Last update: 1.24.20
Here’s your public education policy bill tracker for the 2020 Florida Legislature, which runs from January 14th through March 13th. There will be an analysis each week describing committee actions. Week 1 can be viewed here.
Pay close attention. The stakes are higher than ever. Florida public ed policy follows an agenda meant to privatize schools and dismantle districts. That’s why, for 20 years, policy bills always fall under the same categories: Voucher & Charter expansion, teacher/union demoralizing, student data collection, high stakes testing/labeling of students & schools, stripping elected school boards of authority and the latest category: school safety. Most of these bills have a vendor waiting in the wings.
These bills will evolve, so this list will change over the next 60 days. Some concepts will disappear and reappear at the last minute in a massive train bill making it very hard for the public to track.
That’s why its important to take the time to learn about the actions of your state politicians. At the end of the day, you’ll be a better informed public education advocate ready make good policy a litmus test for your vote.
Major Concerns are:
- SB1400 by Diaz – Family Empowerment Voucher Expansion, train bill: allows tax dollars meant for public schools to pay for middle class vouchers to attend unaccountable religious schools
- SB 536 by Diaz – Establishes alternate charter authorizer to bypass the Constitutional authority of school boards in order to replicate charters unabated without proving community need.
- SB 1480 School Board term limits. Puts this decision at the state level instead of the local voter, where it belongs
- SB 62 by Stargel – Forces districts to share 1/2 penny sales referendum funding with private charter schools
- SB 1688 by Harrell – High stakes testis for Pre-K 3 and 4 year-olds who may be thrown into remediation or retained before kindergarten. Providers, who are largely private and unregulated, will receive grades based on test performance and lose funding in the process. Bill is tailor made for charter school chains such as Academica & Charter Schools USA who will be able to monetize this new Pre-K market as private schools fail. There are grave concerns for these small children, who are practically babies, entering school where punitive measures are the norm & Pre-K is the next first grade.
PUBLIC EDUCATION POLICY BILLS BY SUBJECT AREA:
Public School Funding
SB 360/Diaz Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) Requiring school districts that participate in the Florida Education Finance Program to expend 80% of funds from the program for classroom spending purposes.
Warning Train Bill! SB 1400 Diaz: Revising initial scholarship eligibility criteria for the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program, beginning with a specified school year; providing that participation in certain virtual schools, correspondence schools, or distance learning programs does not make a student ineligible for a scholarship under the program in certain circumstances; revising eligibility criteria for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program and applying the criteria only to initial eligibility; creating the minimum base annual salary allocation to assist school districts in providing minimum
SB 106 Rader: Instructional Personnel Salaries; Citing this act as the “Florida Teacher Fair Pay Act” Providing legislative intent that the Florida Education Finance Program be funded at a level that ensures a certain minimum annual starting salary for instructional personnel; specifying a statewide minimum salary for all instructional personnel for the 2020-2021 fiscal year; requiring the Department of Education to annually calculate an adjusted statewide minimum annual starting salary. Note: This is a piece of the train that “compares” with SB 1400
SB632 Stewart: Aimed bringing public schools, charters and private voucher schools under a single set of rules in several key areas, including academic standards and accountability. Requiring specified teachers to have received, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree; revising the information the Department of Education requires in a specified database relating to private schools; requiring private schools to provide specified students with a certain amount of time for recess; requiring private school students to participate in the statewide assessment program.
SB56/HB45 Rouson & Eskamani: From the bill: “may not deny enrollment to a student based on the student’s race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity” – Revises private school eligibility requirements for state school choice scholarship program
SB 536 Diaz – Alternative Authorizer: Creates an alternate statewide charter school authorizer. (The latter, in the form of a general bill rather than a proposed constitutional amendment, would be sure to provoke a court challenge on constitutional grounds, should it be enacted.) – Establishing the High-Performing Charter School Council; providing the process for approving or denying a charter school application submitted to the council; authorizing charter school sponsors and applicants to provide input to the state board regarding the council’s recommendation; providing grounds on which the council may recommend denial of, or the state board may deny, an application submitted by a high-performing charter school or a high-performing charter school system.
SB 1578/HB 953 Sen. Hutson & Rep. McClain: Charter Expansion – Bypasses school board authority to allow state universities and the Florida College System to sponsor charter schools to be opened in any location in any county served by the institution. Charter authorization is between the state and the college or university, no district approval required. Charters must be operated by a municipality, a public entity, or a private, not-for-profit organization and are eligible for a 15-year charter if approved by the sponsoring college or university. Grants colleges and universities, not school districts, the authority to deny charter applications. Authorizes charters to offer career and professional academies similar to those required of district schools.
SB166/Cruz – Requiring a charter school, in order to obtain approval, to demonstrate that it meets certain needs that the local school district does not or is unable to provide to students in that district.
SB526/Diaz – Prohibiting specified individuals and entities from submitting an application to open a charter school for specified periods of time; defining the term “relative” for the purpose of applying the prohibition.
SB130/HB71 Sen. Hutson & Rep. Santiago – For charters only, excludes Florida public schools. Workforce Training Grants for Charters: Authorizes Governor to approve workforce training grants to certain charter schools under Florida Job Growth Grant Fund; authorizes certain charter schools to apply for specified grant funds. According to the Florida Politics blog, SB130 “would cede job-growth grant fund money to “certain” charter schools. Much focus has been on the infrastructure created by the fund, solely administered at the discretion of the executive branch. The Hutson legislation, however, focuses on the workforce training piece. The fund would go solely to charters that offer the Career and Technical Education pathway.” Back in June, Hutson told Florida Politics he envisioned just this scenario.
SB418/Diaz – Workforce Education: Revising the workforce education programs that school district career centers are authorized to conduct, etc.
SB 1634/HB 1059 Sen. Stargel & Rep. Grall – Establishes the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” relating to a minor child’s education, upbringing, & health care; provides school district, health care practitioner, hospital requirements & specified penalties. Providing that the state, its political subdivisions, other governmental entities, or other institutions may not infringe on parental rights without demonstrating specified information; prohibits certain health care practitioners from taking specified actions without a parent’s written permission.
SB106/Rader Florida Teacher Fair Pay Act – Minimum starting pay for teachers – Instructional Personnel Salaries; Citing this act as the “Florida Teacher Fair Pay Act”; providing legislative intent that the Florida Education Finance Program be funded at a level that ensures a certain minimum annual starting salary for instructional personnel; specifying a statewide minimum salary for all instructional personnel for the 2020-2021 fiscal year; requiring the Department of Education to annually calculate an adjusted statewide minimum annual starting salary, etc.
Best & Brightest Teacher Bonus
SB 486 Bradley – Repeals Best & Brightest Teacher Bonus program
Potential Train: SB 62 Sen. Stargel: Forcing Districts to share ½ penny with Charter Schools, College Acceleration & Dual Enrollment for Homeschoolers K-12 Education; Requiring that a resolution to levy discretionary sales tax include a statement containing certain information; defining the term “early college program”; changing the calculation of full-time equivalent student membership for dual enrollment purposes; providing for calculation of full-time equivalent membership for students earning the Capstone Diploma; requiring school board mental health policies and procedures to include certain items
HB 641 Rep. Plasencia: Funds for the Operation of Schools. Revises annual allocation to school districts to include additional calculation of full-time equivalent membership for students who earn College Board Advanced Placement Capstone Diploma beginning in specified fiscal year.
SB 836 Sen. Simmons Funds for the Operation of Schools. Revising the annual allocation to school districts to include an additional calculation of full-time equivalent membership for students who earn a College Board Advanced Placement Capstone Diploma.
SB 1246 Sen. Stargel Dual Enrollment for Homeschoolers. Clarifying that secondary students eligible for dual enrollment programs include students who are enrolled in home education programs; prohibiting district school boards and Florida College System institutions from denying students who have met eligibility requirements from participating in dual enrollment except under specified circumstances; providing that certain independent colleges and universities are eligible for inclusion in the dual enrollment and early admission programs; establishing the Dual Enrollment Scholarship Program, etc.
School Board Term Limits
SB 1480/HB 157 Sen.Book/Rep.Sabatini & Willhite Limitation on Terms of Office for Members of a District School Board: Proposing amendments to the State Constitution to limit the terms of office for a member of a district school board to 2 four-year terms for a total of 8 years.
SJR 1216 Gruters Limitation on Terms of Office for Members of a District School Board: Proposing amendments to the State Constitution to limit the terms of office for a member of a district school board to 3 four-year terms for a total of 12 years.
School Districts & FL DOE
SB 534/HB 883 Diaz & Baxley/Duggin: Requiring the Department of Education to maintain a disqualification list that includes the identities of certain persons: Requiring district school boards to investigate certain complaints and report certain results of such investigations to the department; prohibiting an individual who is on the disqualification list from being employed by a charter school or serving as a member of a charter school governing board; requiring certain private schools to adopt policies establishing standards of ethical conduct for certain employees.
School Districts & Taxes
SJR282/Diaz: Homestead Assessment Limitation for Certain Persons. Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize the Legislature, by general law, to prohibit increases in the assessed value of homestead property, for school district levy purposes, if the legal or equitable title to the property is held by a person who is 65 years of age or older and if he or she has held such title and maintained permanent residence on the property for at least 25 years, and to provide an effective date, etc. NOTE: This is different from the 2019 bill which required those who met the criteria to request an exemption. The current bill automatically grants the exemption if the homeowner meets the criteria.
HB 305 Preemption of Conditions of Employment: Preempts to state the right to regulate conditions of employment by an employer; voids certain ordinances, regulations, or policies that are preempted by act. https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/305
English Language Learners
SB678 Taddeo HB 515 Rep. Rodriguez, Aloupis: Native Language Assessment in Public Schools; Requiring the Department of Education to adopt native language versions of the school readiness screener, the school readiness assessment, the Florida Voluntary Prekindergarten Assessment, and the Florida Kindergarten Readiness Screener; requiring that a high school equivalency examination administered in any language other than English be given the same weight as a high school equivalency examination administered in English; revising requirements of the statewide, standardized assessment program to include native language versions of related assessments.
SB 376/HB 143 Lee/Valdes: Exempting certain English language learners from a specified graduation requirement; requiring such English language learners to meet other criteria to earn a standard high school diploma; revising school grade components to include certain English language learners who meet specified criteria.
SB458/Rodriquez: Creating the English Language Learner Advisory Council adjunct to the Department of Education; providing the purpose of the advisory council; specifying the composition of the advisory council, the appointment of members, and the terms they serve, etc.
Pre-K Early Learning
SB1688/Harrell Early Learning and Early Grade Success Early Learning and Early Grade Success; Seeks to add high stakes assessments for children beginning age three. Establishes school grades in this predominantly private provider sector and includes the use of funding penalties in the case of low scores. Adding the Division of Early Learning to the divisions of the Department of Education; revising the duties of the Early Learning Programs Estimating Conference; providing requirements for minimum child care licensing standards; requiring students enrolled in the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program to participate in a specified screening and progress-monitoring program; revising the performance standards for the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program; authorizing certain child development programs operating on military installations to participate in the school readiness program. Read Monroe County School Board member & Pediatrician Sue Woltanski, M.D.’s excellent analysis of this concerning bill here.
HB1013/Grall Early Learning and Early Grade Success Deletes the Office of Early Learning; creates the Division of Early Learning within DOE; revises provisions relating to early learning coalitions; VPK & school readiness programs; & DOE responsibilities & duties relating to early learning.
Cell phones for toddlers as an experimental learning tool
HB 4279 Rep. Goff-Marcil “Appropriations Project” Provides an appropriation of $574,188.00 to buy vans to transport toddlers, provide cell phones to train toddlers as an experimental learning tool, testing toddlers multiple times, researchers collect data on the toddlers. Part of the Preparing Eatonville’s Children for 21st Century Global Economy: The ZORA! STEM Initiative: A Vision for Preserving a Community & a Model for Other Low Socio-economic Communities in the State of Florida. See Appropriations Request here.
SPB 7040 Education Committee Bill/Diaz – Implementation of the Recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission; Makes sheriffs the sole training entity districts and charters can contract to train Guardian/school staff who carry guns. Sheriffs have final sign-off over who is accepted for Guardian training, including psychological evaluations and drug screens. Puts state Board of Education in charge of creating policy for emergency drills. Makes the Office of Safe Schools, under Commissioner Corcoran, responsible for ensuring districts report the number of disruptive/violent incidents on campus or school events and report all district non-compliance issues. Commissioner Corcoran may with-hold the salary of Superintendents and Charter Administrators found in non-compliance and enforce further sanctions. Makes false Fortify tips a crime. Requires an Emergency Reunification Plan for parents and students in the event of a mass casualties or natural disaster. Requires the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute to consult with specified state agencies and convene a workgroup to advise those agencies on the implementation of specified mental health recommendations, etc.
SB 304 Cruz/HB 1167 Polsky – School Safety Funding; Specifying distribution requirements for certain safe schools allocation funds for the 2020-2021 fiscal year; requiring each district school superintendent to remit specified unused funds from the 2019-2020 fiscal year to the Department of Education; authorizing the department, upon request, to redistribute such funds to certain school districts for a specified purpose.
SB 370 Cruz/HB 553 Antone –Safe-school Officers: Requiring district school boards to provide their approval before certain charter schools employ school resource officers and school safety officers; authorizing district school boards to oversee and manage the employment of school resource officers and school safety officers by charter schools within the district; authorizing district school boards to establish best practices for the employment of school resource officers and school safety officers by charter schools within the district.
SB70 Book&Berman/HB23 Gottlieb&Daley Panic Alarms in Public Schools: Requires each public school building on campus of public elementary, middle, or high school to be equipped with at least one panic alarm; provides panic alarm requirements.
SB290/HB 37 Hooper/Zika School Bus Safety Revising civil penalties for certain violations relating to stopping for a school bus.
HB 997 Willhite & Casello School District Communication with First Responders: Requires district school boards of specified school districts develop & execute interlocal agreements with law enforcement agencies, local fire departments, & local emergency medical services organizations for specified purposes. Concern: This is positioned to be the slippery slope that results in the stripping of all district police agencies from school board authority to be permanently placed under the jurisdiction of Sheriff’s Departments with implications regarding loss of oversight, investment, funding and concerns for student/parent rights. No companion bill yet.
SB578/Bracy: Prohibiting children younger than a certain age from being adjudicated delinquent, arrested, or charged with a crime; authorizing children of at least a specified age, rather than of any age, to be taken into custody under certain circumstances; requiring that children who are taken into custody pursuant to certain circuit court orders be treated in a specified manner and be detained only pursuant to specified findings, etc.
SB 208 Thurston – Student Wellness Examinations Required of students 12 and older until graduation. From the bill, “For purposes of this section, “adolescent well-care 135 examination” means a physical, developmental, behavioral, and 136 psychosocial screening and assessment as recommended in the 137 American Academy of Pediatrics”
Specifying that physical examinations are included in support services for purposes of the student support services team program; exempting a child from the adolescent well-care examination upon a parent’s written request stating objections on religious grounds; requiring that district school boards and private school governing authorities require and enforce as a policy that certain children present proof of an adolescent well-care examination each year; requiring district school boards and private school governing authorities to refuse to admit children who fail to present proof of such examination.
SB 588/HB 315 Sen. Rouson/Rep.Valdes Student Mental Health Days: Enforcement of School Attendance Authorizing district school boards and charter school governing boards to allow a specified number of mental health days as excused absences for students
SB 1426/HB 407 Sen. Powell/Removal of a Student for an Involuntary Examination Revises requirements for parental notification prior to removing student for involuntary examination under certain circumstances.
SB 1062 Harrell Involuntary Examinations of Minors Revising parent and guardian notification requirements that must be met before an involuntary examination of a minor; creating reporting requirements for schools relating to involuntary examinations of minors; requiring that certain plans include procedures to assist certain mental and behavioral health providers in attempts to verbally de-escalate certain crisis situations before initiating an involuntary examination. From the bill: 206 (c) lines 206-211: School safety officers must complete mental health crisis intervention training using a curriculum developed by a national organization with expertise in mental health crisis intervention. The training shall improve officers’ knowledge and skills as first responders to incidents involving students with emotional disturbance or mental illness, including de-escalation skills to ensure student and officer safety.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Pilot – Pasco County
HB2089 Zika died in 2019 and is back for 2020. This is a Social Emotional Learning pilot that at minimum Pasco County is requesting to run. It clearly targets certain segments of children. The goal is to set Social Emotional Learning standards based on practices espoused by the Casel Corporation who along with AIR (American Institutes of Research who wrote the FSA) will be running the pilot. It is unclear what other districts might be part of this pilot. Member Budget requests from the House shed light as to the content of the proposed pilot. Here’s some additional detail from the 2019 version from Sen. Wilton Simpson’s Appropriations Request.
Drinking Water in Public Schools
CS/SB168/HB139 Cruz & Jenne Drinking Water in Public Schools Subject to legislative appropriation, requiring district boards to coordinate with district school boards to identify certain schools and to provide funding to such schools; requiring certain school districts to install filters that meet certain specifications on drinking water sources; authorizing district boards to request additional funding to compensate school district staff for the installation or replacement of filters, etc. APPROPRIATION: $3,000,000
HB273 Sabatini (Co-sponsors) Hill/McClain/Sirois Carrying of Fireams Removes requirement that license to carry concealed firearm is required in order to carry such firearm; limits areas in which concealed carrying of firearm is prohibited; revises criminal penalties; revises provisions relating to carrying of concealed weapons by nonresidents; provides for issuance of concealed carry licenses for reciprocity purposes; specifies that person not otherwise prohibited by law from possessing firearm may own, possess, & lawfully use firearms & other weapons, ammunition, & supplies for lawful purposes. SEE: https://www.fox13news.com/news/no-conceal-carry-permit-needed-if-florida-bill-passes?
Guns in Government/elected members
SB 1524/HB183 Gainer & Ponder Prohibited Places for Weapons & Firearms Authorizing elected members of specified governing bodies who are concealed weapon or firearm licensees to carry a concealed weapon or firearm to a meeting of the governing body of which he or she is a member, etc.
Requiring religion in Public Schools
HB341/Daniels & SB746/Baxley Study of the Bible and Religion. Excluding all other religions, requires courses providing an “objective study of the Bible, including, but not limited to, a course on the Hebrew Scriptures and Old Testament of the Bible; a course on the New Testament of the Bible; and a course on the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament of the Bible, and the New Testament of the Bible.” Requires such courses be included in Course Code Directory. Read more here and here. Note: Unfunded mandate. Charters appear to be exempt.
Holocaust Education in Schools
SB184 Rader: Citing this act as the “Holocaust Education Act of 2020”; requiring charter school instructional personnel to teach specified topics; requiring certain private school instructional personnel to teach specified topics; revising the requirements for instructional content relating to the Holocaust that members of public school instructional staff are required to teach; requiring the Department of Education to coordinate with school districts to appoint Holocaust curriculum coordinators, etc.
HB 91/Polsky: Requires charter school and certain private school instructional personnel to teach specified topics relating to Holocaust education; revises requirements for specified instructional content; provides DOE & school district responsibilities relating to Holocaust instruction.
High School Diploma Modifications
HB217/Valdes – High School Equivalency Diplomas. Provides for award of high school equivalency diploma to students who meet specified criteria relating to high school graduation requirements.
HB 403/Shoaf & Sabatini – High School Graduation Requirements. Revises credit requirements to earn standard high school diploma to include career & technical education rather than practical arts.
SB 466/Brandes: Revising the Chief Inspector General’s subpoena authority to include issuing and serving subpoenas for all executive branch agencies; providing that agency inspectors general report to the Chief Inspector General; removing an agency head’s supervisory authority over the agency inspector general; authorizing the inspector general to present written objections to such removal or transfer to additional officers within a certain time frame.