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    House measure covers school walls

    An education bill, one of several approved, requires that eight historical documents be displayed.

    By ALISA ULFERTS, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 16, 2002


    TALLAHASSEE -- Move over science projects, paper plate turkeys and interpretive collages of Mesopotamian culture.

    Lawmakers left little room on school walls for much of that Friday after requiring schools to display eight lengthy historical documents.

    What began as a simple rule to hang the words "In God We Trust" on the wall ended with an amendment adding the Preamble to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, Washington's Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, the Federalist Papers No. 34 and, yes, the Magna Carta.

    "And it doesn't end there, because Yankee Doodle Dandy is a good song," said Rep. Kenneth Gottlieb, a Hollywood Democrat who mocked the bill by standing on his desk to lead the House in a verse of the classic tune.

    It was one of several education bills House members approved Friday. A final vote comes next week.

    Chief among them was an almost 1,800-page bill that rewrites the entire section of law that governs schools. The bill is needed to make state law conform to the new K-20 education system.

    "This is the most audacious undertaking in all my years in the Legislature," said Rep. Jerry Melvin, one of the key drafters of the bill.

    But that's not necessarily a good thing, said those watching the legislation for unsavory additions.

    "Who in the world can make an intelligent decision on 1,800 pages in this hyperactive environment," said Maureen Dinnen, president of the teachers' union, the Florida Education Association.

    "There's all kinds of opportunities to slip in all kinds of amendments and make this a train wreck," Dinnen said.

    Rep. Ralph Arza successfully sought two amendments, one to create a charter school commission that reviews school districts' denials of charter school applications, and another to limit school board members' pay to the salary of the district's lowest-paid teacher.

    Arza, R-Hialeah, said he didn't think school board members, who work part time, should be paid more than a new teacher.

    The amendment actually would restore some pay to school board members, who would have lost all their pay under an earlier amendment approved by a committee. But other House members reminded Arza that lawmakers worked part time, too.

    House members also tentatively approved bills to help train more nurses and require college students seeking Bright Futures scholarships to take tests for college credit.

    A similar nursing training bill has passed the Senate. The Bright Futures bill has no Senate companion. The Senate historic documents bill appears stalled in that chamber, while the Senate's education laws revision bills are heading toward a vote.

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