Several bills of interest were considered today including a significant Proposed Committee Bill (PCB) by the House Education Committee that addresses private school accountability, school choice programs, district flexibility, and a new reading scholarship program. Other bills of interest address early learning, students with disabilities, public meetings and records, and labor organizations. Please click on the link below to access our report on the outcome of the consideration of these bills and others that were considered today. There are no legislative committee meetings of interest tomorrow, but a few Constitution Revision Commission Committees will be meeting. Most notably, as we alerted you at the beginning of the week, the CRC Education Committee will be considering several important education-related proposals to amend the Florida Constitution including, among others, proposals relating to charter school authorizers and the prohibition against using public revenues in aid of religious entities. Several school board members will be testifying on one or more of these proposals. Please click on the link below for more information about these proposals and others coming up tomorrow.
In the House Education Committee meeting:
EDC1 – Education by Education – SUBMITTED AS A COMMITTEE BILL
The bill establishes the Reading Scholarship Program to provide funds for public school students who score a Level 1 or Level 2 on the Grade 3 English language arts (ELA) assessment to purchase certain programs or services that will assist them in improving their reading skills. The scholarship must be offered on a first-come, first-served basis, contingent upon available funds. The bill sets forth requirements for parent and student participation and specifies that the program must be administered by a SFO that is eligible to participate in the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Program. The SFO may establish reading scholarship accounts for eligible students in accordance with current requirements of such organization. In addition, the SFO:
- may develop a system for payment of benefits by funds transfer, including, but not limited to, debit cards, electronic payment cards, or any other means of payment that the department deems to be commercially viable or cost-effective;
- must provide payments no less frequently than on a quarterly basis; and
- may receive up to 3 percent of the amount of each scholarship award from state funds for administrative expenses if the organization has operated as a nonprofit entity for at least the preceding 3 fiscal years and did not have any findings of material weakness or material noncompliance in its most recent audit as required by law.
In addition, the bill:
- Requires that, when the assessment results for the Grade 3 statewide, standardized ELA assessment are reported, the school district must notify each parent whose student scored a Level 1 or Level 2 on the assessment of the process to request and receive a scholarship.
- Provides the Department of Education (DOE) the same oversight responsibilities as those required in existing scholarship programs.
- Provides that the maximum amount of the scholarship for a student must be provided in the General Appropriations Act and 100 percent of the funds must be released to the DOE at the beginning of the first quarter of each fiscal year.
- Provides that a student’s scholarship account must be closed and any remaining funds, including, but not limited to, contributions to the Stanley G. Tate Florida Prepaid College Program or earnings from or contributions made to the Florida College Savings Program using program funds, revert to the state after:
- denial or revocation of program eligibility by the Commissioner of Education for fraud or abuse, including, but not limited to, the student or student’s parent accepting any payment, refund, or rebate, in any manner, from a provider of any services received; or
- three consecutive fiscal years in which an account has been inactive.
In order to provide clarity, transparency, and improve accountability of the state’s scholarship programs, the bill:
- Combines all the common provisions regarding private school participation requirements, DOE obligations, and commissioner authority into the current common section of statute, s. 1002.421, F.S., and removes duplicative language in the individual program statutes.
- Includes new accountability provisions that:
- authorize DOE to conduct site visits to any school that has had a complaint filed regarding a violation of state law or state board rule;
- require DOE to coordinate with the entities conducting the health and fire inspections to obtain copies of the inspection reports directly from that entity, rather than the private school;
- require private schools to provide, at a minimum, written information to the parents regarding the school’s services and programs, and the qualifications of classroom teachers;
- require private schools to provide the parent with a quarterly report of the student’s progress, rather than just an annual report;
- require the owner or operator of a private school to meet the same background screening requirements as owners of SFOs and report results to DOE;
- require the owner or operator of a private school that intends to transfer ownership of the school to notify the parents at least 30 calendar days in advance of the transfer;
- prohibit an owner or operator that was deemed ineligible to participate from transferring ownership or management authority to a relative in order to continue participation in a scholarship program; and
- require a private school, if it receives more than $250,000 in scholarship funds in any scholarship program, to submit an annual financial report to the SFO or DOE, as applicable.
- Requires the State Board of Education (SBE) to adopt rules establishing deadlines for private school applications and timelines for site visits.
- Maintains current requirements for owners or operators of a participating private school to undergo state and national background screening and, in addition to the offenses listed in s. 435.04, F.S., the results will also be screened against additional offenses, including fraud; forgery; and criminal use of personal identification information. Owners or operators who fail the background screening requirements are not eligible to participate in a scholarship program.
- Provides that a private school that fails to meet the requirements of s. 1002.421, F.S., fails to meet a specific requirement pertaining to an individual scholarship program, or has consecutive years of material exceptions in their annual financial report, may be deemed ineligible to participate in a scholarship program under Chapter 1002, F.S.
- Revises the list of allowable expenditures for Gardiner Scholarship Program (GSP) funds to allow for:
- tuition or fees associated with full-time or part-time enrollment in an eligible private school; and
- part-time tutoring services provided by a person who has a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree in the subject area in which instruction is given.
- Replaces “Learning Systems Institute at Florida State University” with “state university” as the agency responsible for conducting the annual student achievement report required under the FTC program and reduces the annual project appropriation from $500,000 per year to $250,000 per year.
With regard to charter schools, the bill:
- Allows charter schools and charter management organizations to submit applications to establish Level I and Level II leader preparation programs or program renewals.
- Allows a charter school to defer opening for up to 3 years, rather than two.
- Requires that tangible personal property that has been properly classified as surplus, marked for disposal, or otherwise unused by a district school board must be provided for a charter school’s use on the same basis as it is made available to other public schools in the district. A charter school receiving such property may not sell or dispose of the property without written permission of the school district.
- Revises the criteria determining a high-quality charter school by also allowing a school that receives two consecutive grades of “A” to be determined a high-performing charter school and:
- allows a high-performing charter school to replicate up to two new schools that substantially replicate one of its high-performing schools.
- revises the financial eligibility requirements for these schools to require only 2 years of financial audits that received an unqualified opinion and no state of financial emergency.
- clarifies that the increase in student enrollment may occur as long as it does not exceed the capacity of the facility at the time of enrollment, rather than the original capacity of the facility. P
- provides that facility capacity for purposes of grade level expansion must include any improvements to an existing facility or any new facility in which a majority of the students of the high-performing charter school will enroll.
- Revises the initial term of a charter to 5 years and allows a planning period of 1 year in addition to the 5-year charter.
- Specifies that, in the event of a termination or nonrenewal, the sponsor must have “clear and convincing evidence” that one of the disqualifying factors occurred and specifies that a violation of law must be material in order to constitute a disqualifying factor.
- Revises the hearing procedures once a charter school receives its notice of termination or nonrenewal by removing the option for the school district to conduct a direct hearing. The hearing shall be conducted by an administrative law judge within 90 days after receipt of the request for a hearing, and the administrative law judge shall issue the final order. The administrative law judge must also award the prevailing party reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred during the administrative proceeding and any appeals. The charter school governing board may, within 30 calendar days after receiving the judge’s final order, appeal the decision.
- Provides that, if a dispute regarding a contract to provide goods and services cannot be resolved through mediation, an appeal may be made to an administrative law judge appointed by the Division of Administrative Hearings, rather than the Charter School Appeals Commission. The administrative law judge has final order authority to rule on the dispute and shall award the prevailing party reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred during the mediation process, administrative proceeding, and any appeals, to be paid by the non-prevailing party.
- Provides that, if a charter school has their employees undergo background screening through the school district, the district is required to provide the background screening results of its governing board members and instructional and noninstructional personnel to the charter school within 14 days of the screening. If the district fails to do so, the fees for the screening must be waived.
The bill also expands Principal Autonomy Pilot Program Initiative (PAPPI) from a 3-year pilot to a statewide program and allows any school district, beginning with the 2018-2019 school year and contingent upon available funds, to submit a principal autonomy proposal to the SBE by December 1. If the SBE approves the proposal, the district is eligible to participate in the program for 3 years. The bill deletes the requirement that the commissioner submit an evaluation of the pilot program. In addition, the bill establishes district-independent, autonomous schools. The purpose of such schools is to expand the impact of PAPPI principals by allowing them to manage one or more schools operated by a third-party governing board and providing the school with the same exemptions and administrative autonomy provided to participating PAPPI schools. The bill specifies that a school, whether a participating school or a school operated by an independent governing board and managed by a participating principal, continues its exemption from laws and rules beyond the initial 3-year period so long as the school receives a school grade no lower than a “B.”
The bill specifies that a participating principal who successfully completes the school turnaround training may manage one or more schools operated by an independent governing board through a contract with the school board. Each member of the independent board must not be an employee of the school district or any school operated by the board. For the purpose of tort liability, the independent governing board, autonomous school, and its employees or agents are subject to the same waiver of sovereign immunity in tort actions as the state, state agencies and or subdivisions. The bill specifies that the district school board is not liable for civil damages under state law for the employment actions or personal injury, property damage or death resulting from an act or omission of an operator, the school of hope and its employees or agents. The bill also allows an autonomous school to be either a private or public employer and provides that employees of a public employer must be compulsory members of the Florida Retirement System.
Subject to appropriation each year, the DOE must fund the costs of the program to include the administrative and enrollment costs for the school turnaround training program and provide up to $10,000 for each participating principal as an annual salary supplement for 3 years. The bill revises salary supplement eligibility requirements to allow a participating principal to qualify by teaching at a school that earned two consecutive grades of “D” rather than three. The bill also specifies that a participating principal may qualify for a salary supplement by managing a school operated by the independent governing board.
In addition, the bill:
- Specifies that the statewide, standardized assessments published by the DOE must be published in a format that facilitates sharing of assessment items. The bill also expands the requirement that all statewide, standardized ELA and math assessments in grades 3 through 6 be paper based by the 2018-2019 school year to include grades 7 and 8.
- Requires that reading passages and writing prompts used in statewide, standardized ELA assessments incorporate grade-level Social Studies core curricular content.
- Requires that professional development resources disseminated through the web-based statewide performance-support system include sample course-at-a-glance and unit overview templates that school districts may use when developing curricula. The templates must provide an organized structure for addressing the Florida Standards, grade-level expectations, evidence outcomes, and 21st Century skills that build toward mastery at each grade level.
- Requires each school district to conduct a security risk assessment at each public school site in the district in addition to a self-assessment of the school districts’ current safety and security practices. Both the risk assessment and self-assessment of current safety and security best practices will be conducted using a format prescribed by the department, rather than the practices developed by OPPAGA.
- Authorizes the commissioner to coordinate with school districts, Florida College System institutions, and the satellite offices of the Division of Blind Services and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to assess their need for resources and assistance in the event of an emergency situation.
- Provides the SBE with authority to adopt rules that establish criteria under which a student’s industry certification may be rescinded. The bill also prohibits the award of a bonus to a teacher who fails to maintain the security of any CAPE industry certification examination or who otherwise violates the security or administration protocol of any industry certification examination that may lead to a bonus for student attainment of an industry certification.
- Specifies that industry certification examinations, national assessments, and statewide assessments offered by a school district must be available to all FLVS students. The bill also provides that such examinations and assessments must be taken at the school to which the student would be assigned according to local attendance areas unless an alternative testing site is agreed upon.
- Deletes the requirement that a home education articulation agreement include a provision establishing a student’s responsibility for providing his or her own instructional materials. The bill also deletes the requirement that a private school articulation agreement include a provision stating whether the private school will compensate the postsecondary instruction for the standard tuition rate per credit hour.
- Removes obsolete language requiring the DOE to develop a statewide operating electronic Individual Educational Plan (IEP) system by July 1, 2007.
[NOTE: The bill has not yet been assigned to committees of reference. There is no direct Senate companion bill.]
HB 63 – Students with Disabilities in Public Schools by Edwards – PASSED; PLACED ON HOUSE CALENDAR ON 2ND READING
The bill amends the use of restraint on students with disabilities. Specifically, the bill:
- Defines terms related to seclusion and restraint.
- Provides that physical restraint may be used only to protect students, school personnel or others, but not for disciplining a student. Restraints should be used only when all other strategies and techniques have been exhausted. A student may only be physically restrained for the time necessary for protection.
- Prohibits specified physical restraint techniques.
- Requires school districts to develop policies and procedures to ensure the physical safety and security of all students and school personnel; and requires that students be treated with dignity and respect.
- Outlines under what circumstances restraint may not be used.
- Describes the circumstance when time-outs may be used and prohibits certain areas.
- Prohibits student from being placed in seclusion.
- Requires the school to review a student’s functional behavioral assessment and individualized behavior intervention plan when a student is placed in time-out, physically restrained or secluded more than twice in a semester.
- Includes emotional and behavioral disabilities in the list of disabilities for which certain school personnel must be trained to identify for early intervention.
- Adds to staff training effective classroom behavior management strategies such as differential reinforcement, precision commands, minimizing attention or access to other reinforcers, and time-out methods.
- Directs DOE to publish data and analysis relating to incidents of seclusion and restraint on its website.
[NOTE: This was the third of three committees of reference for this bill. The Senate companion bill – SB 260 – is similar but has not been heard in any of three committees of reference.]
HB 1175 – Early Learning Coalitions by Sullivan – PASSED; PLACED ON HOUSE CALENDAR ON 2ND READING
The bill authorizes the Early Learning Coalition (ELC) to refuse to contract with, or revoke the eligibility of, a school readiness program provider if the provider has been cited for a Class I violation. Class I violations are the most serious in nature, pose an imminent threat to a child including abuse or neglect and which could or does result in death or serious harm to the health, safety or well-being of a child. [NOTE: This was the second of two committees of reference for this bill. The Senate companion bill – SB 1532 – is identical but has not been heard in any of three committees of reference.]
In the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting:
SB 1048 – Firearms by Baxley – AMENDED AND PASSED WITH A COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE (CS)
The bill authorizes a church, a synagogue, or other religious institution to allow a concealed weapons or concealed firearms licensee to carry a concealed handgun in certain established physical places of worship under certain circumstances. The bill specifies that, if the religious institution is using property that is an elementary or secondary school facility or career center or that is located on the property of a school, the person may not carry a concealed handgun on school property during school hours or during any time when curricular or extracurricular school-sponsored activities are taking place on the property. In addition, the bill does not authorize the carrying of a firearm in any place or in any manner prohibited by federal law or on the property of a public or private college, university, or other postsecondary educational institution. [NOTE: The Committee took up and passed a strike all amendment that included prohibitions relating to concealed weapons and firearms on school grounds. The short summary above reflects the bill as amended. This was the first of two committees of reference for this bill. The House companion bill – HB 1419 – is similar and has passed one of two committees of reference.]
In the Senate Rules Committee meeting:
SB 560 – Public Meetings and Records/Imminent Litigation by Steube – AMENDED AND PASSED WITH A CS
The bill expands a public meeting exemption that presently allows certain individuals of a governmental entity to discuss litigation pending before a court or administrative agency. More specifically, the current exemption authorizes board and commission members and the chief administrative or executive officer of the entity to conduct a private meeting about pending litigation with the attorney of the entity. The bill broadens the exemption to additionally authorize a private meeting for the purpose of discussing imminent litigation. Litigation is imminent when the entity has received notice of a claim or demand by a party threatening litigation before a court or administrative agency. The bill subjects the parties involved in discussions of imminent litigation to the same standards that apply to private discussions of pending litigation. Therefore:
- The attorney must advise the entity at a public meeting that he or she is seeking advice about the litigation.
- The subject matter at the private meeting is limited to settlement negotiations or strategy sessions related to legal expenses.
- The entire session must be recorded by a certified court reporter.
- The entity must provide reasonable public notice of the time and date of the attorney-client session, and other information related to the process.
If the imminent litigation does not proceed, the transcript of the private meeting must be made part of the public record the earlier of within a reasonable time or when the underlying statute of limitations expires. [NOTE: Today’s amendments clarified the differentiation between pending and imminent litigation and provided public record exemptions in cases in which the identity of a claimant or litigant is confidential. This was the third of three committees of reference for this bill. The House companion bill – HB 439 – is similar and has passed one of two committees of reference.]
SB 608 – Public Records/Identity Theft & Fraud Protection Act by Passidomo – PASSED; PLACED ON SENATE CALENDAR ON 2ND READING
The bill creates the Identity Theft and Fraud Protection Act and requires an agency to review information to determine if it is susceptible to use for purposes of identity theft or fraud before making postings to a publicly available website. The bill requires the Division of Library and Information Services of the Department of State to adopt rules establishing uniform standards for agencies in determining the types of information which qualify as information that is susceptible to use for purposes of identity theft or fraud. The bill also requires an agency to establish a policy that allows a person to request removal of an image or a copy of a public record containing information susceptible to use for purposes of identity theft or fraud which is posted on an agency’s publicly available website. Information that an agency may not post on a publicly available website, however, may be posted on a limited access area of the agency’s website which is not available to the general public. [NOTE: This was the third of three committees of reference for this bill. There is no House companion bill.]
In the House Session:
HJR 7001 – Supermajority Vote for State Taxes or Fees by Ways & Means – READ 3RD TIME; PASSED THE HOUSE
The joint resolution proposes an amendment to the state Constitution that would provide that no state tax or fee may be imposed, authorized, or raised by the legislature, or authorized by the legislature to be raised except through legislation approved by two-thirds of the membership of each house of the legislature. The joint resolution requires that any proposed state tax or fee imposition, authorization or increase must be contained in a separate bill that contains no other subject. In addition, the joint resolution also specifies that the proposed amendment does not authorize the imposition of any state tax or fee otherwise prohibited by the state Constitution, and does not apply to any tax or fee imposed by, or authorized to be imposed by, a county, municipality, school board, or special district. [NOTE: There is not direct Senate companion bill.]
HB 273 – Public Records by Rodrigues – READ 3RD TIME; PASSED THE HOUSE
The bill prohibits an agency that receives a public record request to inspect or copy a record from responding to such request by filing a civil action against the individual or entity making the request. [NOTE: The Senate companion bill – SB 750 – is identical and has passed one of three committees of reference.]
HB 25 – Labor Organizations by Plakon – READ 3RD TIME; PASSED THE HOUSE
The bill requires an employee organization to include the following information in its annual financial report for each certified bargaining unit that the organization represents:
- The number of employees in the bargaining unit who are eligible for representation by the employee organization; and
- The number of employees who are represented by the organization, specifying the number of members who pay dues and the number of members who do not pay dues.
If a registered employee organization does not submit this information for a certified bargaining unit it represents, the organization’s certification for that unit is revoked. This provision does not apply to an employee organization that represents, or seeks to represent, employees who are law enforcement officers, correctional officers, or firefighters.
The bill also requires an employee organization that has been certified as the bargaining agent for a unit whose dues-paying membership is less than 50 percent of the employees eligible for representation in that unit to petition the commission for recertification as the exclusive representative of all employees in the unit within one month after the date on which the organization applies for registration renewal. The petition must be accompanied by dated statements signed by at least 30 percent of the employees in the unit, indicating that such employees desire to be represented by the employee organization. If the commission determines the petition to be sufficient, it must order an election to determine whether the employee organization will be certified. The certification of an employee organization that does not comply with this recertification requirement is revoked. This requirement does not apply to an employee organization that represents, or seeks to represent, employees who are law enforcement officers, correctional officers, or firefighters. [NOTE: The Senate companion bill – SB 1036 – is similar but has not been heard in any of three committees of reference.]
The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) Education Committee will meet, 1:00 – 6:00 pm, to consider several proposed revisions to the Florida Constitution that are of interest. Our Discussion and Key Points on these proposals is available HERE.
Please note that the Committee has adopted a procedure for considering the proposals over two separate meetings. In the first meeting, proposals are presented and amended (as needed), Commissioner questions are addressed, and public testimony is accepted, but NO VOTE is taken on approval of each proposal. Instead, these proposals are carried forward to the next meeting of the Committee. In the second meeting, the Committee will debate and vote on each proposal. As a result, the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting includes several proposals that were considered for the first time at the January 19 meeting — and will be debated and voted upon at tomorrow’s meeting – as well as several proposals that will be considered for the first time — so no vote will be taken.
The proposals that will have a second hearing and will be subject to a final vote on Committee approval tomorrow include the following:
Proposal 4 – Religious Freedom — sponsored by Roberto Martinez
This proposal revises Article I, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution. The proposal would remove the existing provision — commonly known at the “No-Aid Provision” or Blaine Amendment” — that prohibits the use of public revenues in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or any sectarian institution.
Proposal 45 – Public Education — sponsored by Erika Donalds
This proposal would amend Article IX, Section 1 of the Florida Constitution. The proposal would revise the text of this Article to provide that adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools “allowing the opportunity for each student” (rather than “that allows students”) to obtain a high quality education. In addition, the proposal specifies that no provision in Article IX may be construed to limit the Legislature from making provision for other educational services that benefit the children and families of this state that are in addition to the system of free public schools.
Proposal 71 – Charter School Authorization — sponsored by Erika Donalds
This proposal would amend Article IX, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution. The proposal would authorize the Legislature to enact laws providing alternative processes to authorize the establishment of public schools in the state.
Proposal 89 – Public Education — sponsored by Nicole Washington
This proposal would amend Article IX, Section 1 of the Florida Constitution. This proposal adds to the existing text of Article IX, Section 1(a) to specify that the purpose and intent of the state’s public education system is to develop the intellect of the state’s citizens, to contribute to the economy, to create an effective workforce, and to prepare students for a job. In addition, the proposal adds Section 1(d) to provide that, in order to build Florida’s talent pipeline for the careers of today and tomorrow and align the state’s education, workforce, and economic development efforts, it is the intent of the people to provide high quality and affordable postsecondary education opportunities.
The proposals that will have a first hearing and will NOT be subject to a final vote on Committee approval tomorrow include the following:
Proposal 10 – Civic Literacy – sponsored by Don Gaetz
This proposal revises Article IX of the Florida Constitution. The proposal would add a new section that would provide that, as education is essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the legislature shall provide by law for the promotion of civic literacy in order to ensure that students enrolled in public education understand and are prepared to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens of a constitutional democracy.
Proposal 15 – Basic Rights – sponsored by Anna Marie Hernandez Gamez
This proposal revises Article I, Section 2 of the Florida Constitution. The proposal would repeal the Florida Alien Land Law which currently authorizes the Legislature to regulate or restrict property rights of aliens who are ineligible for citizenship. In addition, the proposal would amend the prohibited bases of government discrimination so that this provision would provide that no person shall be deprived of any right because of race, religion, national origin, or “physical or cognitive disability” (rather than “physical disability”).
Proposal 30 – Basic Rights – sponsored by Roberto Martinez
This proposal revises Article I, Section 2 of the Florida Constitution. The proposal would amend the prohibited bases of government discrimination so that this provision would provide that no person shall be deprived of any right because of race, religion, national origin, or “any” disability (rather than “physical disability”).
Proposal 59 – Religious Freedom – sponsored by Marva Johnson
This proposal revises Article I, Section 3 and Article IX, Sections 1 and 6 of the Florida Constitution. The proposal would revise the current prohibition on the use of public revenues in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or any sectarian institution to provide an exception for educational programs. The proposal would specifically authorize public funds to be appropriated to private schools in the event that a student’s right to an education that meets his or her individual needs and learning differences is violated. In addition, the proposal stipulates that a public school student is entitled to a meaningful education, a positive school environment, high educational standards and assessments that accurately captures abilities and knowledge, qualified teachers, school choice, express and hear various points of view, protection of privacy, and due process. [NOTE: It is expected that this proposal will be substantially amended tomorrow.]
Proposal 82 – Education – sponsored by Brecht Heuchan
This proposal revises Article IX, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution. The proposal would prohibit a school board from setting the opening date for schools in the school district for earlier than seven days before Labor Day each year.
Proposal 93 – Education — sponsored by Roberto Martinez
This proposal would amend Article IX, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution. The proposal would authorize the school board of a high performing school district to choose to be designated as a charter district that would be exempt from all provisions of the Florida K-20 Education Code in the same manner as a charter school designated by Florida law. A charter district would remain under the governance of the school board.
[NOTE: In addition to the above, the Committee will consider one proposal relating to post-secondary education (Proposal 70), but no vote will be taken.]
The full Meeting Packet, which includes CRC Staff analyses, filed amendments, and other information, is available HERE.