This Video Update features FSBA Interim Executive Director Bill Graham discussing how the current state budget impasse impacts school districts and proposed legislation relating to hazardous walking conditions — HB 41 & SB 154. In addition, FSBA Director of Board Development Andrea Messina discusses proposed legislation relating to government accountability — HB 1063 & SB 1372 – and proposed legislation that addresses, among other things, strategic planning and ethical conduct — SB 1474 & HB 7057. (Please scroll down below the video to access information to assist you in understanding and advocating on these issues.)
STATE BUDGET IMPASSE
Normally, at this point in the legislative session, budget conference committees would be working on resolving differences between the House and Senate budget bills. However, negotiations have been at a stand-still for a few weeks due to a significant disagreement between the House and Senate on funding for the Low Income Pool (LIP) — a program that provides funding to hospitals and health providers that provide care for uninsured and low-income Floridians — and for an expansion of the Medicaid program. The Senate budget includes $2.2 billion for a modified LIP program and another $2.8 billion in Medicaid-expansion funding, but the House budget does not include this funding nor does the House support the policies related to this funding. The disagreement about these issues has been escalating to the point that legislative leaders acknowledged they won’t be able to wrap up budget negotiations before the scheduled May 1 end of the 2015 session. As a result, an extended session or special session has become likely. The inability of the legislature to resolve this major difference also means that the legislature has not begun to resolve the differences between the House and Senate education budget provisions. As we have reported previously, both the House and Senate education budgets have similar total funding levels, but the House focuses on increasing funding for specific programs while the Senate provides more funding flexibility. Complicating resolution of the differences between the existing education budgets are new FTE enrollment figures that show significant increase in enrollment that will require adjustment of both budgets. The delay in resolving the budgets coupled with the adjustments that will need to be made to accommodate the FTE increases will trigger delays and uncertainty at the local level in planning and budgeting. It is also important to note that, absent a swift and equitable resolution to the state and federal LIP and Medicaid funding issues, Florida employers and employees will have to shoulder increased health care costs. Since school boards are typically the largest employer in most counties, this can have a disproportionate negative impact on school districts.
Action Requested: Please contact your legislators and urge them to work cooperatively to avoid the delay and uncertainty that an extended or special session would cause and to move forward quickly in reaching an agreement on the LIP and Medicaid funding issues.
Below are brief summaries of the other bills that were discussed in Video Update #7. We urge you to review the provisions of these bills and direct any concerns or questions you may have to Ruth Melton at the FSBA office. You may also wish to share your thoughts with your legislators. (You may access more information about each bill by clicking on the bill number.)
HAZARDOUS WALKING CONDITIIONS — HB 41 & SB 154
This legislation requires that district school boards, in cooperation with the relevant governmental entities, inspect and identify hazardous conditions along routes that students must take while walking to or from school. The relevant governmental entities are required to correct any identified hazardous walking conditions within a reasonable period of time, to include correction of a hazardous condition in its next annual 5-year capital improvements program, or provide a statement of the factors justifying why a correction is not so included. FSBA worked with the sponsors of this legislation to ensure that the provisions of the bill would not undermine any existing or future interlocal agreements that serve to identify and correct hazardous walking conditions.
GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY — HB 1063 & SB 1372
This legislation requires various governmental entities — including governing bodies of charter schools and school districts — to establish and maintain internal controls to:
- Prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse;
- Promote and encourage compliance with applicable laws, rules, contracts, grant agreements, and best practices;
- Support economical and efficient operations;
- Ensure the reliability of financial records and reports; and
- Safeguard assets
The legislation also adds school districts to the list of governmental entities that may withhold salary-related payments for failure to timely file disclosure of financial interests. Further, the legislation requires a unit of government to investigate and take action to recover prohibited compensation and requires a district school board to respond to audit recommendations
STRATEGIC PLANNING & ETHICAL CONDUCT — SB 1474 & HB 7057
This legislation requires each district school board to adopt a strategic plan and expands existing standards of ethical conduct for school-based administrators and instructional personnel so that they also apply to all administrative personnel and to school officers (which includes school board members and superintendents). The legislations also authorizes a district school board to adopt policies for standard student attire and requires a middle school to evaluate and monitor instructional practices and intervention strategies used in its early warning system.