What school choice bills passed – or didn’t – in the Florida Legislature

One giant package approved on the last day of Florida’s 2017 legislative session, HB 7069, included many priorities of the school choice movement, some of which had been floating around for years.

But the educational choice legislation headed to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk did not stop there.

Here’s a guide to what ultimately passed, and what didn’t, this session, and what it would all mean for educational choice if it gets final approval from the governor.

Passed

High-impact charters. Lawmakers for years have drafted plans to bring more nationally regarded “high-impact” charter schools to areas where existing public schools struggle. That concept finally passed, in more headline-grabbing form: “Schools of Hope.” HB 7069.

Charter school capital funding. Lawmakers have also pushed for years to require school districts to share their property tax revenue that funds construction with charters. The version passed this year would require them to share that money, but it would give them an allowance for district revenue that’s tied up paying off past construction debt. HB 7069.

More generous scholarships. Per-student funding in Florida’s tax credit scholarship program for low-income and working-class students would increase to $6,354 in elementary school, $6,643 in middle school and $6,931 in high school. Military families would be able to apply for the program year-round. A little-noticed portion of the program would increase transportation scholarships for families that send their children to public schools across district lines from $500 to $750*. HB 15.

Special needs scholarships. More children with special needs — including those with rare diseases and traumatic brain injuries — would become eligible for Gardiner scholarships. HB 15. Meanwhile, HB 7069 would set aside $30 million in new funding for the program, which is level-funded in the state budget*.

No boundaries for virtual schools. Students would be able to enroll in virtual charter schools, or participate in district virtual instruction programs, across school district lines. HB 7069.

No limits on virtual education eligibility. The last remaining restrictions on virtual school eligibility — including those affecting private school and home education students — would be eliminated. HB 7069.

Public school deregulation. A new “Schools of Excellence” program would increase principals’ autonomy, and reduce state regulations, in the highest-performing 20 percent of Florida’s public schools. HB 7069.

Title I portability. School districts would be required to send federal education funding directly to their schools, including charters, with an 8 percent allowance for administrative overhead. HB 7069.

Increased charter school authority. More charter school networks would have the ability to form Local Educational Agencies, allowing them to receive federal funding directly. To qualify, charter networks would have to share the same governing board, be located in the same county and enroll more students than at least one school district in the state. Schools of Hope could also qualify. HB 7069.

High-performing charters. Right now, high-performing charter schools can use a streamlined application process if they want to open similar schools in new locations. But they’re limited to one “replication” per year. HB 7069 would eliminate that cap for charters that want to replicate in areas where existing public schools are low-performing.

Graduation accountability. Public schools would be held accountable for the academic performance of students who leave to attend private learning providers under contract with their school districts, a response to accusations districts shifted students to game graduation rates. Alternative charter schools, included in some earlier proposals, would not be affected. HB 7069.

Jewish Day School security. Money in the state budget would help fund security upgrades at private Jewish academies. The funding emerged in response to a wave of anti-Semitic threats. SB 2500.

Private school sports. Students attending small private schools would have more extracurricular options under HB 1109.

Teacher training and certification. School districts could offer a new mentorship-based path to a state teaching certificate, and charter schools could offer their own professional development programs. HB 7069.

Did not pass

Home education. A bill that would clarify homeschoolers’ rights and ensure their access to dual enrollment and other courses advanced, and even passed the House unanimously, but did not get traction in the Senate. HB 1391 / SB 1556.

Career academies. Legislation that would have required each school district to create new career education pathways for students did not get very far. SB 1290.

McKay Scholarships. A push by private schools to eliminate — or at least ease — the requirement that special needs students attend a public school for at least a year before accepting a private school voucher through the McKay scholarship program appeared in early drafts of HB 15, but did not make it into the final version of the bill.

3 Responses to What school choice bills passed – or didn’t – in the Florida Legislature

  1. Concerned Internet May 10, 2017 at 1:05 pm #

    No boundaries for virtual schools. Students would be able to enroll in virtual charter schools, or participate in district virtual instruction programs, across school district lines. HB 7069.

    Here is the future people, pay attention.

    Online charter schools with next to zero accountability are coming for Public schools in the future.

  2. Laurie Staples May 14, 2017 at 8:13 am #

    With no accountability this state will fail it’s all a money maker

  3. Joanna Harritt June 8, 2017 at 12:26 pm #

    There is accountability! Also, Parents should get to choose how they want their child educated, And there should be as many options as possible. It’s not about money, it’s about parental choice, not the local public school deciding what’s best for children that are not their own. This is not a one size fits all state, country or world.