What school choice bills passed the Florida Legislature in 2018

The response to a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School overshadowed many other education issues before the Florida Legislature this year.

Appropriately so.

It’s also an election year, which brings an earlier start to the legislative session and can limit policymaking bandwidth. But that didn’t stop lawmakers from creating multiple new programs and pushing several long-standing school choice priorities over the finish line.

Here’s a breakdown of what passed and what didn’t, as far as educational choice is concerned. For comparison, it’s worth looking at the agenda before the session started.


Hope scholarships

Victims of bullying or violence will have the ability to seek a transfer to another public school, or a scholarship to attend a private school. HB 7055

Charter schools

Charter schools that hope to open similar schools in new locations will be able to replicate twice per year, rather than just once, if they hope to open in areas that aren’t served by persistently low-performing schools. Districts that want to shut down charter schools will have to appear before the state Division of Administrative Hearings. HB 7055

Reading scholarships Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Shooting video release, walkout, new bills and more

School shooting video: A circuit court judge rules that video taken outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the shootings Feb. 14 that killed 17 people must be made public. Several news organizations had sued the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the school board for refusing to release the video, arguing that it was crucial in analyzing law enforcement’s response. The judge ruled that prosecutors didn’t prove how releasing the video could hamper the ongoing investigation, but delayed the release until Thursday to give the sheriff and school board a chance to appeal. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. Miami Herald.

Walkout Wednesday: At least 2,500 U.S. schools expect students to stage a walkout Wednesday to protest the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14 and call for stricter controls on guns. The walkouts are expected to start at 10 a.m. and, in many cases, last 17 minutes to honor each of the 17 murdered victims. Sun-Sentinel. Students around the state plan to participate in the walkout, and schools are deciding how they will deal with it. Fort Myers News-Press. Bradenton Herald. Gainesville Sun. Northwest Florida Daily News. St. Augustine Record. The 74. Six things to know about the National Student Walkout. Education Week. About 500,000 people are expected to congregate in Washington, D.C., March 24 in the March For Our Lives rally calling for school safety and stricter gun laws, and other rallies will be held in cities around the country, including Parkland. Sun-Sentinel.

New education bills: The school safety bill and the K-12 and higher education bills got most of the attention, but other education-related bills also were passed in the Legislature. Here are some of them. Gradebook. Private schools that accept state scholarship students will have some new rules to follow under the new education bill, H.B. 7055. The state will now be permitted to visit all private schools, starting in 2019, and provisions will make it harder for those schools to hide criminal convictions of owners or file phony fire inspection reports. But they’ll still be able to hire teachers without college degrees. Orlando Sentinel. H.B. 7055 also boosts school construction funding for K-12 schools and higher education institutions. News Service of Florida. The Legislature created a scholarship program to help bullied students move to private schools. It’s the first program of its kind in the United States. Will it start a national trend? TrustED. U.S. News & World Report. Here’s a recap of the biggest issues in the Legislature this year, as well as some of the bills that passed and failed. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Continue Reading →


Parents, charter schools hope to intervene in Florida HB 7069 lawsuit

Four charter schools and three charter parents from Southwest and Central Florida want to help defend last year’s wide-ranging education law.

Fourteen school districts have sued to strike six key parts of HB 7069 from the books. The parents and schools want to support five of them in Leon County court.

The potential intervenors want to help the state defend provisions that would:

  • Require local school districts to share property tax revenue with charter schools. This part of the law will be revised thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Rick Scott.
  • Shift control over most federal Title I funding from districts to individual schools, which benefits charters, and will also be revised under the new HB 7055.
  • Require districts to use a statewide standard charter school contract as the starting point for negotiations with charters they oversee.
  • Overhaul the state’s system for turning around low-performing public schools.
  • Allow charter school networks to form their own local education agencies.

Beth Schmude is a parent of five children who attended schools run by the Orange County district, according to an affidavit filed with the court.

One of her daughters, Meagan, has cerebral palsy. She attends a UCP charter school, which was one of the first networks to apply to form a local education agency after the law changed. That gave the charter school system more control over federal education funding, including funding for children with special needs. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Budget, safety, other bills, board term limits and more

State budget: The Florida Senate and House overwhelmingly approve an $88.7 billion state budget that increases per-student spending by an average of $101.50 statewide, but is lower in some of the state’s largest districts. “How can anyone justify per-student increases of $65.06 and $52.35 for Miami-Dade and Broward, respectively?” tweeted Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. Earlier Sunday, Gov. Rick Scott signed the higher education bill that permanently boosts spending for Bright Futures scholarships, and the K-12 bill that includes a new scholarship program for bullied victims. News Service of FloridaTampa Bay TimesPalm Beach Post. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. GateHouse. The Legislature also passed a $170 million tax cut bill that includes a three-day tax holiday on school supplies. News Service of Florida. Associated Press.

School safety bill: Gov. Scott signs the $400 million school safety bill, despite being lobbied by educators who don’t like the idea of arming school personnel and NRA officials who don’t like the new restrictions on gun sales. The NRA quickly files a suit in federal court against the law, calling it a violation of the Second Amendment. News Service of FloridaAssociated PressPolitico Florida. Tampa Bay Times. redefinED. Palm Beach Post. GateHouse. Here’s what the new school safety bill does. Palm Beach Post. Stoneman Douglas students and parents had vowed that “this time would be different.” And it was. But school students say while it’s a start, it isn’t enough. Miami Herald. Some private schools are ahead of public schools on security issues. Palm Beach Post. President Trump backs away from his earlier proposals on gun restrictions and is now calling for the creation of a federal Commission on School Safety, led by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, to make long-range policy suggestions. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. Associated Press. No one really knows how many students bring guns to schools, because schools are lax in reporting those incidents and the information detailing it is inconsistently collected and outdated. Stateline.

Reaction to safety bill: Law enforcement and school officials say there isn’t enough money in the bill to put an armed resource officer in every school. They say $360 million is needed but the bill only provides $162 million, which means arming school personnel may be the only option for full coverage. Tallahassee Democrat. Why the state’s school superintendents opposed the bill. Washington Post. Miami-Dade school officials are working on a plan to put armed officers at every school. Miami Herald. Central Florida educators say they want police officers, not teachers or other school workers, to be armed on campuses. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. Manatee County school officials join other large districts around the state in saying they’re unlikely to arm any school personnel other than resource officers under the new law. Bradenton Herald. The Citrus County School Board will be asked to place school resource officers into more schools. Several elementary schools share a deputy. Citrus County Chronicle.

School board term limits: A proposal before the Constitution Revision Commission to limit school board terms is revised. Sponsor Erika Donalds now wants to limit board members to serving eight consecutive years, starting Nov. 6, 2018. The earlier version, which had been approved by a CRC committee, would have begun with service since 2015. Gradebook. Several education issues are among the proposals CRC members will consider in its final report to the secretary of state May 10. Florida Today. Continue Reading →


Scott signs major Florida education legislation

Legislative leaders joined Gov. Rick Scott for a bill singing ceremony in his office.

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. Continue Reading →


Florida Legislature passes major homeschooling bill

On the last day of their annual legislative session, Florida lawmakers unanimously passed the most significant legislation to impact homeschool families in years.

House bill 731 would rein in school districts’ inquiries to parents who start home education programs. The legislation came in response to concerns among parents that districts were adding hurdles for homeschool registration. That likely contributed to a decline in homeschooling in some districts, even though state statistics show its popularity is growing statewide.

Home education advocates proposed similar legislation multiple times, but it did not pass until this year. The bill now heads to Gov. Rick Scott. Continue Reading →


Mastery-based learning proposal fails in Florida Legislature

Bills expanding a state initiative to help students learn at their own pace fell by the wayside late in Florida’s legislative session.

The House approved its version of the “mastery-based learning” bill. But Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, was stymied in multiple attempts to advance the proposal in the Senate.

In a last-ditch effort, Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, attached a version of the proposal to SB 88 — a bill creating a high school financial literacy course. The amendment also would have made the financial literacy course optional, watering down a longtime priority of Senate Education Chairman Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange. Continue Reading →


Does parental authority ‘work’?

A friend has sent me a long article from The Wall Street Journal of Jan. 29. It was a report on the Milwaukee school voucher program, now approaching middle age. Roughly 25 percent of the districts’ children attend private schools, most with public help in the form of vouchers for low-income families seeking transfer from their assigned “public” school. The article’s declared intention was to determine the system’s success, bearing the end-all headline: “Do Vouchers Work?”

The answer, we are told, would depend solely upon the test scores of children in chosen private schools compared to one another and to assigned government schools. No other measured success was even suggested. Citing various reports, the authors conclusion was that scores among chosen voucher schools correlate with the degree of social class mix in the student body. That is, they go up when the proportion of a school’s pupils from poor families stays below some level, elusive but real; when disadvantaged kids dominate the scene, scores tend to drop.

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