The legislative push in Florida on education is being generally described as light this year, with most of the emphasis on restoring financial cuts made to public schools last year. That being said, the annual 60-day legislative session has now reached its midpoint, and there are a number of important issues on the table.
CS/SB 1314, Career-Themed Courses by Sen. Don Gaetz. Last Action: 2/2/12, a committee substitute was approved by the Senate Commerce & Tourism Committee, 6-0. Next up is the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education PreK-12 Appropriations The bill revises provisions in the Career and Professional Education Act and allows greater access to industry certifications in high demand fields.
CS/HB 903, Charter Schools by Rep. Janet Adkins. Last Action: 1/31/12, a committee substitute was approved by the House K-20 Innovation Subcommittee, 12-0. Now in PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. The bill requires the Commissioner of Education to annually determine a high-performing charter school or school system’s continued eligibility for “high performing” status, prohibits renewing a charter if a school received two “F” grades within a three-year period, and requires each charter school to maintain a website. It also authorizes certain Florida College System institutions to establish one charter school, and requires sponsors to distribute a charter school’s share of federal funds to the school within 60 days.
CS/SB 1852, Charter Schools by Sen. Stephen Wise. Last Action: 2/6/12, a committee substitute was approved by the Senate Education PreK -12 Committee, 5-1. The bill authorizes certain Florida College System institutions to establish one charter school, authorizes each district to share revenue generated by its capital outlay millage levy with charter schools on a per-student basis, and requires sponsors to distribute a charter school’s share of federal funds to the school within 60 days. It also revises certain restrictions on high-performing charter schools.
HB 7063, Digital Learning by Rep. Kelli Stargel. Last Action: 1/24/12, the bill was adopted by the House K-20 Innovation Subcommittee. Now in PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. The bill expands digital learning options by allowing students eligible to enter kindergarten through grade 5 to participate in Florida Virtual School Full Time, full-time district virtual instruction programs, and full-time virtual charter schools. The bill also authorizes FLVS Full Time students to participate in interscholastic extracurricular activities, and expands part-time instruction in FLVS and district virtual instruction programs.
CS/SB 1402, Education by Sen. Andy Gardiner. Last Action: 2/6/12, a committee substitute was passed by Senate Education PreK-12 Comittee, 6-0. The bill was amended to be similar to HB 7063, except that it phases in additional grade levels for which students are eligible to participate in virtual instruction programs without meeting the other eligibility criteria.
CS/SB 1826, Developmental Disabilities by Sen. Andy Gardner. Last Action: 1/31/12, a committee substitute was approved by the Senate Health Regulation Committee, 7-0. Now in Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Appropriations. The bill requires schools to provide information about the scholarship to children of members of the US Armed Forces, and creates a two-year pilot program for certain students who have disabilities to attend private schools under contract with providers of supported employment services.
CS/CS/HB 1191, Parent Empowerment in Education by Rep. Michael Bileca. Last Action: 2/3/12, a committee substitute was approved by the House Rulemaking and Regulation Subcommittee, 8-6. CS/SB 1718, Parent Empowerment in Education by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto. Last Action: 1/24/12, a committee substitute was passed by the Senate Education PreK-12 Committee, 5-0. Now in Budget Subcommittee on Education PreK-12 Appropriations. These bills enable parents to petition the school district for the implementation of a parent-selected turnaround option at certain underperforming public schools. These bills allow parents to request the performance evaluation of a classroom teacher, and require that parents of students assigned to out-of-field teachers be notified of the availability of virtual instruction by an in-field teacher.
Tax Credit Scholarships:
CS/SB 962, Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program by Sen. Lizabeth Benacquisto. Last Action: 1/24/12, Passed by the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Finance and Tax, 5-0. Now in Budget Committee. The bill provides a one-time bump in the tax credit cap amount in 2012-13 from $218.7 million to $250 million.
HB 859, Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program by Rep. Richard Corcoran. Last Action: 1/26/12, a committee substitute was approved by the House Finance and Tax Committee, 17-6. The bill provides a one-time bump in the tax credit cap amount in 2012-13 from $218.7 million to $229 million, allows participating private schools to choose to administer the statewide assessments, provides more tools for the Commissioner of Education to hold participating schools accountable, and allows students in grades 2-5 who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches to be eligible for the scholarship without having to attend a public school for the prior year (currently applies only to grades K-1)..