Key education issues move through Florida legislative committees with little fanfare
Parent trigger and teacher raises have garnered the lion's share of the attention being paid to education issues under debate in the Florida Legislature. But other critical topics -- some of which could have larger impact -- are moving through committees with less fanfare.
SB 1630 would delay full implementation of new testing associated with Common Core standards until all schools in the state have the technological capability to administer those FCAT replacement tests. It passed its first committee unanimously and is headed to the next stop, Education Appropriations. HB 7091 is the related House bill that would, among other things, make the move to Common Core testing contingent upon adequate funding. It unanimously moved through the House education appropriations committee this week, too. As it stands, the Common Core and its tests are slated to be in place in less than two years, despite concerns that districts are not prepared.
SB 904 would give public school students the opportunity to select accredited courses from any authorized provider and count those toward graduation requirements, even without leaving their assigned school. It won initial approval in the Senate Education Committee, 7-1. The class choice idea also is percolating in HB 843, which calls them "charter courses." The bill passed the Choice and Innovation subcommittee by a 10-3 margin on Wednesday.
SB 980 would make it so teacher evaluations would include student performance data of only the students assigned to them. It sailed through the Senate Education Committee on its way to Education Appropriations, where more details are expected to be added. Similar bills are pending in the House.
Gov. Rick Scott isn't finding much support for across-the-board teacher raises, but his proposal to give teachers debit cards to support classroom expenses isn't finding much resistance. HB 1033 won unanimous support in its first House committee stop on Wednesday, while related bill SB 1664 also passed its first committee unanimously earlier in the week.
Bills to change the way charter schools operate, share space, get funding and so forth remain up for discussion, but have yet to move. Some observers suggest these topics will have a much greater effect on public education than the parent trigger, which also affects charters. HB 7009, which among other things would give charters access to unused public school facilities, is slated for debate in the House on Friday morning, while the Senate continues to seek ways to create one bill out of the many that are proposed over charters.