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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Lawmakers file StudentsFirst priority bill on financial reporting



After two failed attempts to push the parent trigger in Florida, Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst organization refocused its priorities for the Sunshine State on financial accountability. The group's Florida chapter called for a meaningful, school-by-school return on investment report that parents can use to determine if state education funding is being spent on programs that benefit children.

Two influential Miami Republican lawmakers have filed legislation to back the StudentsFirst initiative. HB 875, sponsored by K-12 Subcommittee vice chairman Manny Diaz Jr. and Education Appropriations chairman Erik Fresen, would require the state to create a statewide return on investment index and rating system for all schools. 

The system would, according to the bill, "evaluate the extent to which public schools and school districts use their financial resources in a cost-effective manner to improve or sustain student achievement. Student achievement shall be, at a minimum, determined by annual student learning gains." The resulting information would be included in school report cards beginning in 2015-16.

It also would create a 14-school pilot project to give principals more direct authority over spending and personnel decisions, to see if that effort improves student performance.

“This bill brings some much-needed transparency to our education spending and allows Florida taxpayers to see which schools and districts are providing the best return on investment for our state,” Diaz said in a release. “It will allow schools and districts to see what is working and what’s not, and make the best decisions on how to prioritize their budgets.”

Sen. Anitere Flores, another Miami Republican, has said she will file the Senate version.

"Parents, education policymakers, and frankly, all Floridians should know how education dollars are being spent at the school level and what kind of an impact those programs are having," StudentsFirst vice president Tim Melton said in a press release. "While fiscal transparency was among Florida’s weakest areas on StudentsFirst’s most recent State Policy Report Card, it also presents one of the greatest opportunities for improvement. With HB 875, Rep. Diaz and Sen. Flores are taking advantage of that opportunity with a commonsense solution that will improve learning gains for Florida students."

The bill has not yet been assigned to a committee.

[Last modified: Thursday, February 13, 2014 6:07am]


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