Looking to be in full campaign mode following an easy primary election victory on Tuesday night, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he will "review every legal option available to us" if the federal government doesn’t bow on education standards he contends ‘punish’ diverse schools in his state.
Scott is asking the U.S. Department of Education not to hold Florida schools and teachers accountable for English-language learner student achievement until after two years of instruction. He made the request alongside Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
“It’s not fair to the students, or the schools, or the teachers, or the parents to count the results of these students until after their second year,’’ Scott said, according to the Miami Herald. “Ultimately, federal bureaucrats will punish Florida schools for their diversity.”
Superintendent Carvalho said counting the scores of English learners in achievement measures after one year was "unfair and unreasonable." He said there is a notable jump in proficiency after two years.
We believe federal officials haven’t properly scrutinized their decision...If they refuse, we will begin reviewing every legal option that is available to us.
- Florida Gov. Rick Scott
“We support unequivocally taking a strong position in restoring reason, respect and what research says about English language instruction and proficiency for our students,” Carvalho said.
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Florida was granted a waiver extension from No Child Left Behind earlier this month, but federal officials declined Florida's request regarding English-language learner student accountability.
Test scores for non-English speakers have considerable impact in Miami-Dade County, where more than 70,000 students receive English-language instruction, Carvalho said, adding that it is “immoral” not to “recognize the diversity and the linguistic needs of these young boys and girls.”
Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart added that Florida leads the nation when it comes to graduation rates and success in Advanced Placement courses among Latino students, a group that makes up a large percentage of the English-language learners in Florida.
“So it is impossible to think that with a state having this much success with its students, why in the world the federal government would want to micromanage, especially when you consider that this is a policy that is working,” Stewart said.
Scott said that he is giving the U.S. Department of Education about a month to reconsider its stance and threatened to take legal action if the feds refuse to make any changes.
“We believe federal officials haven’t properly scrutinized their decision,” Scott said, according to State Impact. “If they refuse, we will begin reviewing every legal option that is available to us.”
The Republican governor’s appearance on Wednesday was another move by Scott to make education a key issue in his reelection bid, while also attempting to appeal to a diverse group of voters. Before Scott declared his reelection bid against Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, the Florida governor announced a historic increase in per-student spending and called for an investigation into the fairness of standardized tests.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.