Today, we begin the 7th week of the Legislative Session with only a few more weeks remaining before the scheduled adjournment on March 9. As we start the week, please be sure to watch our Legislative Weekly video which features FSBA Executive Director Andrea Messina offering heartfelt comments on the horrible tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week and recapping the legislative events last week.
This week, a number of vigils, marches, and other activities are (or will be) taking place throughout the state. At the same time, lawmakers are discussing a number of steps that they may take to improve school safety. In addition, Governor Scott is convening several workshops – an education workshop, a mental health and child welfare workshop, and a law enforcement workshop — that will take place tomorrow and culminate in a roundtable discussion of ideas and recommendations. The workshops and roundtable may be viewed on the Florida Channel. Please see Governor Scott’s Press Release for more information. We will keep you informed as legislation to improve school safety takes shape. Meanwhile, please keep in mind that we are regularly adding to the resources on the FSBA website that are intended to assist school districts in addressing active shooter and similar situations – you may access these materials on the Health & Safety page in our Resource Room.
There are no legislative meetings of interest scheduled for today, but we have provided the schedule of meetings and the bills of interest that will be considered tomorrow. Of particular interest, the Senate Education Committee will consider HB 7055 — the controversial omnibus bill that has passed the House and is now being considered in the Senate. The bill includes provisions relating to the creation of the Hope Scholarship, schools of hope, scholarship program accountability, charter schools, and several other topics. Please click on the link below for more information on this bill, and others, that will be considered tomorrow.
The Senate Education Committee will meet, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm, to consider the following items:
HB 7055 – Education by Education
The bill creates education scholarship programs and streamlines state school choice scholarship program accountability provisions; specifies district school board oversight responsibilities, and promotes education, certification, and licensure opportunities for members of the U.S. military. Specifically, the bill:
- Establishes the Hope Scholarship Program for students subjected to bullying and other specified incidents in public schools.
- Streamlines and strengthens the oversight provisions for private schools participating in state school choice scholarship programs.
- Establishes Reading Scholarship Accounts for struggling readers in grades 3-5.
- Modifies the charter school application process, charter contract term and consolidation, and due process; and revises eligibility requirements for high-performing charter schools and allows replication of up to two such schools per year.
- Provides for district-independent autonomous schools under independent governing boards; and specifies flexibilities for such boards.
- Specifies district school board oversight and fiscal transparency responsibilities; and enumerates related duties for the district school superintendents, Auditor General, and Department of Education (DOE).
- Requires employee organizations for instructional personnel to include specified information in the application for renewal of registration and specifies recertification requirements for employee organizations.
- Designates March 25 as “Medal of Honor Day;” specifies related required instruction for students in public schools; and creates mechanisms for members of the U.S. military to fulfill certain certification and licensure requirements for specified purposes.
- Requires professional development resources disseminated by the DOE through the web-based statewide performance-support system to include sample course-at-a-glance and unit overview templates that school districts may use when developing curriculum.
- Requires paper-based administration of statewide, standardized English Language Arts and mathematics assessments for grades 7-8 by the 2019-2020 school year.
- Authorizes the Commissioner of Education to coordinate with specified education entities in the event of an emergency situation to assess the need for resources and assistance.
- Requires each school district to conduct a security risk assessment at each public school and conduct a self-assessment of the school districts’ current safety and security practices using a format developed by the DOE, and deletes an outdated reference in current law to the Safety and Security Best Practices developed by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.
- Modifies dual enrollment provisions relating to instructional materials for home education program students, and compensation by private schools for dual enrollment instruction provided by postsecondary education institutions.
- Deletes the obsolete July 1, 2007, deadline for the DOE to develop and operate an electronic individual education plan system for statewide use.
- Modifies funding provisions related to the Schools of Hope Program, supplemental academic instruction allocation, research-based reading instruction allocation, and teacher bonus for CAPE industry certifications attained by students.
- Appropriates a total of $20,200,000 to implement the provisions of this act.
SB 1804 – School District Accountability by Stargel
The bill increases fiscal accountability and expands fiscal transparency requirements for district school boards. Specifically, the bill:
- Increases fiscal accountability requirements by:
- Adding to the Auditor General’s duties, the requirement to perform appropriate follow-up procedures to determine a district school board’s progress in addressing findings and recommendations that require corrective action.
- Requiring the Department of Education’s (DOE’s) Inspector General to investigate allegations and reports of possible fraud or abuse against a district school board made by specified entities.
- Requiring school districts receiving annual federal, state, and local funds in excess of over $500 million to employ an internal auditor.
- Expands fiscal transparency by:
- Requiring district school boards to provide a full explanation of any budget amendments at the boards’ next scheduled public meeting.
- Modifying the information that each district school board must post on its website to add graphical representations, for each public school within the district and for the school district, of financial efficiency data and 3-year fiscal trend information.
- Specifying additional information that each school district must report to the DOE including the total operating costs and expenditures for classroom instruction.
- Requiring the DOE to calculate specified expenditure information for each public school, school district, and the state; and develop a web-based fiscal transparency tool that identifies public schools and districts that produce high academic achievement based on the ratio of classroom instruction expenditures to total expenditures.
- Requiring the DOE to contract with an independent third party to conduct a forensic audit of all accounts and records which must include a financial solvency analysis that encompasses techniques to prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse.
- Requiring the withholding of each district school board member’s and district school superintendent’s salaries if any of the financial conditions specified in law exist, until such conditions are corrected.
In addition, the bill applies the restriction on lobbying for 2 years after vacating office to appointed school district superintendents, which currently applies to locally elected school district officers; and prohibits a district superintendent from appointing or employing a relative to work under his or her direct supervision.
SB 968 – Mastery-based Education by Brandes
The bill renames the Competency-Based Education Pilot Program as the Mastery-Based Education Pilot Program (mastery-based pilot) and:
- Expands participation in the mastery-based pilot to all school districts.
- Authorizes district school boards participating in the mastery-based pilot to:
- Determine and award credit based on student’s mastery of core content and skills.
- Use an alternative interpretation of letter grades to measure student success in grades 6-12.
- Requires the statewide articulation agreement to ensure fair and equitable access for high school graduates with mastery-based, nontraditional diplomas and transcripts.
The Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee will meet, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm, to consider the following item and others:
SB 270 – Involuntary Examination/Admission of Minors by Steube
The bill amends provisions relating to the Baker Act. Specifically, the bill:
- Provides that a designated law enforcement agency may decline to transport a minor 14 years of age or younger to a receiving facility for involuntary examination (if current law requirements for declining transport are met) and the minor’s parent or guardian agrees to transport the minor to the receiving facility.
- Provides specific criteria for taking a minor 14 years of age or younger to a receiving facility for involuntary examination, including consent of the minor’s parent or guardian. Exceptions to this consent are provided. A person 14 years of age or older is subject to the criteria in current law for taking a person to a receiving facility for involuntary examination.
- Requires that if the patient is a minor 14 years of age or younger, the involuntary examination at the receiving facility must be initiated within 8 hours after the patient’s arrival at the facility.
- Requires that a receiving facility must release a minor 14 years of age or younger without delay to the minor’s parent or guardian upon request of the parent or guardian, unless parent or guardian consent was not necessary to conduct the examination; the facility made a report with the central abuse hotline based upon knowledge or suspicion of abuse, abandonment, or neglect; or the facility filed a petition for involuntary services.
The Senate Banking & Insurance Committee will meet, 1:30 – 3:30 pm, to consider the following item and others:
SB 1568 – Prohibited Activities/Workers’ Compensation Law by Farmer
- The bill revises provisions relating to workers’ compensation prohibited acts and revises insurance fraud provisions relating to employees and employers. Chapter 440, F.S., governs the administration of the workers’ compensation system in Florida. The bill:
- Requires employers to comply with specified federal laws relating to immigration and employment.
- Eliminates the current provision that it is unlawful for an employer to knowingly participate in the creation of an employment relationship in which the employee has used any false, fraudulent, or misleading statement as evidence of identity.
- Revises the prohibited acts that constitute insurance fraud to require that false, fraudulent, or misleading statements must be relevant to the claimant’s eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits.
The House will be in Session, 1:30 pm – completion of business, to consider the following items and others on the Special Order Calendar (2nd Reading):
HB 839 – Display of the State Motto by Daniels
The bill requires each district school board to adopt rules that require all schools and all buildings used by the school board to display in a conspicuous place the state motto, In God We Trust.
HB 243 – Discretionary Sales Surtax by Avila
The bill primarily addresses authority of counties to levy a sales surtax of up to one percent for specified transportation purposes. Of interest to school districts, the bill also includes provisions to require, for any referendum held on or after the effective date of the bill to adopt or amend a discretionary sales surtax, an independent certified public accountant (CPA) to conduct a performance audit of the county or school district holding the referendum. The CPA must be procured by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA), which may use carryforward funds to procure and pay for the CPA’s services. The performance audit must be completed and the audit report, including any findings, recommendations, or other accompanying documents must be made available on the official website of the county or school district at least 60 days before the referendum is held. The audit report and accompanying documents must remain on the website for two years from the date it was posted.
The bill also defines the term “performance audit” to mean an examination of the county or school district conducted according to applicable government auditing standards or auditing and evaluation standards of other appropriate authoritative bodies. At a minimum, a performance audit must include an examination of issues related to the following:
- The economy, efficiency, or effectiveness of the county or school district;
- The structure or design of the county government or school district to accomplish its goals and objectives;
- Alternative methods of providing county or school district services or products;
- Goals, objectives, and performance measures used by the county or school district to monitor and report program accomplishments;
- The accuracy or adequacy of public documents, reports, or requests prepared by the county or school district; and
- Compliance of the county or school district with appropriate policies, rules, or laws.
HB 1279 – School District Accountability by Sullivan
To increase fiscal transparency of educational spending, the bill:
- Requires school boards to provide financial efficiency data and fiscal trend information;
- Requires the Department of Education to develop a web-based tool that identifies schools and districts with high academic achievement based on per pupil expenditures; and
- Requires school boards to provide a full explanation of, and approve, any budget amendment at the boards’ next public meeting.
To increase fiscal accountability of districts, the bill:
- Requires school districts with revenues over $500 million to employ an internal auditor;
- Requires school districts with low ending fund balances to reduce administrative costs and other expenditures;
- Requires districts with financial emergency conditions to withhold the salaries of certain superintendents and school board members until the emergency is addressed;
- Requires an investigation of school districts who are unable to timely pay current debts and liabilities;
- Clarifies that the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General must investigate allegations and reports of fraud and abuse from certain government officials; and
- Requires school districts with previous operational audit findings to initiate and complete corrective action within a certain period of time.
The bill also:
- Prohibits appointed, along with elected superintendents, from lobbying school districts for a period of two years after vacating the position;
- Aligns school board member salaries with beginning teacher salaries or the amount calculated by statute;
- Requires prior school board approval for reimbursement of certain out-of-district travel expenses;
- Authorizes the withholding of a portion of an employee’s salary who owes a public financial disclosure fine;
- Repeals s. 1011.64, F.S., relating to school district minimum classroom expenditure requirements; and
- Prohibits superintendents, along with school board members, from employing or appointing a relative to work under their direct supervision.
- Contingent upon HB 7055 or similar legislation failing to become law, appropriates $850,000 to the Department of Education to implement the provisions of the bill.
HB 731 – Home Education by Sullivan
- Clarifies the definition of “parent,” the home education registration process and the home education notice requirements;
- Authorizes school districts to provide a home education student access to career and technical courses and programs;
- Authorizes districts to offer industry certifications, national assessments and statewide, standardized assessments to home education students;
- Prohibits school superintendents from requiring evidence of a child’s age if the child meets regular attendance requirements by attending certain educational institutions or programs;
- Authorizes school superintendents to refer student nonenrollment cases to a child study team in order to conduct intervention services;
- Clarifies the court procedures and penalties for enforcement of compulsory school attendance;
- Clarifies that dual enrollment articulation agreements may not limit the number of dual enrollment courses students may take based solely upon a student’s enrollment at an independent postsecondary institution; and
- Exempts a home education student from the grade point average requirement for admission to dual enrollment programs if the student meets the minimum score on a college placement test.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet, 4:00 – 6:00 pm, to consider the following item and others:
SB 1236 – School Safety by Baxley
The bill authorizes school principals to designate one or more persons who meet the qualifications in the bill to carry a concealed weapon or firearm in school buildings and authorizes school district superintendents to make the same designation as to administrative buildings. Additionally, the bill increases the safety and security measures that school districts must take, which include consulting with law enforcement agencies every three years and establishing emergency procedures for active-shooter and hostage situations.
Under current law, as a general matter, only law enforcement officers are exempt from the ban on possessing a weapon or firearm on the property of a school. This includes public and private schools from preschool to the postsecondary level, as well as career centers. The bill authorizes school authorities to designate one or more persons to carry a concealed weapon or firearm on school property. To qualify as a designee a person must:
- Be a former or current law enforcement officer or specified member of the military who did not have a firearms-related discipline incident while serving;
- Be licensed to carry a concealed weapon or firearm;
- Complete extensive training, and undergo continuing annual training, as specified in the bill; and
- Pass a level 2 background screening, which involves a search of state and federal databases for evidence of whether a person has committed any of a long list of serious crimes, including those involving violence and sexual misconduct.
[NOTE: We have been told that this bill will not be considered at this meeting, but wished to make our readers aware of the provisions of the bill.]