In Florida, the single party trifecta of house, senate and Governor plus a host of lobbyists work very hard every session to destroy the foundation of public education with legislation that is nothing short of death by a thousand cuts. The past 20 years of radical, experimental “reform” has earned Florida the dubious “honor” of being #1 in passing such a stunning list of privatization measures that other GOP dominated states are scrambling to follow suit.
Florida’s twenty-year history of using high stakes testing and flawed accountability metrics to label and sort teachers, students and districts sticks Jeb, Friedman, Koch’s, DeVos, Kirtley and a spate of ROI philanthropists such as Bill Gates, with full ownership of the current “status quo.” They alone bear responsibility for executing their plan to bring our most valuable taxpayer-owned asset, our public schools filled with our children and their teachers to the brink of breaking. Make no mistake, their endgame is publicly-funded Universal Vouchers/Education Savings Accounts to be used as a “choice” where the only option will be private and largely unaccountable.
Here’s the run-down:
With some modifications made by the Legislature over the years, the A+ Plan for Education signed into law by Governor Jeb Bush in 1999, remains the foundation of Florida’s education system.
The A+ Plan expanded state testing and assigned schools A-F grades based on student performance on standardized tests. It rewarded those schools that did well and was supposed to provide additional help for low performing schools.
Florida was the first state to require annual testing of every student in selected grades and subjects ever year and the first state to attach high stakes to those test results. Over the years, Florida has changed the standards and the grading system while raising the stakes attached to testing. Student tests are currently linked to school performance grades and teacher bonuses. Test scores also determine high school graduation, third grade retention and the basis for school choice.
Florida implements Opportunity Scholarships for students in low performing schools as well as the John McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities.
HB 2393 FRS -Optional Defined Contribution Program. Florida creates a 401K style investment plan as an option to the traditional Defined Benefit plan.
John McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities program is expanded.
Corporate Income Tax Credit Scholarship program created to circumvent constitutional prohibition against private and religious school vouchers for students in low income households.
Voters overwhelmingly approve the Class Size Amendment to the state constitution limiting the number of children per classroom
The state funded education with 61% of the state’s general revenue. Local property owners paid 39% through taxes
2006 was the high-water mark for education funding in Florida. Per pupil funding was $7,400. (The national average was $9,138.)
- Per pupil funding from the state was $7,300. This amount was reduced to $7,000 during a special session and was reduced to $6,844 later that year.
- SB 1270 Higher Education Governance (Oelrich)
- Established the Board of Governors (BOG) and local university boards of trustees (UBOTS)
- Transferred responsibility from the FDOE to the BOG or UBOTS
- Designated Board of Governors as the employer of university faculty and staff
- Voters passed Amendment I, which decreased property tax revenues. Projected cuts equal $9.3 billion over five years, representing a $1.5 billion reduction of funds for education.
- HB 653: Corporate Income Tax Credit Scholarship program (Policy and Education Council)
- Increased the $88 million tax credit cap to $118 million annually and increased the award amount
- SB 1908: High School Grading (Education PreK-12) Engrossed SB 1908
- Revised the criteria and student assessment data for designating school grades; half of the grade will be based on assessment results, the other half based on graduation rates, advanced placement course also added
- Created an alternative school improvement rating system
- Revised the identification of schools eligible to receive school recognition funding
- Revised the Sunshine State Standards as the Next Generation Standards
- Required a college readiness assessment for all high school students
- Allowed the FDOE to incorporate EOC into the statewide assessment program; removed norm reference test requirement; changes in test design;
- Alignment in all materials with the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, including Teacher certification exam
HB 7067: Virtual Education (Schools and Learning Council)
- Required school districts to implement digital instruction
- Figures released by the Revenue Estimating Conference reflect a sharp decline in property taxes and an unexpected reduction in sales tax reducing per pupil spending to a shocking $6,400. The national average is over $10,000 per pupil.
- American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is passed by the U.S. Congress. States are given non-recurring money to help balance their budgets/
- Florida does not qualify for the $2.5 billion in education budget relief because per pupil funding in the state has dipped well-below 2006 levels. Reluctantly, Governor Crist applies for the required waiver and Florida gets in line to receive its portion of the bail-out money. (Example of state ignoring federal requirement, and public education paying the price)
- Following a contentious regular session, the Florida Legislature (represented by a majority party in both houses and in the Governor’s office) extended the regular session, costing taxpayers and additional $250,000. Legislators use Stimulus money, revenue from increased fees and money from the Seminole Indian Gaming Compact to balance and pass the state budget.
- Per pupil spending stands at $6,873, but costs previously not included, like transportation, must be paid from that amount resulting in a net loss to students and education.
- The Florida Legislature, taking advantage of the economic downturn, continues to shift the burden of taxation to local counties, forcing them to make the one-time choice to levy an extra .25 in taxes without permission or vote from property owners. Many school boards reject the additional .25 tax option- refusing to give the legislature a pass on its constitutional obligation to fund education and citing this latest move as just another ploy to shift the burden of taxation to the local level.
- In the 2009-10 Fiscal Year, the state funds 51% of education- a 10% drop since 2005. Property owners fund 49%. 2010 projections continue to shift the burden of education funding to property taxpayers. (this is a HUGE issue for parents and the public)
- HB 991 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) 2009
- In 2009 Florida lawmakers enacted H.B. 991 at the urging of Education Commissioner Dr. Eric Smith, aligning our state’s school grading system with the No Child Left Behind Act (Federal law) four years ahead of schedule. Using complex formulas, schools are now evaluated on both their FCAT scores and the strict pass/fail structure of AYP. How it works:
- To achieve AYP, schools must meet proficiency benchmarks in 39 separate criteria. If a school fails to meet just one of these criteria, it does not make AYP.
- Include categories such as learning disabilities, low-readers, Exceptional Education students, free/reduced lunch recipients and African American and Hispanic males and females. Students who fail to make AYP and fall into a number of categories, will count numerous times against the overall school evaluation.
- During a 4-year span, all schools who fail to meet AYP, including those with an A+ on the FCAT, will face sanctions ranging from economic to a complete “reconstitution” or breakdown the school that involves firing principals, and staff and relocating students around the county.
- The requirement of all schools to immediately bring failing sub-groups up to AYP proficiencies is completely un-funded. There is no money to support the requirement that our schools develop special approaches, add staff, curricula or other means to increase these students’ performance.
- Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Voucher Program formerly the Corporate Income Tax Scholarship Voucher Program. Name changed and expanded to include insurance premium tax break as eligible scholarship contribution
- HB-479 Teacher Retirement
Prohibited retired teachers from being reemployment after thirty days with a retirement benefit. Requires a 6-month waiting period to be deemed terminated. Upon another 6-month period (total one year) retiree is eligible to receive a salary check and retirement check. Bans an FRS retiree from substituting in a district while collecting a benefit because they do not meet the termination definition.
- HB 991: Florida Equal Opportunity in Education Act (Rep. Grady)
Required the FDOE to create annual school classifications based on school grade and student performance, but targets school in need of intervention; To create a matrix of intervention strategies for the lowest performing schools; Identify the lowest performing schools for turnaround.
- Provided options the State Board of Education could use to force improvement and accountability in public education
SB 2/Rescinds the original Class Size amendment. Gives voters another chance to state their opinion on class size and consider voting for larger classes, raising the cap from 22 to 30 for core classes only. Elective classes could be quite large with 50 students. Nine years ago 72% of the Florida voters thought it was a good idea to limit class size. The bill passed very early in session to be placed on the November ballot. Background; In 2002, Florida voters overwhelmingly chose to amend the state constitution to limit the number of children taught in a single classroom which legislators refused to fund. Although there has been a phased transition, 100% compliance takes place during the 2010-2011 school year and cost millions in new teacher hires.
Ignoring the will of voters, the Legislature puts a constitutional amendment on the 2010 ballot to adjust the maximum class size requirement to school average. It is defeated.
SB 6 “Teacher Merit Pay” Passed and vetoed by Gov. Crist. Expensive and unfair, this bill would have cost districts $1 Billion in “set-aside”dollars to implement the “merit” portion and another estimated unfunded $1 Billion for implementation. Teacher pay would have been tied to performance, certificates could have been revoked and no allowances were made for a student’s home life or other mitigating factors. All the pressure for money coming to the school or the teacher rested on the backs of our kids. This bill would have destroyed the teaching profession as we know it.
- HB 1505: John McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities
Changed eligibility requirements, expanded to include kindergarteners and other students under specific criteria.
- SB 2126: Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Voucher Program
- This massive expansion of Jeb Bush’s Corporate Tax Voucher program allows taxes normally destined for the state general revenue fund to be diverted to an opaque account that funds vouchers. This money never makes it onto the state books.
- Expanded by adding three new revenue streams: Oil and gas taxes, sales and use tax and alcohol. Increased the $118 million cap to $140 million and further increased the following year by 25%
- SB 4: Expands High School Graduation Standards. Requires students to take additional courses and end-of-course testing to earn a high school diploma. Expensive to implement, questions remain about whether increased coursework and testing will have the desired affect on a struggling student population. The bill was passed and signed into law.
Federal Stimulus money ran out in 2011. The Florida Legislature did not close corporate loopholes or address comprehensive tax reform to pay for our state’s bills. Public education experienced massive cuts. Once again, Florida ignored federal requirements and public education paid the price.
In 2011, Florida lawmakers eliminated professional service contracts for all new teachers; created an evaluation system based on student performance that could be used to terminate employees and passed a performance pay plan requiring that the most effective teachers earn the largest salary awards each year.
- SB 736: Student Success Act – backlash for 2010 veto of SB6
- Eliminated professional service contracts for all new instructional personnel hired beginning 1/1/2011
- Created performance-based evaluations for instructional personnel and school administrators to measure their effectiveness based on student outcomes on the FCAT and other assessments; 50% of the evaluation based on student performance
- Required districts to design a new performance-based salary schedule and distribute annual salary increased based on evaluation (for personnel who choose the option to move to the performance salary schedule)
- Included a requirement for instructional personnel who accepted the performance-based salary schedule to relinquish their professional service contract in exchange for an annual contract
- Tied AC renewal to performance evaluation results, limited automatic renewals
- Prohibited districts from applying advanced degrees to salary schedules to determine placement, unless the advanced degree is specific to the individual’s area of certification
- Provided for the earning of additional differentiated pay supplement based on assignment in high priority locations and critical shortage areas
- HB 965 Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (Rep. Horner) Formerly the Corporate Tax Credits Scholarship
- Eliminated the 75% cap on corporate income taxes which could be diverted to private school scholarships funding organizations; Corporations allowed to carry forward the credits for three years
- HB-1255 Education Accountability (Rep. Adkins)
- Required districts to provide access to virtual education during and after school and provide digital curriculum for students in 6th– 12th grades
- Authorized the DOE to establish an assessment schedule; eliminated 3-week EOC assessment window
- HB 1331 School Choice (Rep. Bileca)
- Revised the classification of a failing school from two ‘F’s in a 4-year period to receiving a ‘D’ or ‘F’ in the prior year and falls into one of the two lowest differentiated accountability categories for purposes of eligibility for the Opportunity Scholarship Program
- SB 1546 School Choice/Charter Schools (Sen. Thrasher)
- Established the designation of High Performing Charter Schools
- Authorized sanctions against districts if the SBOE identifies a pattern of denying High Performing charter
- Increased flexibility for charter schools in the workplace
- Abolished the Charter School Review Panel
- HB 7087-Education Law Repeals (Innovation Subcommittee)
- The Critical Teacher Shortage Programs, includes The Florida Teacher Scholarship and Forgivable Loan Program, The Critical Teacher Shortage Tuition Reimbursement Program and the Critical Teacher Shortage Student Loan Forgivable Program, The Teacher Education Pilot Programs for High Achieving Students, Pre-Teacher and Teacher Education Pilot programs, and The Merit Award Program
- Repealed laws governing the criteria for awarding continuing contracts
- HB 7197 Digital Learning (Innovation Subcommittee)
- This bill increased digital learning options in charter and traditional schools.
- Authorized virtual charter schools to offer full-time online instruction to K-12 students who live within the district the charter is operating and for standalone charters to offer blended learning courses
- Required high school students to complete at least one online course as a requirement for graduation
- Authorizing Florida Virtual School (FLVS) to provide F/T instruction to k-12 students
- Required students in traditional public schools who received F/t or P/T FLVS instruction to taker statewide assessments
- Authorized all statewide assessments to be administered online
- SB 2120: Changed class size implementation by redefining core-curricula course and reducing the grade level core classes that fall under the class size requirements. In 2010-11, there were 849 core courses. The bill reduced the number to 304 core courses.
- HB 859 Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (Corcoran)
- Lifted the cap to increase eligibility from $140 million to $229 million with annual caps increases of 25% under specified conditions
- Removed the public enrollment eligibility for k-5thgraders to receive the FTC scholarship
- HB: 7059 Accelerated Options in Public Education (Stargel)
- Established a performance-based funding model for specified classes based on a student’s ability to pass/fail the EOC for district to receive FTE. If student failed, the district FTE dropped.
- HB 7063: Digital Learning (Stargel)
- Major virtual learning expansion, allowing k-5thgraders to participate in the Florida Virtual Program or F/t district and charter school virtual programs. The measure included participation for ESE students and ELE students.
Federal No Child Left Behind Act
Requires every public school to ensure that all children meet 100% AYP proficiencies in reading and math. NCLB forces schools to strictly ration education money in order to guarantee mandated skill levels in reading, writing, and arithmetic to all students. This directive sacrifices and potentially guts all programs that are deemed non-essential, like art, music, and gifted programs. The Obama administration and Congress will consider the reauthorization of this bill in 2011.
HB 7009: Charter Schools (Moraitis)
- Created criteria to make it easier for ‘High Performing’ charters to relocate to Florida; and lifted enrollment caps, allowing them to determine these schools to set own capacity
- Provided for school-wide calculation for class size complianc
HB 7029: Digital/Virtual Education (M. Diaz)
- Required the State Board of Education and the Board of Governors to adopt rules to allow student to earn credits using Massive Open Online Courses, AKA the MOOC.
- Directed the DOE to identify digital courses
HB 1720 Higher education Reform Allows students who earned a standard high school diploma to skip remediation classes in college. These courses were originally mandated and required when claims arose that high school grads were not ready for college. The courses created a money maker for colleges since students paid tuition but did not get credit and still had their general education course work to complete for an AA degree.
SB 850: Education – massive voucher expansion
- Tax Credit Scholarship – removed prior public attendance requirement and broadened the income eligibility range to allow more students from higher income families to obtain the voucher
- Created Personalized Learning Scholarship Accounts for K-12 students with a specified disability
- HB 7029: School Choice
Established statewide ‘Open Enrollment’ across school districts
- HB 7069: Best & Brightest
- Prohibited district authority to automatically retain a Highly Effective or Effective Annual Contract teacher
- Shifted Title 1 funding to advantage charter schools designated as LEA (Receive direct federal funding- $ millions lost to districts)
- Created Schools of Hope and Schools of Excellence ($140,000) – charter expansion and financial advantages; Allowed to open near turnaround schools with three ‘F’s; Zoning and building code exemptions
- Mandated school districts share capital outlay funds with charter schools without regard to the district’s internal priorities and financial obligations
- Revised the Turnaround strategy to limited options to avoid conversion and closure
- Revised Class size requirements to school average
- Dropped Algebra II end of course assessment
- Created Best & Brightest Principal program
- SB 7022: Florida Retirement System
Modified the default from the DC to the DB for newly hired regular class employees who do not make an initial selection
- SB 374: Massive higher education overhaul
- Citing this act as the “Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2017”; renaming the Florida College System as the Florida Community College System; creating the State Board of Community Colleges; revising the function and mission of the Florida K-20 education system; providing the primary mission of a career center operated by a district school board; establishing the World Class Faculty and Scholar Program; creating the Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship Program,
- Required Local Effort (District required to fund) – Legislative decision to roll back the taxable rate by not incorporating increased higher property values. Decision to only use growth from new commercial and residential construction.
- SB 7026: Public Safety
- Creates Florida Department of Education Office of Safe Schools – Serves as a central repository for best practices, training standards, and compliance oversight in all matters regarding school safety and security, including prevention efforts, intervention efforts, and emergency preparedness planning.
- $97.5 million allocated to districts to harden schools and hire security.
- $69.2M Mental Health Assistance Allocation: Expands school-based mental health care. Eligible charter schools are entitled to a proportionate share of district funding; At least 90% of the allocation must be spent on mental health assessment, diagnosis, intervention, treatment, and recovery services to specified students and on coordination of such services with a student’s primary care provider and with other mental health providers
- Created the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian program within the FDOE to allow staff to carry firearms on campus
- HB 7055 K-12 Education Policy
- Creates a new revenue streams and tax credits to fund private schools.
- Established the Reading Voucher. Up to $500 per student in grades 3-5 with a reading deficiency. Florida’s 2nd public school Education Saving Account/Universal Voucher, Gardner Voucher is the first ESA
- Established the Hope Scholarship (AKA Bully Voucher)to allow a parent of a student who allegedly been victimized by bullying to cover the partial cost of relocating their child to a private school. $105 donations collected from vehicle purchase registration. As of September 2019, $18.9 Million has collected and expected to rise to $42M. Less than 100 awards have been granted.
- Established union de-certification parameters – strips teachers’ unions of their bargaining power to negotiate for better wages, health care, or other rights if the organizations cannot get more than 50 percent of a district’s eligible employees to join.
- Expands the Principal Autonomy Pilot to include all school districts in the state.
- HJR 7001: Supermajority Vote for State Taxes or Fees. Ballot initiative which appeared on the 2018 CRC November ballot and passed.
K-12 Education Policy SB 7070 (HB 7075) This “train” bill reflects the culmination of years of political policy layering to substantively grow publicly funded private school vouchers to the brink of the “school reform” endgame: Universal Vouchers/Education Savings Accounts.
- “Parent Empowerment Voucher”
- Schools of Hope expansion/Federal Opportunity Zones
- Corporate Tax Credit voucher expansion – able to accept all unallocated funds granted to other vouchers, such as the Hope Scholarship/Voucher, sets Scholarship Funding Organization administrative fees at 3% of all funds collected
- Reading vouchers,
- Community school grants,
- teacher test prep/Mastery of knowledge
- Principal/Teacher Best & Brightest bonus
Funding SB 7070
- Schools of Hope: $40M ($140M last year) Traditional District public schools are not eligible for these funds
- Best & Brightest Teacher Bonus: $284.5M – Ignores overwhelming need for salary increases. Florida teachers rank 46th in pay nationally. Provides eligible teachers a recruitment bonus of up to $4,000, retention bonus of $2,500 for highly effective teachers, $1,000 for effective teachers, teacher recognition bonus from remaining unexpended funds, and principal bonus of up to $5,000.
- Turnaround Supplemental Services Allocation: $45.5M https://info.fldoe.org/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-8562/DPS%202019-62.pdf
- Community School Grant Program: $7.4M – Funds for programs that utilize partnerships among a school district, a community organization, a college or university, and a health care provider to address student, family, and community needs.
SB 7030 Implementation of Recommendations of the MSDHS Public Safety Commission Expands on SB 7026, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act passed in 2018, SB 7030 codifies recommendations of the small politically appointed MSDHS Public Safety Group into law. Despite overwhelming objection from parents and advocates, the bill includes arming classroom teachers as part of the school Guardian Program and strengthens oversight and accountability related to implementation. Each school board and superintendent must partner with law enforcement agencies or security agencies to establish or assign one or more safe-school officer at each school facility within the district, including charter schools. School boards must collaborate with charter school governing boards to facilitate charter school access to all safe-school officer options available. Districts may implement any combination of the following four options to meet their needs:
- School Resource Officer (SRO) – Certified officers, employed by a law enforcement agency working at district schools. SROs undergo criminal background checks, drug testing, a psychological evaluation and retain the powers and duties of a law enforcement officer.
- School Safety Officer (SSO) – School district-commissioned school safety officers. SSOs must undergo criminal background checks, drug tests, a psychological evaluation and be certified law enforcement officers employed by an agency or by the district school board. SSOs shall exercise the power to make arrests both on district school board property and off such property, of those who violate any law that deputy sheriffs are authorized to make arrests.
- School Guardian – District School Boards or charter school governing can participate in the guardian program. School Guardians must complete and pass required training, be certified by a sheriff and can be an employee who volunteers to serve as a school guardian or an individual who is hired for the specific purpose of serving as a school guardian.
- School Security Guard – A school district or charter school governing board can contract with a security agency to employ a school security guard who holds a Class “D” and Class “G” license provided the following training and contractual conditions are met:
- Complete 144 hours of required guardian training.
- Pass a psychological evaluation administered by a licensed psychologist designated by the FDLE.
- Pass an initial drug test and subsequent random drug tests.
- Complete ongoing training, weapon inspection, and firearm qualification on at least an annual basis with documentation to the sheriff’s office, school district, or charter school governing board.
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