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FEA legislative news March 7, 2014

posted Mar 10, 2014, 7:53 PM by Sarah Hernandez

 FEA Frontline Report

2014 Legislative Session - Week 1


March 7, 2014

 

It was the first week of the 2014 Legislative Session and it came in like a wrecking ball aimed squarely at public education. 

 

First up was a Senate Education Committee proposal that is purported to simplify school grades but the bill does not go far enough or allow for enough time for training, field testing , verifying and validating before the high-stakes consequences of the Student Success Act (aka the 2011 bill we know as SB 736) go into effect.  Florida needs to go beyond tinkering with school grades and address ALL the problems with its failed and punitive accountability system.  We know that our students are more than a test!  And so do the voters. 

 

Another poke in the eye to public education this week is a proposal to expand the voucher program which passed the House Finance and Tax committee.   Senator Bullard (D-Miami) stated that the bill would “blow the hinges off the doors” allowing the expansion the voucher program formerly known as Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program by diverting sale taxes to the Scholarship Funding Organizations (SFOs) .  By the way, over two-thirds of the voucher schools are religious private schools – and there is no accountability system in place to ensure that our tax dollars are being used wisely and fairly.  Did we mention that the program will grow into an $875 million per year budget? Yup, if this bill passes this program will gobble up nearly a billion of taxpayers’ dollars by 2018.

 

This was a VERY busy week – and there are lot of bills in this report so explanations were kept short as possible.  We will provide more information on these and many more bills that will be moving through the process in the coming weeks.

 

               Here are the bills that moved this week:

 

SB 1642 (formerly PCB 7060) Education Accountability passed the Senate Education Committee. This bill addresses some of the problems in the state’s performance accountability system – mainly the school grades.  It defines the statewide, standardized assessment program and school grading system and provides a plan, based on recommendations by DOE, for the transition to Florida’s revised state standards and new assessments with respect to school grading.  Two amendments offered by Senator Legg were approved:  The first revises some elements to be considered in calculating high school grades; the second amendment provides a pathway for students with significant disabilities to be exempted from taking statewide standardized assessments.  A third amendment by Senator Montford was not considered, in part because it was late filed.  That amendment may be offered again when the bill is next considered.   Will next be heard in the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee.   The House Education Committee also conducted a workshop on the Accountability System.  The committee discussed an outline of a proposed accountability system transition plan, similar to the model recommended by DOE and, with regard to school grading.  We will see a proposed committee bill coming out soon.

 

HB 7031 Education / Repeal / Revise / Audits by K-12 was passed by the House Education Committee. Once a year they pass a ‘clean-up’ bill that address a variety of education statutes the either need revising, repealing or fixing.   The bill revises and repeals various provisions relating to education; revises course and assessment requirements for promotion to high school and for award of standard high school diploma; provides course and assessment requirements for graduation for certain cohorts of high school students transitioning to new graduation requirements; revises and conforms provisions relating to selection and purchase of instructional materials, statewide assessment program, education personnel, and educational facilities. This was the ONLY committee for this bill so it is next stop will be the House floor.  The Senate version is SB 1226 by Sen. Montford – it has not yet been heard in committee.

 

HB 7033  Middle Grades Education by K-12 passed the House Education Appropriations subcommittee.  The bill requires a school that includes any of the grades 6, 7 or 8 to include information in its school improvement plan information and data on the school’s early warning system to identify students in need of additional academic support. The bill also:

  • includes middle grades schools under provisions prohibiting hazing and revises penalties;
  • specifies requirements relating to additional FTE funding based on completion of courses or programs and issuance of industry certification;
  • provides requirements for professional development for middle grades educators. [NOTE:  Much of the content of this bill was amended on to SB 850 by Legg to create a companion bill in the Senate for this House bill to be heard next in the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee.]

The next stop for HB 7033 is the House Education Committee.

 

SB 850 – Education / Collegiate High School Programs by Sen. Legg passed the Senate Education Committee. The bill originally required a Florida College System institution to work with each school district in its designated service area to establish a collegiate high school program.  Amendments were adopted that substantially expand the scope of this bill by adding provisions relating to juvenile justice education, implementation of an early warning system based on indicators to identify students in need of additional academic support, middle grades reform initiatives, CAPE industry certifications, and other elements.

 

HB 313 Gender-Specific School Pilot Project by M. Diaz passed the House Education Committee and is now ready to be heard on the Floor of the House.  The bill provides requirements for district school board when establishing gender-specific elementary, middle, or high school. The bill requires school administrative and instructional personnel to participate in professional development. 

 

HB 433 Educator Certification by Rep. Spano was passed the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee. The bill provides requirements for certain instructional personnel who supervise or direct pre-service field experience; revises acceptable means of demonstrating mastery of general knowledge, subject area knowledge, and professional preparation and education competence; revises components of competency-based professional development certification and education competency program; repeals study to compare performance of certain certificate-holders; revises certain requirements for renewal or reinstatement of professional certificate.  Next stop for this bill is the House Education Committee. 

 

SB 188 Education Data Privacy by Sen. Hukill (R-Port Orange) was temporarily postponed by the Senate Judiciary Committee after an amendment submitted by Sen. Latvala (R-Clearwater) was offered to allow parents to ‘opt in’ to the use of certain biometric scanners – such as palm scanners to allow students to move quickly through lunch lines for example. The bill contains provisions to make students and their parents aware of their educational privacy rights and also prohibits the collection -- and limits the dissemination -- of certain types of information. The bill also requires the replacement of social security numbers with student identification numbers. The issue of student data privacy has raised concerns on both sides of the political aisle and has stirred debate about the appropriate procedures and protocols in the use of technology in providing education related services while safeguarding student data. The House companion to this bill - HB 195 by Rep. Raburn passed House Education Committee.  This was the last committee of reference for this bill so it is now available for 2nd Reading in the House.  The bill codifies recommendations by the Commissioner of Education regarding student data collection and dissemination.

 

FTSC-2 Tax Credit Scholarship Programs by Finance and Tax . This is the 2014 expansion of the Tax Credit Voucher program.  As we said earlier, the bill would significantly increase the funding that is diverted from state general revenue by allowing YOUR SALES TAX DOLLARS to be used for vouchers and expands student eligibility for this program.  The bill does not have a true bill number at the time this report was compiled – but it will.

 

Education “Reimbursement” Account  was another voucher-like idea work-shopped by the House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee.  These accounts are designed for certain students who are home schooled to access funding for educational and therapeutic services.  Eligible students include those who eligible to enroll in grades K-5 (and, going forward, for any student who has an existing reimbursement account – i.e. this could include students in higher grades that enrolled in the program while in grades K-5); who have an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) and is eligible for matrix support levels III-V or has an Educational Plan (EP) from his home school district (this would include gifted students); and who enroll in a home education program.  These reimbursement accounts would be funding in the same manner as the John McKay Scholarship Program – i.e. the calculated student funding amount would be deducted from the school district’s FEFP funding and transferred to a scholarship funding organization. The funding could be used for specialized instructional services consistent with the student's IEP, tuition/fees for private school instructional services, private tutoring, and other purposes.  Today’s workshop was intended as an exploratory discussion about the concept of reimbursement accounts – no official action was taken – but it is likely that this concept will be presented in a proposed committee bill.  The Senate version is SB 1512 by Stargel.

 

SB 1060 Code of Student Conduct by Sen. Evers was passed by the House Criminal Justice Committee

This bill  refered to as the Pop Tart Gun Bill provides that students should not be disciplined for simulating a firearm or weapon while playing or wearing clothing or accessories which depict a firearm or weapon or expressing an opinion regarding Second Amendment rights.  The bill has implications for school district Code of Conduct and/or Dress Code policies.  The House version - HB 7029 passed its final committee of reference and is now ready to be heard on the floor of the House.

 

SB 548 Bullying by  Sen. Simmons was passed by the  PASSED WITH A COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE (CS)

This bill creates a criminal statute penalizing bullying/cyberbullying and aggravated bullying/cyberbullying. The newly created statute provides a second degree misdemeanor penalty for bullying/cyberbullying and a first degree misdemeanor penalty for aggravated bullying/cyberbullying.  This bill is significant to school districts because students and others who commit acts of bullying would be subject to criminal penalties in addition to, or in place of, of other sanctions.

 

HB 533 Student Eligibility for Extracurricular Activites (aka athletics) by Rep. M. Diaz passed the Education Appropriations Committee.  We see one of these bills every year it seems. The bill revises provisions enabling home education, charter school, virtual education, and certain private school students to participate in extracurricular activities at public school; authorizes students attending certain public schools to participate in extracurricular activities at another public school; requires district school board eligibility policies to apply evenly to all students regardless of student's extracurricular activity; requires FHSAA bylaws to specify that pre-participation physical evaluation form advise students to complete cardiovascular assessment that includes electrocardiogram.  Its next stop will be the House Education Committee.

 

HB 173  Juvenile Justice Education Programs by Adkins passed the House Education committee and is now in position to be heard by the full House.  The bill revises requirements for multiagency education plan for students in juvenile justice education programs; revises requirements effective education programs for youth in DJJ programs; revises contract and cooperative agreement requirements for delivery of appropriate education services to youth in DJJ programs; revises requirements for activities to be coordinated by coordinators for juvenile justice education programs; requires that educational program shall be based on each youth's reentry plan and assessed needs; provides requirements for prevention and day-treatment juvenile justice education programs; requires progress monitoring plans for all non-exceptional student students; requires that DOE, in partnership with DJJ, ensure that school districts and juvenile justice education providers develop educational transition plans; requires DOE to establish student performance measures and program performance ratings; requires comprehensive accountability and school improvement process; provides requirements for such process.  Last committee stop so it is ready to go to the House floor for final debate and vote.  Senate version is SB 598.

 

 

               Higher Education bills of interest moving this first week

 

SB 732 Stanley G. Tate Florida Prepaid College Program by Sen. Galvano – passed the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee. The bill prohibits the amount of the aggregate sum of registration fees, the tuition differential fee, and local fees paid under an advance payment contract from exceeding a certain percentage of the amount charged by the state university for the aggregate sum of those fees; Similarly, it prohibits the amount of the dormitory fees paid under an advance payment contract from exceeding a certain percentage of the amount charged by the state university for those fees, etc. In effect, this bill reducing the increases in costs for individuals to purchase a pre-paid college contract. At the same time it reduces the amount paid to post-secondary institutions who accept students under this program.

 

HB 7057 Career and Charter Technical Career Centers by Education passed the House Education Appropriations Committee.The bill authorizes career center and charter technical career center to offer college credit courses applicable toward specific certificates or degrees; provides process for approval to offer specific degree programs; renames and clarifies applied technology diploma program; revises and clarifies tuition and fees for specific workforce education programs.   Next stop is the House Education Committee Senate version is SB 1202.

 

SB 66  Discretionary Sales Surtaxes by Flores passed the Senate Finance and Tax Subcommittee.

The bill authorizes a county defined in s. 125.011(1), F.S., (currently this identifies Miami-Dade County only) to levy a surtax up to a specified amount for the benefit of a Florida College System institution and a state university in the county pursuant to an ordinance conditioned to take effect upon approval in a county referendum, etc.  Next and final committee stop is the Senate Appropriations Committee.

 

               Member lobbyists visiting Tallahassee

 

Visiting us this week for the first week of session were our friends and members from Dade, Indian River, Lake, Pasco, Pinellas, and United Faculty of Florida. 

 

 

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