Two new bills on charters and school choice to watch in the Florida Legislature

Travis Pillow

If there’s a school choice or charter school-related issue still alive in Florida’s legislative session, there’s a good chance it’ll be taken up by a Senate panel tomorrow.

A raft of provisions related to educational choice would be merged into two massive amendments to bills set to be taken up Thursday during an all-day meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The first is a sweeping rewrite of SB 524. It’s gotten attention for keeping alive a measure, favored by the House, that would pay bonuses to teachers who scored high on their college entrance exams.

The new proposal would also include:

Meanwhile, a similarly wide-ranging rewrite of SB 1166 would, among other things:

  • Expand open enrollment policies, allowing parents to send their children to any public school in the state.
  • Increase students’ ability to remain eligible for high school sports if they change schools.
  • Make several changes to charter school laws, such as ensuring they can’t kick out students for poor academic performance, requiring would-be charter school operators to disclose more of their histories when they apply to local school boards, and allow them to create admissions preferences for students assigned to public schools classified as “failing” by the state.

Other issues, including an overhaul of dual enrollment for private school students (SB 824), a measure allowing special needs students to use McKay scholarships to pay for job transition programs at private schools (SB 1088), and more charter school changes, including a measure aimed at drawing more “high-impact” charter schools to neighborhoods with greater needs (SB 830), were approved Wednesday by the Senate Education Appropriations Committee. That means they’re also in play as the legislative session heads into its final two weeks.

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