The State of the Sunshine State

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will deliver his first State of the State speech this evening, and whatever he may say about education, political observers in the Sunshine State already are calling this legislative session one of the most consequential, and controversial, for public education.

Michelle Rhee has visited the state several times, in part to encourage legislators to pass Senate Bill 736, Florida’s latest effort to revamp teacher contracts and evaluations. SB 736 is already on the Senate’s calendar, and lawmakers are seeking to remake the educational landscape with bills that would facilitate universal vouchers or a widely expanded array of online educational opportunities. All this would spark a volatile debate without the governor’s proposal to cut 10 percent off the per-pupil formula paid to public schools to help bankroll operational costs. The state must close a $4 billion budget gap.

RedefinED will have updates on these and other measures as the Legislature convenes during the next couple of months. This is a list of bills we’ll be paying attention to:

Scholarship Programs

  • HB 965 by Horner, Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program; Similar to SB 1388 by Flores; revises the amount of a tax credit allowed for contributions to a nonprofit scholarship-funding organization; revises provisions related to the carryforward and rescindment of tax credits; authorizes the DOR to disclose certain information to eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organizations
  • SB 1236 by Richter, State Revenues; provides for the gradual reduction of the corporate income tax and specifies additional taxes against which a taxpayer may claim a credit for a contribution to an eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organization
  • HB 475 by Taylor and SB 1542 by Siplin, Corporate Income Tax Credits; provides credits against the corporate income tax for contributions to public schools
  • HB 1329 by Bileca, and SB 1656 by Wise, McKay Scholarships/Students with Disabilities; provides eligibility for students with disabilities for whom a 504 accommodation plan or or a Tier 3 Response to Intervention plan has been issued
  • SB 1678 by Wise, McKay Scholarships/Students with Disabilities; revises provisions related to the term of a student’s scholarship
  • HB 937 by Davis and SB 1254 by Wise; Auditory-oral Education Programs; provides that the parent of a child who is deaf or hard of hearing may enroll the child in an auditory-oral education program at a public or private school that meets certain requirements as a public school choice option
  • HB 1331 by Bileca, School Choice; Similar to SB 1822 by Benacquisto; revises requirements for eligibility to participate in the Opportunity Scholarship Program
  • HB 1225 by Brandes, and SB 1550 by Negron, Education Savings Account Program; allows payment to a participating student’s account equal to a percentage of the amount a student would have generated under the FEFP, which would be deposited in a financial institution and used for the child’s education

Charter Schools and Virtual Education

  • HB 631 by Clarke-Reed, and SB 1596 by Sobel, Charter Schools; provides a requirement for a charter school’s governing body and requirements for the shared use of facilities by charter schools
  • SB 1546 by Thrasher, Charter Schools; revises provisions related to the sponsoring entities of charter schools; authorizes state universities and colleges to approve charter school applications and develop charter schools; provides for the designation of charter schools as high-performing if certain requirements are met
  • SB 1620 by Flores, K-12 Educational Instruction; adds statewide virtual providers to the list of public school options; authorizes the creation of virtual charter schools; redefines the term “full-time equivalent student” for purposes of virtual instruction programs and the Florida Virtual School
  • HB 1255 by Adkins, and SB 1696 by Wise, Public School Accountability; revises provisions related to virtual instruction courses, operation of charter schools, and the Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Educational Personnel

  • SB 736 by Wise; Similar to HB 7019 by Fresen; SB 736 is on the Special Order Calendar in the Senate on March 9; revises provisions related to the evaluation and compensation of instructional personnel and school administrators

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BY Amy Graham

Amy Graham is a policy analyst who recently joined Step Up For Students, a nonprofit organization that administers the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program for low-income children. A graduate of the Florida State University College of Law, Amy previously worked as a legislative analyst for the Florida Senate and as an education policy analyst focused on school choice programs for the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice at the Florida Department of Education. She also is an alumnus of Illinois Wesleyan University.