A smaller stack of Florida school choice bills still in the hopper

i'm just a billHalfway through this year’s Florida legislative session, here’s a brief look at the school choice related bills that are still moving. To compare to the bills at the beginning of the session, click here. Things are changing fast. Several bills, for instance, are up for a House vote today.

Career Academies:

CS/CS/SB 1076 by Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz. On Senate floor, on Special Order Calendar
April 4. Creates funding incentives to increase innovation in public school programs to better prepare students for future careers; provides for the development of industry certifications at the middle school level; requires financial literacy to be included in high school graduation requirements; revises the funding for industry certifications earned in high school and at postsecondary institutions; and requires the development of multiple pathways to meet high school graduation requirements.

Charter Schools:

The Senate Education Committee conducted a workshop March 18 to discuss the charter bills that were filed. The committee took input from the workshop and proposed a substitute for SB 1282, related to charter schools, during their next meeting April 1.

CS/SB 1282 by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. Committee Substitute favorable by Education Committee on April 1. Includes financial and accountability requirements for charter schools; prohibits a governing board under deteriorating financial condition, financial recovery plan, or corrective action plan from applying for a new charter school; requires a charter agreement to immediately terminate when the charter school closes; requires the use of standard charter and charter renewal contracts; clarifies that members of a charter school board may not be an employee of the charter school; prohibits a charter school that closes from spending more than $35,000 unless the sponsor approves in writing or previously approved.

CS/SB 1390 by Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee. Committee Substitute favorable by Education Committee on April 1. Includes a mechanism through which a school district may establish one innovation school within its district to enhance high academic achievement and accountability in exchange for flexibility and exemptions from specific statutes; exempts facilities leased by the district from ad valorem taxes; and provides that the class size calculation be changed to the school level for district schools or schools of choice.

CS/CS/HB 7009 by Choice and Innovation Subcommittee. On House floor, on 3rd reading. Provides for increased charter school accountability by prohibiting a charter school, upon termination of the charter, from expending more than $10,000 without prior written permission from the sponsor; requires the DOE to develop a proposed statewide standard charter contract by consulting with school districts and charter schools; and requires that a district board-owned facility that has previously been used for K-12 educational purposes be made available for a charter school’s use, with the charter school responsible for the costs to bring the facility into compliance with the Florida Building Code.

Digital Learning:

CS/HB 7029 by Choice & Innovation Subcommittee and Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah. On House floor, on 3rd reading. Revises the requirements for reporting and funding a full-time equivalent student in Florida Virtual School; caps the amount that a district can spend on an individual student to a full-time equivalent (1.0 FTE); provides reporting requirements for Florida Virtual School Global; removes restrictions on students taking online courses across district lines; requires the DOE to develop an online catalog of available digital learning courses; and creates a district innovation school pilot program. (HB 5101 by Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Committee Substitute favorable by Appropriations Committee on April 3. Includes similar revisions for funding virtual instruction.)

CS/HB 843 by Choice & Innovation Subcommittee and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Okaloosa. Committee Substitute favorable by Education Committee on March 20;  now in Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Allows individuals or organizations who provide individual online courses, including massive open online courses, measured by statewide assessments to apply for approval as a state-level provider; allows those courses to be eligible for inclusion in district virtual instruction programs; requires providers to give parents and students contact information for instructors and technical support; and requires the Articulation Coordinating Committee to recommend a funding model for approved massive open online courses.

Parent Empowerment:

HB 867 by Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Doral. On House floor, on 3rd reading. Allows a parent, who has a student in a public school that is failing, to petition to have a certain turnaround option implemented, and provides that a valid petition must have the signatures of a majority of the parents of eligible students in order to have the turnaround option selected by parents considered for implementation by the school district at a publicly noticed school board meeting. It also requires school districts to notify parents and inform them of their options if a student is being taught by an out-of-field teacher; provides that a student may not be assigned for two consecutive school years to a teacher who has received a performance evaluation of “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory,” with an exception for students enrolled in an extracurricular course.   (SB 862 by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. Similar to HB 867. Favorable by Education Committee on April 1. Now in Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.)

Private Schools:

CS/SB 284 by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City. On Senate floor, 3rd Reading. Requires emergency response agencies to notify private schools in the school district under certain circumstances. (Identical to CS/HB 369 by Rep. Mike LaRosa, R-St. Cloud. Favorable by Judiciary Committee on April 3.)

CS/HB 859 by Rep. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast. Committee Substitute favorable by Choice & Innovation Subcommittee on March 20; on Education Appropriations Subcommittee agenda April 4. Allows a student who is enrolled in virtual instruction or attending a public school that does not offer a particular extracurricular activity to participate in that activity at a public school, or private school, if certain requirements are met.


CS/HB 465- Exceptional Student Education by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford. Committee Substitute favorable by Choice & Innovation Subcommittee on March 20; on Education Appropriations Subcommittee agenda April 4. Provides requirements for meetings related to exceptional student education and related services; provides; requires school districts to provide ESE-related services to certain home education program students; requires school districts to adopt parental consent forms for use in actions in a student’s IEP; and allows private instructional personnel hired by parents to enter the classroom to observe the student, collaborate with public instructional personnel, and provide services to the student. (Similar to CS/SB 1108 by Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Education on March 27; now in Appropriations.)

CS/SB 904-Education by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. Committee Substitute favorable by Education Committee on March 6; now in Rules. Creates the Florida Accredited Courses and Tests Initiative (FACTs); requires that “Florida accredited courses” and assessments be identified, approved, published, and shared for consideration annually; authorizes a school district, Florida College System institution, or state university to contract with qualified contractors to administer and proctor statewide assessments and assessments associated with Florida-accredited courses.

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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.