Legislative scorecard: The winners
The Florida Legislature has finished up, leaving a long trail of education bills in its wake. School districts and the Department of Education will spend the next several months trying to make heads and tails of the measures that the governor approves. Here's our best review of the acts that look headed to becoming law. Later, we'll look at the proposals that didn't make it.
The biggie is SB 1908, which tackles accountability testing and standards. The bill includes the "world class" standards that House Speaker Marco Rubio sought but didn't get last year. It also deemphasizes the role of the FCAT in grading high schools, adding other factors such as graduation rates into the mix. It sets a later date to administer the FCAT, begins the process of creating end-of-course exams to supplement the FCAT in high schools, and bans the suspension of the regular curriculum to prepare for the FCAT. It's perhaps the one education bill that even Democrats liked.
Another key bill strengthens the penalties for teacher misconduct, a major issue statewide that's grown in importance here in the Tampa Bay area with the advent of so many teachers getting arrested for inappropriate relations with students lately. (SB 1712)
Lawmakers decided to expand on their physical education mandate, requiring middle schools to provide at least one daily class period of PE for one semester each year. (Families can opt out if they wish.) And in a slap to elementary schools that seemed not to understand that 30 minutes of daily activity at the elementary level means "consecutive" minutes, the legislation makes that abundantly clear, to the annoyance of many educators who already feel under the gun to meet all the other state education mandates. (SB 610)
Despite complaints that the state should not expand vouchers while cutting public school funding, the Legislature expanded by $30-million a year the corporate income tax credit scholarships that give students tuition for private schools. (HB 653)
In a budget enabling bill, lawmakers gutted the merit pay program that teachers like best. They eliminated state payments for application for National Board certification, and cut funding for the National Board certified teachers' mentoring bonus. The bill also delays implementation of classroom counts for class-size amendment by one year, reduces the local capital outlay millage by 0.25 mills and requires districts to reuse building designs. (HB 5083)
And proving the third time is indeed a charm, the Senate finally allowed through an anti-bullying bill that requires schools to ban harassment of students. (HB 669)
But wait. There's more.
SB 1414 requires grades for firms that provide tutoring under No Child Left Behind provisions. There have been complaints that many providers do not do the job they're paid to do.
SB 526 establishes a pilot program to allow private school athletes to participate in public school sports in Bradford, Nassau and Duval counties.
HB 623, which began as a requirement that schools provide school breakfast for all students, got softened to a recommendation amid budget concerns.
SB 242 allows public schools to separate classes by gender, so long as students have the option whether to participate.
HB 7067 provides that virtual schools are a public choice option and establishes a K-8 virtual school.
HB 879 permits a prekindergarten provider to use non-certified substitute teachers.
SB 1906 creates a pilot program to grant high school credit to students enrolled in industry certification programs.
SB 1992 requires new school zone signs to state "speeding fines doubled."
HB 207, which revises certification standards for teachers of foreign languages, won approval as part of SB 1908.