House leader discusses education, taxes

11/13/07 Mitch E. Perry
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Ever since the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) began being used by the state as the main assessment instrument to measure public schools and students, a debate has raged on whether the test is a legitimate way of measuring students progress.

But after 10 years and troubling indicators, like drop out and graduation rates, there are indications that even some Republican legislators are looking at a different way to asses students.

Tonight, a bipartisan group of legislators and education officials depart for Albany, New York, to learn more about that state’s assessment test, called the Regents.

The delegation is being led by House Schools and Learning Chairman Joe Pickens, R-Palatka. Joining him on the trip is House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber of Miami Beach.

Joining Dan Gelbar in New York this week will be Senate K-12 Education Chairman Don Gaetz of Niceville. Gatez told the Orlando Sentinel this week that adding the Regents exam could help the Florida transcend the 10-year-old debate of whether the FCAT is good or bad.

WMNF asked Gelbar if he had any thoughts on the just announced proposal for the Tampa Bay Rays to build a new baseball park along the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg.

Part of the financing for the $450-million facility would include getting $60-million approved by the state Legislature for a tax sales rebate. The rebate would be $2-million a year for 30 years.

Gelbar says he hasn’t supported such a plan for his own hometown team, the Florida Marlins, and he has no plans to get behind such a proposal for Tampa Bay’s Major League franchise.

On Sunday, the St. Petersburg Times reported that the constitutional property tax cut plan approved by the L:egislature last month, would get 53 percent support, according a poll conducted last week. That’s a majority, but not the 60 percent required to have the measure pass.

Gelbar says he thinks what came out of the last special session was a mess when it comes to property taxes, and he hopes the measure is defeated.

We’ll air excerpts from a speech he gave in Tampa today at the Democratic Professionals Council meeting later this week on the Evening News.

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