Monday, September 24, 2018

What education bills passed in the Florida Legislature?

Okay. So we know all about the three major education related bills that Gov. Rick Scott signed over the weekend.

But did you catch the handful of other measures that aren't HB 7055 (K-12 policy), SB 4 (higher education) or SB 7026 (school safety)?

Perhaps most interesting was HB 495, which began as 11 lines of new language aimed at reviewing the formula used for price indexing school district costs. Ten amendments (including three delete-alls) later, Rep. Manny Diaz Jr.'s bill ballooned to 43 pages that created changes in teacher deferred retirement plans; implemented added opportunities to expand computer science instruction including paying bonuses to certified teachers; more clearly spelled out bans in personal relationships between teachers and students; and exempted high school students who passed certain advanced course tests from taking state end-of-course exams in related subjects.

One thing missing from HB 495: The original language. The price indexing report did not find its way into legislation.

Other education bills that made it through the legislative process included:

HB 577, which allows high school students to use credits from apprenticeship programs toward their elective requirements for graduation.

HB 731, clarifying rules and requirements for home schooling.

HB 565, easing the excess tuition costs on extra credit hours taken by in-state students at state universities.

Those are ready to be signed by the chamber leadership and sent to Gov. Rick Scott. Many other education bills, including some that gained a lot of attention, didn't get to the finish line.

Of those, maybe the most surprising one was SB 88, a proposal to add a half-credit graduation requirement of a financial literacy course. In the works for five years, the bill passed the Senate unanimously in the first week of session.

It languished in the House, where members tried to amend it in the final days, and ultimately died.

Other ideas that fell short included a resolution for a referendum on school board term limits (that idea remains alive in the Constitution Revision Commission); a years-long effort to scale back restraint and seclusion of students with special needs who grow violent; a proposal to offer bus rides to more students living closer to their schools; a measure to give parents and residents more say over instruction materials selections; and a bill to give guidelines for schools as they deal with students who use medical marijuana.

Some items floated within the big bills didn't last, either. Among those ideas removed from HB 7055, for instance, were a House plan to eliminate more middle school computerized testing in favor of paper tests; and a Senate proposal to expand the Schools of Hope funding support for struggling district schools.

Perhaps this should not be surprising. One lobbyist detailed the session numbers to show just 6 percent of bills introduced made it through both chambers in identical language: In total, the lobbyist stated, the session included:
3,250 Bills/PCBs filed
2,721 Amendments filed
527 Committee meetings
2,853 Bills seen in committee
40 Floor Sessions
200 Bills passed both chambers

To leadership, the Legislature delivered on key priorities. To some other observers, the session offered 200 too many passed bills. Your thoughts?

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