Florida House unveils plan to strengthen private school choice oversight

Travis Pillow

The Florida House Education Committee this morning unveiled its proposal to strengthen oversight of Florida’s three K-12 private school choice programs.

The draft legislation comes after an Orlando Sentinel investigation that brought scholarship programs under scrutiny, and a legislative hearing on private school oversight.

Among other things, the House’s proposal would:

  • Require private schools to disclose their teachers’ qualifications on their websites.
  • Prevent private school administrators from transferring authority to their relatives to evade regulations, an issue raised in the Sentinel‘s reporting.
  • Require local officials who perform school health and fire inspections for private schools to submit the reports directly to the Department of Education, rather than having schools submit them. This would prevent cases like that of Agape Christian Academy, a troubled Orlando private school that forged safety records and created years of headaches for the department.
  • Lift the cap on school inspections and require schools to receive an inspection from the department before they participate in scholarship programs.
  • Subject more private schools to the financial oversight system that applies to schools that receive more than $250,000 in scholarships.

The House panel greeted the proposal with minor, technical questions and did not take a vote. Chairman Mike Bileca, R-Miami, said it wasn’t yet clear if the draft would become a separate bill, or get merged into other education legislation.

The state Senate’s education committee has scheduled a Monday hearing on an oversight proposal by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs.

Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer the Florida Tax Credit and Gardiner Scholarship programs.

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