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Major education bill with testing changes sought by DeSantis at death’s door

The 115-page bill was not voted on before its committee adjourned.

TALLAHASSEE — With less than two weeks to go before the end of session, it’s the time of year when bills are dying in the Florida Legislature. Still, it’s unusual for a priority of the governor and the Department of Education to go quietly.

But a major education package, Senate Bill 62, amended last-minute to contain 115 pages of education policy from other bills, was not voted on before the Senate Appropriations committee adjourned on Tuesday. The bill had language related to teacher pay raises, contained an expansion of dual enrollment for home schoolers and would have banned the use of seclusion and curtailed physical against students who are acting out. The latter has been proposed repeatedly in various bills for about a decade.

It also contained changes to testing as part of the Department of Education’s overhaul of the state standards to eliminate Common Core at the request of Gov. Ron DeSantis. As part of an effort to reduce high-stakes testing, it would have eliminated the required geometry test for most 10th-graders and the English test for 9th-graders. It also would have required that all high school juniors take the SAT or the ACT.

“We tried to put some things together, it didn’t work well," said Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, the bill’s sponsor. "Unfortunately, that’s how the process works, not everything can make it through.”

The chair of Senate Appropriations, Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said he was not sure yet if there would be another meeting. If not, the bill is likely dead in the Senate, but Bradley emphasized that some of the teacher pay language, dictating how raises will work and who will receive them, can be added to the budget.

The Senate and House still need to resolve differences in who will receive raises pitched by the state — such as whether it would go beyond K-12 classroom teachers to include other school staff or pre-kindergarten teachers.