibus bill became law that primarily enhanced school choice options in Florida but included multiple different policies.

This story will be updated.

Kristen M. Clark: 850-222-3095, kclark@miamiherald.com, @ByKristenMClark

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