Floridians continue to inundate Republican Gov. Rick Scott with input on whether he should sign or veto a controversial K-12 schools bill known as House Bill 7069.
And the overall message is no longer decisive as it was less than a week ago — now that school choice groups have stepped up to more aggressively defend and lobby for the legislation, which heavily benefits charter schools through additional funding and less regulation.
As of Wednesday evening, the amount of emails, letters, phone calls and petition signatures Scott’s office had received were roughly even, currently skewing slightly in favor of him signing the bill into law.
Altogether, Scott has gotten 11,800 messages in support, compared to 10,900 messages against — barely a 1.1-to-1 margin at this point, according to the information requested by the Herald/Times from the governor’s office.
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See the full breakdown below.
The figures — both in volume and in position — mark a drastic shift since last week, when the bill’s opponents carried a 3-to-1 advantage in their pleas to Scott.
The change is in large part because conservative advocacy groups and school choice organizations have coordinated letter-writing campaigns and phone banks asking Scott to sign HB 7069. The efforts came after an immediate groundswell of opposition the bill attracted from traditional public school advocates, including county school superintendents, almost all elected school boards, and parent groups and teachers unions.
But how genuine some of the wave of recent support for HB 7069 is has been called in to question.
At least a few Miami-Dade charter schools last week were offering incentives to parents and, reportedly, extra credit to students if they openly lobbied for the bill in ways that would buoy the perception of support. Critics have described those efforts as proof of “manufactured” and “paid” support.
Students from Mater Academy Lakes — one of the schools that had offered parents five hours’ credit toward their volunteer hours — dropped off several boxes full of letters to Scott’s office on Monday, which likely contributed to the large spike in pro-HB 7069 letters this week.
Among feedback that mentioned HB 7069, Scott’s office told the Herald/Times it had received as of Wednesday evening:
▪ 6,176 emails in opposition, compared to 4,140 in support — a 1.5-to-1 margin against the bill and seeking a veto;
▪ 1,764 phone calls opposed, compared to 510 in support — a 3.5-to-1 margin against;
▪ 5,057 letters in favor, compared to 101 against — a 50-to-1 margin for the bill;
▪ and, 2,083 individual signatures on organized online petitions in support of the bill versus 1,573 signatures against — 1.3-to-1 margin in favor.
Among feedback that referenced more generally the “education bill” or “education budget,” the governor’s office said it received:
▪ 276 phone calls against the bill and/or budget, and 27 in support — an 10-to-1 margin opposed;
▪ 975 emails against and none in support;
▪ and six letters in favor versus three against — a 2-to-1 advantage in favor.
All of the pro-HB 7069 phone calls, emails, letters and individual petition signatures reported by Scott’s office total 22,691 so far — more than double what Scott had gotten less than a week ago.
Scott still hasn’t received the bill on his desk. Once he does, he’ll have 15 days to act.
Until then, expect the messaging blitz on Scott’s office to further intensify.