This was the last week of Interim Legislative Committee Meetings prior to the beginning of the Regular 2017 Legislative Session on Tuesday, March 7. The most significant meeting this week was the Senate Education Committee meeting. Senators considered several bills of special interest to school board members including one that is a priority in the FSBA 2017 Legislative Platform:
SB 604 – Education Funding by Sen. Simmons
As introduced, the bill increases local capital outlay discretionary millage authority from 1.5 to 1.7 mills. The Committee approved an amendment to further increase the allowable millage authority from the original 1.7 to 2.0 mills. In addition, the bill expands the allowable use of the currently authorized four-year supplemental millage that must be approved through a referendum, to include fixed capital outlay in addition to school operational purposes. Anticipating resistance to the bill, especially in the House, Sen. Simmons chose to temporarily postpone the bill to allow time to negotiate additional language that may make the bill more acceptable to legislators. Such additional language may require a supermajority vote of the board, or possibly a local referendum, for a levy in excess of 1.5 mills. Currently, there is no House companion bill. Also, please note that Senator Simmons characterized this bill as being linked to a bill relating to charter school capital funding — SB 376.
SB 376 — Charter School Funding by Sen. Simmons
The bill amends s. 1013.62, F.S., relating to charter school capital outlay funding and defines such funding as being derived from revenue derived from the local discretionary millage authority and also state funds IF they are appropriated in the General Appropriations Act (GAA). The bill retains the current limit on local capital outlay millage authority at 1.5 mills. With regard to charter school eligibility, the bill:
- Retains all of the current eligibility criteria for charter schools to obtain state capital funding and stipulates that these eligibility requirements would apply to eligibility for funding from both shared local capital outlay revenue and for any state funds that may be provided in the GAA.
- Adds a new requirement that prohibits personal financial enrichment by owners, operators, managers, and other affiliated parties of charter schools.
- Emphasizes that a charter school is not eligible for a funding allocation unless the chair of the governing board and chief administrative officer of the charter school annually certify under oath that the funds will be used solely and exclusively for constructing, renovating, or improving charter school facilities.
- Clarifies that virtual charter schools are not eligible for charter school capital outlay funding.
With regard to the allocation of funds to charter schools, the bill:
- Codifies existing DOE implementation of an additional method to determine the funding allocation for eligible charter schools by adding an equivalent percentage of schools that are eligible under the Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
- Provides that the DOE must calculate the shared local capital outlay allocation by dividing the revenue generated from the local discretionary millage authorized under s. 1011.72(2), F.S., and levied by the school board by the sum of the district fixed capital outlay FTE and the FTE for eligible charter schools. This calculated capital outlay allocation per FTE must then be multiplied by the eligible charter school’s FTE to provide a maximum calculated capital outlay allocation.
- Provides that the allocation formula for the shared local capital outlay allocation utilize a weighted funding approach to provide additional funds to charter schools. More specifically:
- An eligible charter school will receive a base allocation of 50 percent of the maximum calculated capital outlay allocation.
- Charter schools will receive an additional 25 percent of the base allocation if the school has a 75% or more free and reduced lunch enrollment or the equivalent or a 25% or more ESE enrollment.
- Charter schools that that meet both criteria would receive an additional 50 percent of the base allocation – i.e. the full maximum allocation.
With regard to the distribution and use of the funds, the bill:
- Requires each school district to distribute 1/12th of the calculated shared local capital outlay funds to eligible charter schools on a monthly basis, beginning in the first quarter of the fiscal year, regardless of whether local funds are available.
- Limits the ability of a charter school governing board to only use charter school capital outlay funds at the charter school that generated the funding.
Several amendments to the bill had been filed – including one that would increase district capital outlay millage authority to 2.0 mills – but they were withdrawn. However, it was suggested that some or all of them may be filed for consideration when the bill is considered in the next committee of reference. In addition, Senator Simmons again referenced his intention for this bill to be linked to SB 604 (discussed above). The bill passed the Committee without amendment. Currently, there is no House companion bill identified.
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In addition to the bills discussed above, the Senate Education Committee also considered the following bills:
SB 78 – Public School Recess by Senator Flores
This bill amends s. 1003.455, F.S., relating to physical education, to provide that, in addition to the existing physical education requirements, each district school board must provide at least 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess each week for students in kindergarten through grade 5 so that there are at least 20 consecutive minutes of free-play recess per day. The bill passed and will move on to the next committee of reference. Rep. Plasencia has filed an identical companion bill in the House – HB 67 – but the bill has not yet been heard in any committee of reference.
SB 148 — Students Remaining on School Grounds During School Hours by Senator Garcia
The bill amends s. 1001.43, F.S., relating to supplemental powers and duties of district school board, to provide that, in a district that has more than 100,000 students in PreK-12, a school may not permit a student to leave school grounds for the lunch period unless the student’s parent has, in writing, consented for his or her child to leave school grounds during the lunch period for the school year. The bill passed as amended. Rep. Slosberg has filed a similar companion bill in the House – HB 85 – but it has not yet been heard in any committee of reference.
SB 438 — Out-of-school Suspension by Senator Baxley
The bill amends s. 1002.20, F.S., relating to student and parent rights and s. 1006.07, F.S., relating to school board duties regarding student suspension to require a district school board to review, once every 3 years, its rules authorizing out-of-school suspension and specifies that such rules will expire if the board does not conduct this review. In addition, the bill grants parents the right to give public testimony at a district school board meeting during which the board reviews its out-of-school suspension rules. The bill passed. At present, there is no House companion to this bill.
You may access the Meeting Packet, which contains information about these and other bills, by clicking HERE.
The House Ways & Means Committee considered HJR 21 – Limitation on Property Taxes by Rep. Burton.
The bill would permanently retain a property tax limitation approved by voters in 2008 that limited annual assessment increases for most nonhomestead parcels to 10% of prior year assessed value. This limitation does not apply to district school board assessments or in years when a property undergoes certain changes. This 2008 amendment is set to expire on January 1, 2019. This joint resolution proposes a constitutional amendment to permanently retain the 10% cap on annual nonhomestead parcel assessment increases. The bill passed. Sen. Lee has filed a similar companion bill in the Senate – SJR 76 – which was passed as amended last week.
In addition, the Committee conducted a workshop on Local Government Fiscal Responsibilities Concepts. We have provided information about this draft legislation in previous reports, but as a quick summary, 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.
There are some exemptions for school districts built into the draft legislation and further discussion is expected. As yet, this draft proposal does not have a bill number or other designation. You may access the Meeting Packet – which contains information on HJR 21 and on the Local Government Fiscal Concepts by clicking HERE.
The House Education Committee considered a Proposed Committee Bill (PCB) — EDC1 – Federal Funding by Education Committee
This bill is a Memorial – i.e. A measure addressed to an executive agency or another legislative body, usually the U.S. Congress, which expresses the consensus of the Florida Legislature. The bill takes the form of a resolution with several “whereas” clauses that result in a message urging Congress to end all current, and prohibit any further, interference by the United States Department of Education with respect to public school governance. More significantly, the Memorial urges Congress to provide Title I funds and IDEA Part B funds as a block grant, arguing that block grants will provide the state with greater flexibility in meeting the needs of its citizens. It is important to note that the Legislature has constructed several other, similar, Memorials that seek to have other federal funds – including federal Medicaid funding — disbursed in a block grant. The bill was submitted as a Committee Bill and has now been assigned a bill number – HB 7027. You may access the Meeting Packet by clicking HERE.
The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee met to consider, among other items, HB 17 — Local Regulation Preemption by Rep. Fine
As amended by the Subcommittee, the bill prohibits local governments, including school boards, from adopting or imposing new regulations on a business, profession, or occupation unless the regulation is expressly authorized by general law. The bill provides that local regulations enacted before July 1, 2017, but not expressly authorized by general law, may continue to exist until July 1, 2020, but may not be added to or modified except to repeal or reduce the regulation.
The House Oversight, Transparency, and Administration Subcommittee met to consider, among other items, HB 479 – Government Accountability by Rep. Metz
The bill amends statutes pertaining to government accountability and auditing. Among the key provisions, the bill:
- Specifies that the Governor or Commissioner of Education, or designee, may notify the Legislative Auditing Committee of an entity’s failure to comply with certain auditing and financial reporting requirements;
- Requires each agency, the judicial branch, the Justice Administrative Commission, state attorneys, public defenders, criminal conflict and civil regional counsel, the Guardian Ad Litem program, local governmental entities, charter schools, school districts, Florida College System institutions, and state universities to establish and maintain internal controls;
- Requires a local governmental entity, district school board, charter school, or charter technical career center, Florida College System board of trustees, or university board of trustees to respond to audit recommendations under certain circumstances;
- Requires an independent certified public accountant conducting an audit of a local governmental entity to determine, as part of the audit, whether the entity’s annual financial report is in agreement with the entity’s audited financial statements; and
- Prohibits a board or commission from requiring a member of the public to provide an advance written copy of his or her testimony or comments as a precondition of being given the opportunity to be heard.
The bill passed the Subcommittee as amended. A similar companion bill – SB 880 – has been filed in the Senate by Sen. Stargel but has not yet been heard in committee.
The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate PreK-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee met to consider local funding requests and a variety of individual appropriations bills. These meetings reflect the House Rule requiring a separate bill for each allocation and the Senate’s effort to cooperate with this Rule.
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There are no Interim Legislative Committee Meetings scheduled, next week’s issue of the FSBA Session Spotlight will focus on where things stand with education funding and highlighting bills of particular interest — including summaries, comparisons, and advocacy tips to assist you in discussing these bills in your communities and with your legislators. We will also provide the schedule (and agenda, if available) of the meetings to be held during the first week of the Legislative Session. Please let us know what other information would be useful to you.