Bills to create vouchers and arm teachers have dominated discussion in the Florida Legislature over the past few days.
It would be easy to forget that other education issues remain unsettled as lawmakers work to wind down their 2019 session, culminating with a vote on the budget most likely over the weekend.
So here’s an update on the status of the measures that haven’t yet fallen completely off the rails, for those of you keeping track.
TEACHER TESTING: A House proposal to essentially eliminate the general knowledge test as part of teacher certification was significantly scaled back and included in SB 7070, the voucher bill that is now headed to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature. Unlike the House plan, which would have allowed teachers who do not pass the exam to avoid it by successfully completing a two-year mentorship, the provision now gives teachers on a temporary certificate longer to pass the test. Those teachers also could get a two-year extension on their 3-year temporary certificate if they earn a “highly effective” rating or complete that mentorship program mentioned in the original bill.
FINANCIAL LITERACY: The six-year effort to require a financial literacy course for high school graduation no longer exists in that form. Unable to push the mandate through, the bill sponsors worked to get a lesser requirement into legislation focused on workforce and career education (SB 770 / HB 7071). The new language would make financial literacy an elective course that every high school must offer, beginning in the fall.
WORKFORCE EDUCATION: The notion of creating more paths for a diploma, with a goal of being ready for the workplace, was one of the only education goals that appeared in both the Democrat and Republican platforms during the 2018 election. Several bills were introduced during session. But little has been said since. So what’s happening? The House merged two of them — HB 7071 and HB 7075 — into one 59-page bill that remains up for Senate consideration, alongside the Senate version (SB 770) in the next two days. The issue currently is scheduled for a May 2 debate.
BRIGHT FUTURES: The Florida Senate proposed to increase the eligibility criteria for Bright Futures scholarships, making them more selective as once intended. The House took the Senate bill and approved a strike-all amendment that eliminated mention of the scholarship, focusing instead primarily on college and university PECO funds. The Senate has received SB 190 as amended for additional consideration.
DO NOT HIRE LIST: Lawmakers in both chambers filed legislation (HB 1127 / SB 1444) to create a list of educators no longer eligible to teach in any school — public, private or charter. The House unanimously adopted its version Wednesday morning, while the Senate bill sits on second reading for its consideration.
TAX SHARING: The House bill that would, among other things, require school districts share local-option property tax revenue with charter schools (HB 7123) has been delivered to the Senate, which has yet to act on it and has its own tax bill (SB 1412) without the idea available for debate and amendments on the floor.
SCHOOL BOARD TERM LIMITS: A proposed constitutional amendment referendum to limit school board members to two consecutive four-year terms stalled in the Senate, where support was squishy. The House version remains available for floor consideration on second reading, but is not expected to move.