This was the last round of Legislative Interim Committee Meetings prior to the start of the 2019 Legislative Session. The schedule of committee/subcommittee meetings was relatively light this week, with bills and presentations addressing a wide variety of topics including, among others, school board member term limits, school choice, and impact fees. In related news, education leaders in the Senate held a press conference to announce their priorities for the Session which may set the tone for the debate on education issues this year. Please click on the files below for a brief summary of the meetings and bills of particular interest this week and for details on the Senate’s education priorities.
(NOTE: You may access the videos of each of the meetings listed below by clicking on the committee or subcommittee name which will link you to the committee’s website or you may access the videos in the Florida Channel Video Library)
The House Oversight, Transparency, & Public Management Subcommittee considered and passed the following bill (among others):
HJR 229 – Limitation on Terms of Office/School Board Members by Sabatini
The joint resolution proposes an amendment to the Florida Constitution that, if approved by the voters at the November 3, 2020, general election, will prohibit a school board member from appearing on a ballot for reelection if, by the end of his or her current term of office, the member will have served, or but for resignation would have served, in that office for eight consecutive years. The proposed limitation would apply only to terms of office beginning on or after November 3, 2020, and is prospective, so that school board members reelected to a consecutive term in 2020 could serve another consecutive eight years before reaching the term limit. Please note that a joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment must be passed by three-fifths of the membership of each legislative house to be placed on the ballot – i.e. passage in the House would require 72 votes in support; passage in the Senate would require 24 votes in support.
The House Education Committee received a very comprehensive presentation and discussion on public school and private school choice options. The discussion and presentation highlighted the fact that Florida is a national leader in public and private school choice options including, but not limited to, more than 3,500 traditional public schools, more than 650 charter schools, more than 580 magnet schools and programs, five private school scholarship programs, more than 6,000 public and private schools offering Voluntary Prekindergarten programs, state and local virtual school options, and a statewide policy of open enrollment. The meeting packet is available HERE
The House Local, Federal, & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee considered, amended, and passed the following bill (among others):
HB 207 — Impact Fees by Donalds
The bill prohibits any local government from requiring payment of impact fees any time prior to issuing a building permit. The bill codifies the requirement for impact fees to bear a rational nexus both to the need for additional capital facilities and to the expenditure of funds collected and the benefits accruing to the new construction. Local governments will be required to designate the funds collected by the impact fees for acquiring, constructing, or improving the capital facilities to benefit the new users. Impact fees collected by a local government may not be used to pay existing debt or pay for prior approved projects unless such expenditure has a rational nexus to the impact generated by the new construction. The bill was amended to delete a provision that specified that a party prevailing over the government in a challenge to an impact fee will be entitled to recover attorney fees.
The Senate Health Policy Committee considered and passed the following bill (among others):
SB 354 – Immunization Registry by Montford
The bill directs certain health care practitioners to report vaccination administration data to the Department of Health (DOH) immunization registry when vaccinating children up to 18 years of age. The bill also directs school boards and private school governing bodies to establish and enforce a policy requiring that before a child may attend a public or private school, the child must have on file a Florida Certification of Immunization (FCI) with the DOH immunization registry. Any child who does not participate in the immunization registry must present or have on file with the school an FCI form, which will be a part of the student’s permanent record and be transferred with the student if the student transfers.
The Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee considered and passed the following bills (among others):
SB 318 – Child Abuse, Abandonment, and Neglect by Montford
The bill prevent the disclosure of the names of any school instructional personnel, school administrator, and educational support employee, who has contributed information to a child abuse investigation.
SPB 7048 – Disclosure of Confidential Records by CFEA
The bill requires that when a patient communicates a specific threat against an identifiable individual to a mental health service provider, the provider must release information from the clinical record of the patient sufficient to inform the threatened individual and to inform law enforcement of the threat. The bill provides immunity from civil or criminal liability to the administrator of a mental health facility, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and other treatment providers who disclose information conveyed to them by a patient communicating a threat to a specific, readily identifiable third party.
Senator Manny Diaz (R), Chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Senator Kelli Stargel (R), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, and Senate President Pro Tempore David Simmons (R) held a press conference this week to roll out their education priorities and to announce plans to file legislation to pursue those priorities. The key elements outlined at the press conference include:
- Family Empowerment Scholarship — a new scholarship program similar to the existing FTC Scholarship program and designed to reduce the FTC Scholarship waitlist. This new scholarship will be available to low income families (up to 260% of the federal poverty level, which is equal to more than $62,000 per year for a family of four). The scholarship will be funded through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) at 95% of the district average cost per student and capped at 15,000 students statewide, with the ability to grow as the overall public school student population grows.
- Recruitment, Retention, and Recognition Bonuses for Teachers and Principals – a plan to restructure the current Best & Brightest Teacher’s Program by eliminating SAT/ACT requirements, creating a new recruitment bonus, creating a retention bonus for effective or highly effective teachers, creating a recognition bonus for highly effective teachers in accordance with performance criteria and policies adopted by the district school board, and retooling the principal bonus around performance of schools demonstrating academic improvement.
- Remove Barriers to the Teacher Certification Process – a plan that would require the State Board of Education to establish examination fees for initial and retake registrations, to specify requirements to reduce retake fees, and to provide flexibility for teachers to meet the requirement to demonstrate mastery of general knowledge.
- Reduce Regulations that Impede School Construction and Facility Improvements – a plan to provide school districts with flexibility by no longer requiring an educational plant survey recommendation when only local funds are used for facility construction and to remove cost per student station restrictions when the school district uses only local funds for construction.
- Enhance Support for Community Wrap-Around Services – a plan to stabilize state support of neighborhood public schools through expansion of, and funding for, new Community Schools and additional supports for public schools in, or exiting, district-managed turnaround status through wrap-around services such as after-school programs, extended school day or school year, counseling, or other support services.
- Improve Safety and Security for Students and Schools – a plan to pursue key improvements to existing school safety provisions established in SB 7026 through greater flexibility for school districts to transfer funds towards school safety expenditures, revising 911 Emergency Services, strengthening provisions relating to the “duty to warn” in threat situations, and including funding to support and sustain school district investments in school safety and security enhancements.
Senate Democrats responded to this press conference by issuing their own press release condemning the Republicans’ continued efforts to privatize public education through the proposed creation of another scholarship program. The press release is available HERE.