More bills than usual
Education bills continued to pour in late Monday into Tuesday as Florida lawmakers sought to beat the filing deadline. Among the more notable (and possibly controversial) ones:
Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, proposed revisiting the "65 percent solution" (HB 1463) that would require districts to spend no less than 65 percent of their budgets on classroom operations. He would up the ante to 70 percent in 2010-11. This idea gained no traction as a trade-off for class-size changes a few years ago.
Sen. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, suggested exceptions to the first day of school rule, allowing school districts some flexibility if they have some public hearings, a survey and a unanimous vote. (SB 2816) School board leaders have clamored for this change ever since the tourism industry convinced lawmakers to set the start of school no sooner than two weeks before Labor Day.
Rep. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, put forth legislation (HB 1481) that would allow some private school students to participate in public school athletics and extracurriculars. Private school groups have already spoken against this idea, which could decimate their programs while also opening their students to recruiting.
And yes, Sen. Ronda Storms' "Academic Freedom Act" (the evolution alternatives bill) got a House companion (HB 1483) thanks to Rep. D. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.
The list keeps growing. A lobbyist for the Pasco school district told superintendent Heather Fiorentino this morning that this session features more education bills than any session in recent memory. Why? "It's an election year, and education is a popular issue," speculated Fiorentino, who once served in the Florida House.
The Legislature convened today. The House Schools and Learning Council committees are scheduled to begin deliberations at 1 p.m.