Final tally on school choice bills in Florida

Editor’s note: Florida has a national reputation as school choice central. And in the state legislative session that ended Friday, lawmakers again took up a wide range of choice proposals, including the parent trigger bill that drew so much attention. Here’s a redefinED rundown of what happened from Amy Graham, senior policy analyst for Step Up for Students. The bills that passed both House and Senate are on their way to Gov. Rick Scott.

Charter Schools:

House Bill 903, by Rep. Janet Adkins. 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, requires each charter school to maintain a website that lists any entity that owns, operates, or manages the charter school, and establishes criteria for charter schools serving students with disabilities. It also requires a sponsor to reimburse a charter school on a monthly basis with all federal funds available for the benefit of the charter school, and authorizes certain Florida College System institutions to establish one charter school.

Final action: Passed by House 86-30. Died in Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee.

Senate Bill 1852, by Sen. Stephen Wise. 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.

Final Action: Died in Senate Budget Committee.

Digital Learning:

HB 7063, by Rep. Kelli Stargel. Expands eligibility for virtual instruction by including students entering grades 2-5 who are enrolled full-time in the Florida Virtual School, a district virtual instruction program, or virtual charter school. 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.

Final Action: Passed by House 100-16. Passed by Senate 36-3.

McKay Scholarships:

SB 1826, by Sen. Andy Gardiner. Requires schools to provide information about the scholarship to children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and creates a 2-year pilot program for certain students who have disabilities to attend private schools under contract with providers of supported employment services.

Final Action: Died on Calendar.

Parent Trigger:

HB 1191, by Rep. Michael Bileca.

Final Action: Passed by House 80-34. Died in Senate Education PreK-12 Committee.

SB 1718, by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto. These bills enable parents to petition the school district for the implementation of a parent-selected turnaround option at certain underperforming public schools. They also 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.

Final Action: Senate Failed to Pass 20-20.

Tax Credit Scholarships:

HB 859, by Rep. Richard Corcoran. 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.

Final Action: Passed by House 92-24. Passed by Senate 32-8.

Career Academies:

HB 7059, by Rep. Kelli Stargel. The bill establishes Academically Challenging Curriculum to Enhance Learning (ACCEL) options that provide accelerated instruction, requires notification of options for early graduation, establishes performance-based funding for certain courses based upon passing end-of-course assessments, clarifies student eligibility requirements for dual enrollment, and requires school boards to include plans to implement career-themed courses.

Final action: Passed by House 82-33. Passed by Senate 40-0.

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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.

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