Recess bill will not move forward in Florida

- Though it passed through the House almost unanimously Thursday - 112 to 2 - the bill that would mandate Florida schools provide 20 minutes of daily recess will never come up for a vote in the Senate.

Parents are still calling and emailing key Senators, but those efforts are in vain.

The local coalition of parents pushing the measure thought they had found a way to circumvent the committee in which the Senate version of the bill is stalled, but FOX 13 learned Friday that avenue is also blocked by Sen. John Legg, the same Pasco County senator who refused to give the bill a hearing in the Committee on Education, which he chairs.

The parent group, on its Facebook page, urged members to call and email Senate President Andy Gardiner and Senate Rules Chair David Simmons, asking them to pull the bill out of committee and send it directly to the floor for a vote by the full Senate.

Members did call, and email.

Gardiner's spokesperson, Katie Betta said, while Gardiner personally supports the bill, he also "has a great deal of respect for the committee process that is in place... and he respects the authority of the committee chairs," so he will not make a motion to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

Even if he did, it wouldn't pass. Here's why:

In a case where a bill that has not had one committee hearing, there must be a unanimous vote for the bill to pass - and we know the vote would not be unanimous because of Senator Legg.

He restated again Friday he will not change his position. He believes recess is a matter for local school districts to discuss; it should not be a mandate from the state.

Stephanie Cox with Pinellas Parents For PE, Recess & Healthy Schools said the group is not giving up – even though the senate says the bill is dead.

“We are consulting with lawmakers about other avenues to accomplish what we want to accomplish,” said Cox.

She was not sure, at this point, what those avenues might be. She added, even if the group cannot push the bill through during this session, it will come back, in some form, next year.

“We will not stop fighting to give our children a better education. Study after study has shown recess allows kids to develop socially and emotionally in ways they cannot in the classroom setting,” she said.

The group can claim a partial victory: because of their efforts, Pinellas County last month agreed to make elementary schools provide recess on days when PE is not offered.

Sen. Legg's office issued a statement on the issue to FOX 13. It says: 

“I applaud and appreciate the passion, purpose and effort concerned parents have shown in promoting recess for our children,” said Senator John Legg, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education Pre-K – 12, regarding Senate Bill 1002.  “They should be commended for their hard work, success and impact they’re having on recess policies around the state.

“I completely support recess and giving our principals the ability to manage school-based issues,” Chairman Legg continued.  “The scheduling of the school day is best determined by our local education leaders, not a one-size-fits-all Tallahassee recess mandate.  This proposed mandate removes a teacher’s ability to manage their classroom, and it fails to consider parental choice and the uniqueness of each student. 

“Those closest to the school need to be empowered with the discretion to manage their own schedule,” Senator Legg concluded. “Administrators, school board members, superintendents and parents are encouraged to engage in local recess solutions that work best for their community.”

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