Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

School choice bills find support in Florida House

TALLAHASSEE — House Republicans made good on their promise to expand school choice Thursday, passing two choice-in-education bills out of the lower chamber.

The first would allow home- and virtual-school students to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities at the traditional public school of their choice.

The second would require single-gender public schools to have open enrollment.

House Speaker Will Weatherford called Thursday's votes "the beginning of our school choice agenda."

"There are still more bills to come," the Wesley Chapel Republican said.

The caucus is hoping for larger victories on the school-choice front: namely, expanding the school voucher program, creating savings accounts for special-needs children, and fostering charter school growth.

But even if they succeed, the Senate may stand in the way.

The upper chamber has pursued a far less aggressive school choice agenda this year.

On Monday, the Senate Education Committee gutted the proposal aimed at creating a more favorable environment for new charter schools. Days earlier, Sen. Bill Galvano withdrew his bill to expand the school voucher program.

Senate Education Committee chairman John Legg said the upper chamber is not opposed to school choice. But he and other senators want to take a "rational approach to education policy," he said.

The charter school proposal, for instance, was "an overreach," he said.

"It is not something that all charter schools want," Legg said of a provision requiring school districts and charter schools to use a standardized contract.

Both of the school-choice bills that passed in the House on Thursday were sponsored by Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah.

One (HB 533) drew strong opposition from Democrats.

Under current law, students enrolled in virtual- and home-school programs can play sports at their neighborhood public schools.

The new language would allow those students to play sports at any school in the district. It would also apply to extra-curricular activities like marching band and theater.

What's more, the option would be extended to students at charter schools and district-operated magnets and alternative schools — but only if their school did not offer the activity.

Some Democrats said the measure would lead to free agency and recruiting in high school athletics.

"This will allow for abuse and misuse of the system," said Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, predicting that students would skirt the eligibility rules.

Other Democrats raised concerns about funding.

"The bill is unfair to public schools because it unfairly places the burden of offering extra-curricular activities on the public schools," said Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton.

Slosberg said the bill was also unfair to public school students, who are not permitted to "shop around" for sports programs and extra-curricular activities.

But Republican Rep. Neil Combee had a four-word retort: "Let the kids play."

Republican Reps. Eddy Gonzalez, Cary Pigman, David Santiago and Ross Spano repeated the maxim.

The bill passed by an 82-34 vote.

The single-gender pilot program (HB 313) passed 110-4.

Single-gender schools are already permitted under Florida law. The bill would require those schools to be open to all students within the district. It would also require school administrators and teachers to undergo special training.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at kmcgrory@MiamiHerald.com.

School choice bills find support in Florida House 03/27/14 [Last modified: Thursday, March 27, 2014 11:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Baker cautious on Pride politics

    Elections

    Rick and Joyce Baker strode down Central Avenue Sunday amid rainbow flags, corporate booths, and blaring music of the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Baker chats Sunday with people at the St. Pete Pride Festival. As mayor, Baker did not sign a Pride parade proclamation, but now he says he would.
  2. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.
  3. Lightning among early suitors for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blue line and adding a wing or two.

    Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who can be a free agent Saturday, counts the Lightning among his early suitors.
  4. Senate leaders try to appease members as support for health bill slips

    National

    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders scrambled Sunday to rally support for their health care bill, even as opposition continued to build outside Congress and two Republican senators questioned whether the bill would be approved this week.

    Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, is one of the five Republican senators who announced they cannot support the health care bill as drafted.
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of June 26-July 2.

    Events

    Vans Warped Tour: The festival returns Saturday to St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park, featuring shock-metal icons Gwar, hardcore punks Sick Of It All, ska band Save Ferris and indie-pop group Never Shout Never ($39.50-$49.50). vanswarpedtour. …

    Crowd for the Motionless in White band at the 2014 Vans Warped Tour at Vinoy Park, Friday, July 25, 2014.  CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times