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Florida lawmakers advance ‘do not hire’ list for ‘disqualified’ teachers

If approved, the rule would apply to public, private and charter schools.
Senate Education Committee chairman Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, speaks to reporters Feb. 21, 2019, in the Capitol about his chamber's education priorities for the upcoming session. [The Florida Channel]
Senate Education Committee chairman Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, speaks to reporters Feb. 21, 2019, in the Capitol about his chamber's education priorities for the upcoming session. [The Florida Channel]
Published Apr. 9, 2019

Too often in recent years, stories have emerged in Florida about substitute teachers performing bad acts.

A school district might terminate them, Sen. Manny Diaz observed, but because they aren’t certified, they aren’t tracked by the state. In some instances, they turn up working in nearby private or charter schools, Diaz said.

“They fall through the cracks,” he said.

On Tuesday, both the House and Senate advanced legislation to stem that activity.

Both the Senate Education Appropriations and House Education committees approved related bills (SB 1444 / HB 1127) to create lists of people disqualified from working in the state’s public, private and charter schools. They also would be ineligible to serve on a charter school governing board or operate a private school.

Schools would be required to deny employment to the people who appear on the disqualification lists.

The bills found widespread support from the spectrum of organizations ranging from the Foundation for Florida’s Future to the Florida PTA. Lawmakers had little to say about the measures other than to offer their votes in favor.

Both measures next head to their respective full chambers. They would need to be reconciled into identical language before the idea could be adopted by the Legislature and sent to the governor.

In other actions Tuesday, the two committees also advanced legislation to expand dual enrollment programs to include financial support for students in private high schools (HB 189 / SB 1342). Members contended that the access to the college courses should be available to all students, and not limited because the state only covers the costs for teens in public schools.

The Senate committee advanced a bill changing the definition of “high performing charter schools,” as well. SB 934 would, among other things, change the rules so that charters deemed high performing could expand their enrollment annually only to the level of their current capacity, and not the capacity “at the time the increase will take effect.”

That change would likely prevent charters from proposing large additions in advance of seeking to expand by large numbers.

The House does not have a companion bill. But it does have several charter school proposals in play. The charter provisions that ultimately land in the final versions remain unsettled.

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