Prepared by the Foundation for Excellence in Education – Florida’s 2017 Legislative Session came to a close in early May with lawmakers passing many student-centered bills that will advance education in the Sunshine State.
- House Bill 15, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan and Rep. Jason Fischer, expands the Gardiner Scholarship program to Florida students with rare diseases, anaphylaxis or a traumatic brain injury, as well as to students who are deaf, visually impaired, dual-sensory impaired, hospitalized or homebound. The scholarship program, which provides students with access to a customized education, is currently serving more than 7,500 Florida children with unique abilities. The legislation also increases the scholarship amount for low-income middle and high school students in the Tax Credit Scholarship Program to accommodate the higher cost of tuition in those grades.
- Legislation to examine what other states are doing to beat the “Middle School Slump” passed the full Senate on May 5. HB 293, which was sponsored by Rep. Colleen Burton in the Florida House and by Sen. Kelli Stargel in the Florida Senate, directs the Florida Department of Education to conduct a study examining practices in states with high-performing middle schools.
- The K-12 Education conforming bill, HB 7069, sponsored by Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., became the omnibus bill for more than 20 issues, including:
- Legislation that gives teachers more time to teach by moving statewide assessments to the end of the school year and provides teachers and parents with easy-to-understand and actionable student score reports. It also ensures teachers receive timely results from local assessments to help inform classroom instruction.
- House Bill 7069 also designates $30 million for the Gardiner Scholarship program, protecting all current scholarship students and all students who have already started and/or completed applications for the next school year.
- The legislation sets aside $140 million to recruit high-performing nonprofit charter management organizations to provide Florida students living in areas of persistently low-performing schools with high-quality education options. The legislation also allows for public school districts to access funding to turn around consistently failing schools by offering wraparound services. A high-performing charter management organization is one that has demonstrated success in serving disadvantaged students and helping those students make significant academic progress.
- House Bill 7069 also removes barriers so that all Florida students can participate in virtual instruction. The legislation eliminates the requirement that a student must have attended a public school the previous year. More than 900 Florida Virtual School students were not able to continue their education during the 2016-2017 school year because of arbitrary prior-year enrollment rules currently in place.
- The legislation also removes caps on the bonus teachers may receive when students earn credit in Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced International Certificate of Education and industry credential courses.
- House Bill 7069, which was passed by both the Florida House and Florida Senate on May 8, will now move to the Governor’s desk for action.