Florida will soon have a new school choice option for victims of bullying and violence. Parents will have access to new tools to help struggling readers. School districts will have to appear before administrative law judges before shutting down charter schools. Districts will be able to place top principals in charge of multiple schools under “innovation zones.” And some rough edges of a contentious education law passed last year will get smoother.
Gov. Rick Scott this afternoon signed HB 7055, the most wide-ranging education bill of this year’s legislative session.
The statewide teachers union had called on the governor to veto the bill. Contentious teachers union certification provisions drew the ire of the Florida Education Association and other labor groups.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran appeared alongside the governor for a signing ceremony at the state capitol, where Scott also approved higher education legislation sought by Senate President Joe Negron.
Corcoran had championed Hope Scholarships, a new program designed to give victims of bullying and violence the ability to pick a different school. They could transfer to a different public school, or to receive a scholarship to attend a private school, after their parents report a qualifying incident to school officials.
“This an election-year promise to the students of this state that we will provide every single one of you, to the best of our abilities, a world-class education — the one that you deserve, that gives you hope, and gives you dignity, and gives you the opportunity to go out there and change the world,” Corcoran said.
The newly approved law creates a Reading Scholarship program, which will allow parents whose public-school children struggle on state reading tests to receive scholarships of $500. Parents can use the money to pay for books, tutoring, summer programs or other reading assistance.
The law also allows districts to create innovation zones, where schools would have more autonomy from state education regulations. It gives districts more of the flexibility charter schools enjoy when it comes to building construction. And it could give districts and charters alike some relief from last year’s HB 7069 and the ensuing legal battles over charter school capital funding.
In a statement, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said the law expands educational freedom.
“Not only will Florida families benefit, but these commonsense solutions will provide a model for other states to effectively and compassionately prepare each and every student for success in the classroom and in life,” he said.
Here’s a breakdown of some key provisions of the new law.
This is a quick post on a developing story. Please check back for updates.
Scholarship funding organizations, including Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, will help adminsiter the new Hope and Reading Scholarship programs.