There were several meetings of particular interest this week. Among them, the House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee discussed a strike-all amendment to a Proposed Committee Bill (PCB) — PCB PIEC-3 – relating to Local Government Ethics Reform. The bill makes numerous changes to Florida’s Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees (Code) as it relates to local government officers, employees, and lobbyists. Of particular interest to school boards, the bill:
- Corrects an oversight with respect to the Code’s prohibition on conflicting employment or contractual relationships by specifying that if a public officer or employee holds a material interest in a business entity, or is an officer, a director, or a member who manages such an entity, it would be a violation for the business entity to have a contractual relationship that will create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict between his or her private interests and the performance of his or her public duties or that would impede the full and faithful discharge of his or her public duties;
- Strengthens the law on voting conflicts of interest by requiring a local officers that must abstain from voting on a measure due to a voting conflict of interest to disclose the conflict prior to participating in the measure;
- Adds school districts to the list of governmental entities that may withhold salary-related payments for failure to timely file disclosure of financial interests;
- Requires a person who wishes to lobby certain local government entities, including school districts, to register as a lobbyist with, and pay a registration fee to, the Commission on Ethics;
- Expands the Commission on Ethics’s duty to render advisory opinions.
The discussion of this PCB highlighted some areas that may need further attention and amendment. This PCB, as amended by the strike-all amendment, will be submitted as a Committee Bill.
The House Ways & Means Committee held a workshop on Local Government Fiscal Transparency Concepts. In general, the Concept language would:
- Prohibit property tax increases unless certain excess unencumbered fund balances are eliminated;
- Prohibit the enactment, extension or increase in local option taxes unless the levying entity had not increased property taxes in any of the previous 3 years;
- Require referenda for local option taxes that are approved by voters under current law, including some property taxes, to be held only at a general election. Further, such referenda would require a sixty percent vote for approval;
- Require that new tax-supported debt (broadly defined) that pledges revenues beyond 5 years to be first approved by referendum, subject to the same election restrictions included for taxes above.
The Concept language provides some exemptions for school districts. In addition, during member discussion and public comments, several people were able to highlight the current funding and public reporting requirements that already apply to school districts but not to other local government entities and how these existing requirements may conflict with the Concepts and bill provisions. This issue will be discussed again in this Committee on Tuesday next week (see below for the Meeting Schedule for February 20-24, 2017). The Meeting Packet contains the Concepts and draft bill language as well as an overview of Governor Scott’s Tax Reduction Plan.
The Senate PreK-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee met twice this week. In the first meeting, the Subcommittee had a presentation on the Governor’s Fiscal Year 2017-2018 Budget Recommendations. Next, there was a presentation and panel discussion of Programs for Struggling Schools and Students. This was followed by a presentation and discussion of Physical Education and Recess for Elementary Schools. The Meeting Packet for this first meeting contains presentations on each of these topics.
In the second meeting this week, the Subcommittee had a presentation on the Extra Hour of Intensive Reading Instruction Initiative and then held a budget workshop. Subcommittee Chair David Simmons outlined his budget priorities for 2017-2018. Perhaps perhaps most significantly, he stated support for authorization for school districts to increase their discretionary capital improvement millage to 2 mills. Other priorities include, among others, an Increase the VPK Base Student Allocation, modifications to the Extra Hour of Intensive Reading Initiative and modifications to the Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program.
Details on the changes to the Best and Brightest Program will be available shortly and it has been suggested that funding for this more comprehensive recruitment and retention tool could be significantly increased. Senator Simmons also announced that bills he has filed that increase district capital outlay millage authority (SB 604) and create a mechanism for sharing capital outlay millage revenue with charter schools (SB 376) are on the agenda for the Senate Education Committee meeting on Tuesday next week along with several other bills of interest (see below for the Meeting Schedule for February 20-24, 2017). The Meeting Packet for this second Subcommittee meeting includes the presentation on the Extra Hour and further information on Chair Simmon’s budget priorities.
The House Education Committee held a workshop on Turnaround Strategies for Low Performing Schools. The DOE provided a presentation on the current state framework and policies to turn around low performing schools that are available to school districts. This was followed by a panel discussion by school administrators from three school districts (Duval, Pasco, and Polk) that have been successful in implementing turnaround strategies. The panelists did an excellent job in highlighting the challenges districts face in bringing about improvement, including issues relating to school readiness, funding, changing standards, poverty, parental involvement, and personnel training, recruitment and retention. The Meeting Packet contains the DOE presentation.
The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee had presentations on Presentations on Closing the Achievement Gap. Presentations were provided by several entities that have successfully operated schools and programs that have improved outcomes for low-income/at-risk/underserved students. Presenters included Basis.ed, Achievement First, IDEA Public Schools, and SEED. Of these, only the SEED has a program that currently operates in Florida. In general, all of these programs had extensive wrap-around services and promoted pursuit of postsecondary education. The Meeting Packet contains the presentations.
This week a few new bills have been filed that would revise state and local assessment policies:
HB 773 by Diaz and Sprowls (Identical to SB 926 by Flores) would require the Commissioner to review specified college entrance examinations to determine their alignment with the core curricular content for high school level, state required English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics established in state standards; revise provisions relating to achievement levels for certain statewide, standardized assessments; provide requirements for administration of the statewide, standardized ELA and mathematics assessments in specified grades, eliminate certain local, district-wide assessments, etc.
SB 964 by Montford would require an application and charter for a high school charter school to require the administration of a specified assessment for graduation purposes; revise the requirements for a standard high school diploma; revise the grades in which the statewide, standardized Reading assessment must be administered; provide responsibilities of the commissioner to select and approve a nationally recognized high school assessment to administer in lieu of the Florida Standards Assessment, etc.
We are in the process of reviewing and comparing these bills and will provide a more detailed analysis next week. In the meantime, you and/or your district staff may wish to review them and we welcome any comments you may have on them.
This will be the last week of Interim Committee Meetings prior to the beginning of the Regular 2017 Legislative Session on March 7. Please note that meetings may be viewed via live webcast or archived videos on the Florida Channel.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
The Senate Education Committee will meet (9:00-11:30 a.m.; 412 KOB) to consider the following items and others:
SB 78 – Public School Recess by Flores
Requiring each district school board to provide students in certain grades with a minimum number of minutes of free-play recess per week and with a minimum number of consecutive minutes of free-play recess per day, etc.
SB 148 — Students Remaining on School Grounds During School Hours by Garcia
Requiring schools in certain districts to obtain written parental consent before permitting students to leave school grounds during the lunch period, etc.
SB 376 — Charter School Funding by Simmons
Authorizing school boards to levy specified amounts for charter schools; providing that charter school capital outlay funding consists of shared local capital outlay and state funding as provided in the General Appropriations Act; prohibiting a charter school from being eligible for a funding allocation under certain circumstances, etc.
SB 438 — Out-of-school Suspension by Baxley
Authorizing a parent to give public testimony regarding a district school board’s out-of-school suspension policy at a specified meeting; requiring a district school board to review its rules authorizing out-of-school suspension during a specified timeframe at a district school board meeting; requiring the board to take public testimony at the meeting; providing that the rules expire under certain circumstances, etc.
SB 604 – Education Funding by Simmons
Revising the amount each school board may levy for certain purposes; revising the purposes for which a school district may levy additional millage by specified means to include fixed capital outlay, etc.
The House Ways & Means Committee will meet (1:00-3:30 p.m.; 17 HOB) to consider the following item and others:
Workshop on Local Government Fiscal Responsibilities Concepts
The House Education Committee will meet (4:00-6:00 p.m.; 102 HOB) to consider:
Presentations on Gaps in Educational Opportunities and Access to Effective Educators
EDC1 – Federal Funding by Education Committee
Urges Congress to end all current, and prohibit any further, interference by the United States Department of Education with respect to public school governance; urges Congress to provide Title I funds and IDEA Part B funds as a block grant; etc.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
The Senate PreK-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee will meet (9:00-11:30 a.m.; 412 KOB) to consider:
Testimony and Discussion of Local Funding Requests for Fiscal year 2017-2018
The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee will meet (1:15-3:15 p.m.; 212 KOB) to consider the following item and others:
HB 17 — Local Regulation Preemption by Fine
Defines terms; prohibits certain local governments from imposing or adopting certain regulations on businesses, professions, & occupations after certain date; preempts to state regulations concerning businesses, professions, & occupations; provides exceptions to preemption.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
The Senate Appropriations Committee will meet (9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.; 412 KOB) to consider the following items and others:
SB 2 – Higher Education by Galvano
Revising requirements for the performance-based metrics used to award Florida College System institutions with performance-based incentives; revising the Distinguished Florida College System Institution Program excellence standards requirements; requiring each Florida Community College System institution to execute at least one “2+2” Targeted Pathway articulation agreement by a specified time, etc.
SB 4 – Faculty Recruitment by Galvano
Authorizing investments in certain faculty retention, recruitment, and recognition activities; establishing the State University Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program; specifying the requirements for quality improvement efforts to elevate the prominence of state university medicine, law, and graduate-level business programs, etc.
The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee will meet (9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.; 102 HOB) to consider a variety of individual appropriations bills that have been filed in accordance with new House Rules requiring that all projects to be included in the House Budget must be filed as a stand-alone bill.