It’s time: Florida lawmakers to begin talking education

Committees begin meeting in earnest Jan. 8.
The Florida House Education Committee discusses a proposed committee bill on school choice issues on Jan. 25, 2018. [The Florida Channel]
The Florida House Education Committee discusses a proposed committee bill on school choice issues on Jan. 25, 2018. [The Florida Channel]
Published January 4

Their initial meetings were brief and basic, if they gathered at all after the swearing in of newly elected members.

But the Florida Legislature's several education-related committees plan to cover more substantive issues as they convene next week for the more official kickoff of the 2019 session.

Among the scheduled topics of conversation are school safety, which remains of critical concern as several committees issue recommendations for improvements; early learning; state scholarship programs (which some consider vouchers); and university construction spending.

Each of these items has been hotly debated in recent years, and Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis has including them in his campaign platform, as well. House PreK-12 Appropriations chairman Rep. Chris Latvala anticipated  the still-conservative Legislature will likely move ahead with few major shifts while keeping its eyes on the subjects that have caused some of the most intense debates in Tallahassee.

The work begins Tuesday after DeSantis' inauguration, with the Senate Education committee meeting to talk security at 2:30 p.m., followed by a more general session of the House Education committee at 3 p.m.

Wednesday will feature a 1 p.m. joint meeting of several House higher education committees and the ethics panel, to discuss concerns that emerged after audits of construction projects at the University of Central Florida. Later in the afternoon, the House PreK-12 Innovation committee is slated to talk about tax credit scholarships and related programs, which the new leadership has said it wants to expand.

The conversation rounds out Thursday with both the House PreK-12 and Higher Education appropriations committees talking money, while the House PreK-12 Quality committee focuses on school improvement.

A handful of education bills have been filed, and most have been assigned to committees, although none have yet been scheduled for hearings. Usually, the bigger pieces of legislation emerge later in the committee weeks.

But these early meetings appear to signal some of the key matters that will be getting attention in the 60-day session. Stay tuned.

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