We are looking forward to having FSBA Treasurer Nora Rupert (Broward County), Patty Good (Broward County), and Betsy Condon (Clay County) in town this week to flex their advocacy muscles and participate in the legislative process. These three school board members will be participating in an initiative launched by the FSBA Legislative Committee and Advocacy Subcommittee that encourages members of the Committee/Subcommittee to come to Tallahassee to provide the perspective of constituents. To emphasize the value of this initiative, you may find a recent article by veteran Tallahassee Democrat political reporter and columnist Bill Cotterell — “Political persuasion has gone high tech in the Capitol” – to be useful. The column discusses what works (and, perhaps more important, what doesn’t work) when advocating before the Florida Legislature.
Today’s activities were fairly light but focused to two key issues: state budget development and the state’s proposed response to undocumented immigrants. Tuesday’s schedule is packed with consideration of bills of interest, including bills relating to class size, assessment & accountability, and religious expression, to name a few. Please click on the links below to access this information.
[toggle title=”Today’s Happenings“]
In the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meeting the Subcommittee considered the several project requests. These have been filed to comply with House Rules House that provide that, in order for an appropriations project to be considered for inclusion in the House budget, it must be a stand-alone bill, must be favorably considered in committee, and must be made with non-recurring appropriations.
HB 3203 — Life Changing Experiences – LCE – Community Education Project by Latvala — PASSED
HB 3293 — National Flight Academy by White — PASSED
HB 3305 — Seminole County Public Schools Aviation Program by B. Cortes — PASSED
HB 3333 — North Florida School of Special Education Expansion Project by Cummings — PASSED
HB 3421 — Little Havana Activities & Nutrition Centers of Dade County, Inc. Child Care Program by Duran – TEMPORARILY POSTPONED
HB 3559 — Additional Walkway Cover Hardee Jr.-Hilltop Elementary School by Albritton — PASSED
HB 3651 — Alternative Education Development Program – Alternative Placement in Lieu of Expulsion in North-Central Lake County by Metz — PASSED
HB 3653 — Security Funding for Jewish Day Schools by Fine — PASSED
HB 3959 — Happy Workers Learning Center Rehab/Restoration by Newton — PASSED
HB 3961 — RISE Summer Math Academy – Lake County Schools with Lake-Sumter State College by Sullivan — PASSED
HB 4065 — Grow Your Own Teacher Scholarship by Caldwell — PASSED
HB 4091 — Sparsity Funding for Hernando County School District by Ingoglia — PASSED
HB 4119 — City Year Florida by Cruz — PASSED
HB 4129 — St. Augustine Florida School for the Deaf and Blind – Public Education Capital Outlay – Gregg Hall by Stevenson — PASSED
HB 4267 — Head Start Federal Match by McGhee — PASSED
[NOTE: Approval today does not mean that the item will be automatically included in the budget, but does mean that the bill is eligible for inclusion. Many of these project requests are for local or regional projects so the 15 bills under consideration in this meeting may be of interest to some, but not all, school districts. Unfortunately, reading the text of each of the bills above will not reveal details of each program/project, other than the amount of the appropriation requested. Also, some project requests that may have an impact on school districts may be heard in non-education committees/subcommittees such as those relating to health care, community affairs, civil/criminal justice, etc. Please email me if you have questions about any particular project request.]
In the House Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee meeting:
HB 697 – Federal Immigration Enforcement by Metz — PASSED
The bill creates the “Rule of Law Adherence Act” (Act) to require state and local governments and law enforcement agencies, including their officials and employees, to support and cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. Specifically, the bill:
- Prohibits a state or local governmental entity or law enforcement agency from having a law, policy, practice, procedure, or custom which impedes a law enforcement agency from communicating or cooperating with a federal immigration agency on immigration enforcement;
- Prohibits any restriction on a state or local governmental entity or law enforcement agency’s ability to use, maintain, or exchange immigration information for certain enumerated purposes;
- Requires a state or local governmental entity and law enforcement agency to comply with and support the enforcement of federal immigration law;
- Provides procedures for a law enforcement agency and judge to follow when an arrested person cannot provide proof of lawful presence in the United States or is subject to an immigration detainer;
- Requires any sanctuary policies currently in effect be repealed within 90 days of the effective date of the Act;
- Authorizes a board of county commissioners to enact an ordinance to recover costs for complying with an immigration detainer;
- Requires an official or employee of a state or local governmental entity or law enforcement agency to report a violation of the Act to the Attorney General or state attorney, failure to report a violation may result in suspension or removal from office;
- Authorizes the Attorney General or a state attorney to seek an injunction against a state or local governmental entity or law enforcement agency that violates the Act;
- Requires a state or local governmental entity or law enforcement agency that violates the Act to pay a civil penalty of at least $1,000 but no more than $5,000 for each day the policy was in effect;
- Creates a civil cause of action for a person injured by the conduct of an alien unlawfully present in the United States against a state or local governmental entity or law enforcement agency whose violation of the Act contributed to the person’s injury;
- Prohibits the expenditure of public funds to reimburse or defend a public official or employee who violates the Act; and
- Suspends state grant funding eligibility for 5 years for a state government or local government entity or law enforcement agency that violates the Act.
[NOTE: Although this bill does not directly refer to schools or school districts, it is likely that it would have an impact on students and their families, particularly those residing in “sanctuary cities” and/or residing in communities with large populations of immigrants. Click HERE to view a Letter to the Editor by Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho on this topic, click HERE for a related news article, and click HERE to view the Broward County Resolution.]
[toggle title=”Coming Up on Tuesday – March 14, 2017“]
Please note that the meetings listed below may be viewed via live webcast or archived videos on the Florida Channel. Also, for real-time updates on these meetings and other legislative activities, please click HERE to access our Twitter feed.
The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee will meet (9:30 am-12:00 pm; 306 HOB) to consider the following items:
HB 591 — Maximum Class Size by Massullo
The bill revises the method for calculating the penalty for schools that fail to comply with the class size requirements by calculating factors in the formula at the school average instead of at the classroom level. The bill removes the increase in the penalty and repeals an increase in the penalty calculation that began with the 2014-15 fiscal year, by returning the calculation to 50 percent of the base student allocation rather than 100 percent. The bill also removes the exemption from the class size requirement for charter schools, district-operated schools of choice, district innovation schools of technology program and PAPPI schools as the penalty for all schools will be calculated at the schoolwide average. In addition, the bill provides that a district that has not complied with these requirements — based on the 2017-18 October student survey — and has timely submitted their certified plan that describes future actions that will be taken for compliance may not have its class size categorical allocation reduced for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 fiscal years. Districts have until the 2018-19 October student survey to comply with these requirements. The district must provide an updated plan by February 1, 2019, to the Commissioner of Education.
HB 781 — Designation of School Grades by Porter
Under current law, a school that serves any combination of K-3 students, that does not receive a school grade as a result of its students not being tested and included in the school grading system, receives the school grade of a K-3 feeder pattern school determined by the Department of Education and verified by the district. The bill revises the number of students required to establish a school feeder pattern from 60 percent of students scheduled to be assigned, to a majority of students scheduled to be assigned to the graded school.
HB 827 — Teacher Bonuses by Porter
Individual teachers of IB, AICE, AP, and CAPE courses are awarded bonuses from portions of the additional funds for students who achieve specific result in the course. This bill removes the annual teacher bonus limits for IB, AICE, AP and CAPE courses.
HB 1109 — Private School Student Participation in Extracurricular Activities by Antone
The bill revises private school student eligibility to participate in interscholastic and intrascholastic extracurricular activities by allowing a student in a non-FHSAA member private school to participate in interscholastic or intrascholastic activities at the school where the student could choose to attend pursuant to controlled open enrollment, in addition to the student’s zoned school which is currently permitted by law.
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee will meet (9:30 am-1:00 pm; 102 HOB) to consider the following item and others:
HB 493 — Enhanced Safety for School Crossings by Toledo
The bill requires the Department of Transportation (DOT) to evaluate the viability and cost of establishing a uniform system for the designation of safe school crossing locations on arterial or collector roads within a one-mile radius of all schools. The bill requires DOT to report its findings to the Legislature by January 1, 2018.
The Senate Community Affairs Committee will meet (10:30 am-12:00 pm; 301 SOB) to consider the following item and others:
SB 880 – Governmental Accountability by Stargel
The bill amends statutes to enhance government accountability and auditing, based on recommendations noted in recent reports by the Auditor General. Of particular interest to school boards, 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;
- Provides definitions for the terms “abuse,” “fraud,” and “waste;”
- 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;
- Provides that the Department of Financial Services may request additional information from local government entities when preparing its annual verified report;
- 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 House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee will meet (2:00-7:00 pm; 212 KOB) to consider the following item and others:
HB 153 — Excess Credit Hour Surcharges by Mariano
Under current law, a state university student must pay an excess hour surcharge for each credit hour in excess of the number of credit hours required to complete the baccalaureate program in which the student is enrolled. The bill exempts from the surcharge first-time-in-college students who complete the requirements for their baccalaureate degree program within 4 years. Also, credit hours earned in upper-division-level courses that must be repeated to meet the requirements for a baccalaureate degree in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics discipline are not calculated as hours required to earn a baccalaureate degree.
The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee will meet (2:00-7:00 pm; 404 HOB) to consider the following items and others:
PCB IBS1 – Workers’ Compensation by Insurance & Banking
The proposed committee bill (PCB) makes the following changes to the workers’ compensation law:
- Permits direct payment of attorneys by or for claimants.
- Increases total combined temporary wage replacement benefits (TTD/TPD) from104 weeks to 260 weeks.
- Fills a benefit gap that happens when TTD/TPD ends, but the injured worker is not at overall maximum medical improvement and/or no overall permanent impairment rating.
- Allows a Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) to award an hourly fee that departs from the statutory percentage based attorney fee schedule in certain circumstances.
- Makes the injured worker responsible for any remaining attorney fees if required by their retainer agreement; the retainer agreements must be filed with the JCCs, but are not subject to JCC approval.
- Allows insurers to uniformly reduce premiums by no more than 5 percent, if they file an informational-only notice within 30 days, subject to regulatory oversight.
- Creates a mechanism to fill vacancies on the Three-Member Panel; grants the Panel authority to fill gaps in statutory reimbursement when adopting schedules of maximum reimbursement allowances for medical care.
- Increases the requirements applicable to petitions for benefits; eliminates carrier paid attorney fees for services occurring before the filing a petition; attaches attorney fees 45 days, rather than 30 days, following the filing of a petition; requires a JCC to dismiss a petition for lack of specificity, without prejudice, within 10 days or 20 days, depending upon whether a hearing is required.
- Eliminates the charge based reimbursement of health care facility outpatient medical care in favor of reimbursing them at 200% (unscheduled care) and 160% (scheduled surgery) of Medicare. If no Medicare fee, then current reimbursement standards apply, which are incorporated into statute.
- Requires the authorization or denial of medical care authorization requests, unless there is a material deficiency.
- Provides for collecting additional information on attorney fees.
[NOTE: Florida courts have recently found multiple parts of the workers’ compensation law unconstitutional in the areas of carrier paid injured worker attorney fees, time limits on temporary wage replacement benefits (i.e., indemnity), and the right of an injured worker to pay for their own attorney. For these and other reasons, the Office of Insurance Regulation ordered a rate increase of 14.5 percent effective December 1, 2017. The bill attempts to address these areas and, hopefully, reduce this and future rate increases that impact school district budgets.]
HB 1107 – Public Records/Workers’ Compensation by Albritton
The bill creates a new section of statute providing that personal identifying information of an injured or deceased worker filed with the Department of Financial Services (DFS), the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), and the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) is confidential and exempt from the requirements of s. 119.07(1), F.S., and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution. The bill allows the disclosure of this confidential and exempt public record information only in under certain specified circumstances.
The House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee will meet (2:00-7:00 pm; 102 HOB) to consider the following items and others:
HB 79 – Education/Reading Instruction by Harrell
The bill is intended to help schools identify struggling readers more quickly and implement effective instruction and interventions. Specifically, the bill:
- Requires the Just Read, Florida! Office to provide training in explicit, systematic, and multisensory reading strategies and identify instructional and intervention programs that incorporate those strategies.
- Requires school districts to use core and supplemental intervention materials which incorporate strategies identified by the Office in order to receive instructional materials funds.
- Requires teacher preparation programs to provide candidates for specified certification areas training in explicit, systematic, and multisensory reading strategies. Candidates for renewal of a certificate in the specified areas or for a reading endorsement must also receive training in those strategies.
- Prohibits districts from waiting until a student receives a failing grade in reading to initiate interventions.
- Enhances communication to parents by requiring the Department of Education to develop a handbook that districts must provide to parents of students with a substantial reading deficiency.
- Requires teachers who teach retained 3rd graders to hold a reading certificate or endorsement.
- Promotes transparency by requiring the Commissioner of Education to annually report to the State Board of Education district reading performance information and identify effective intervention and support strategies used by school districts to improve the performance of struggling readers.
- Requires the department to periodically review certification and coverage areas that involve reading instruction and recommend changes to improve training and instruction.
HB 293 — Middle School Study by Burton
The directs the Florida Department of Education to conduct a comprehensive study of states with high-performing students in grades 6 – 8 in reading and mathematics, based on the states’ performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The findings of the study must be reported to the Governor, the State Board of Education, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by December 2017. The study must include a review of academic expectations and instructional strategies, the availability of student support services, attendance policies and student mobility issues, teacher quality, middle school administrator leadership and performance, and parental and community involvement.
HB 303 — Religious Expression in Public Schools by Daniels
The bill authorizes a student to:
- Express religious beliefs in written and oral assignments free from discrimination.
- Wear jewelry that displays a religious message or symbol to the same extent as secular types of jewelry that displays messages or symbols are permitted.
- Engage in and organize religious groups before, during, and after the school day in the same manner and to the same extent that secular student organizations and groups are permitted.
The bill requires a school district to:
- Allow a religious group the same access to the same school facilities for assembling as given to a secular group and allow a religious or secular group to advertise or announce its meetings.
- Permit school personnel to participate in religious activities on school grounds that are student-initiated and at reasonable times before or after the school day as long as the activities are voluntary and do not conflict with the duties and responsibilities of such school personnel.
The bill provides that these provisions may be enforced pursuant to s. 761.04, F.S., relating to attorney’s fees and costs, authorized by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1998. [NOTE: The Subcommittee will take up a Proposed Committee Substitute (PCS) for this bill which is outlined above. The House PCS differs from the original filed version in a few ways and is no longer identical to the Senate companion bill – SB 436. In particular, the House PCS removes the provisions requiring DOE to develop a model policy that school districts must adopt. The Senate bill is scheduled for consideration in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday (see below) but, as of this writing, no amendments have been filed to the Senate bill that would align it with the House PCS.]
HB 773 — K-12 Student Assessments by M. Diaz
The bill requires the Commissioner of Education to review specified college entrance examinations to determine their alignment with the core curricular content for high school level English Language Arts and mathematics established in state standards and to submit a report on the results of the review to the Governor, Legislature, and State Board of Education by December 1, 2017. The bill revises provisions relating to achievement levels to provide that, beginning with any new contract for the ELA assessment and the mathematics assessment entered into after July 1, 2017, achievement level 3 shall be defined as proficient for each new assessment. The bill revises test administration schedules to provide that, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year and with the exception of the grade 3 Reading assessment, the ELA assessment in grades 3 – 10 and the mathematics assessment in grades 3 – 8 must be administered no earlier than during the last 3 weeks of the school year as determined by a district school board’s policy and within a testing window not to exceed 3 weeks. The bill also provides that, beginning with any new contract for the ELA assessment and the mathematics assessment entered into after July 1, 2017, each new assessment must be made available once per quarter for students who the school district has identified through competency-based education as having mastered the content and who are prepared to take the applicable assessment. The bill also revises the timeframe for the return of text results to provide that a school district must provide a student’s performance results on district-required local assessments to the student’s teachers within 1 week and to the student’s parents no later than 30 days after administering such assessments, unless there are extenuating circumstances identified by the superintendent. The results of statewide, standardized ELA and mathematics assessments must be reported in an easy-to-read and understandable format to each student’s current teacher of record and to each student’s teacher of record for the subsequent school year before the start of that school year. A report of student assessment results must, at a minimum, contain:
- A clear explanation of the student’s performance on the applicable statewide, standardized assessments.
- Information identifying the student’s areas of strength and areas in need of improvement.
- Specific actions that may be taken, and the available resources that may be used, by the student’s parent to assist his or her child based on the student’s areas of strength and areas in need of improvement.
- Longitudinal information, if available, on the student’s progress in each subject area based on previous statewide, standardized assessment data.
- Comparative information showing the student’s score compared to other students in the school district, in the state, or, if available, in other states.
- Predictive information, if available, showing the linkage between the scores attained by the student on the statewide, standardized assessments and the scores he or she may potentially attain on nationally recognized college entrance examinations.
HB 1111 — Teacher Certification by Plasencia
The bill revises the requirements for a district professional development certification and educator competence program to provide greater emphasis on teacher mentorship and induction support. The bill provides that a temporary certificate holder who completes a Florida Department of Education (DOE) approved program and earns a highly effective rating will qualify for a renewable professional certificate without having to complete additional classwork or pass the Professional Education Test. The bill also allows charter schools and charter management organizations to offer a professional development certification and educator competence program and requires the mentorship and induction component of the program to, at a minimum, provide weekly opportunities for mentoring and induction activities. The mentorship and induction activities must be provided for a teacher’s first year in the program and may be provided until the teacher attains his or her professional certificate. The bill requires the DOE to adopt standards for approving a professional development certification and educator competence program, including the mentorship and induction component. With respect to professional development, the bill allows mentoring activities, including serving as a mentor, to count towards a teacher’s inservice requirements for certification renewal. The bill requires professional development activities to provide training to mentors and this training must include components on teacher development, peer coaching, time management, and other related topics as determined by the DOE. The bill requires model professional development programs disseminated by the DOE to include effective mentorship activities to new teachers and training to mentors. The bill also streamlines the temporary certificate application process.
HB 1331 – Education/Schools of Excellence Program by Grall
The bill establishes the Schools of Excellence Program to provide administrative flexibility to the state’s highest performing schools. The bill requires the State Board of Education to designate a school as a School of Excellence if it has a school grades score in the 80th percentile or higher, statewide, for schools of its type (elementary, middle, high, or combination) for 2 of the last 3 school years. A school retains its designation for 3 years unless it earns a school grade lower than a “B” during that span. A school may renew its designation if it remains in the 80th percentile or higher for 2 of the 3 years and does not receive a grade lower than a “B.” The bill provides the following administrative flexibilities to a School of Excellence:
- Exemption from any provision in law or rule that expressly requires a minimum period of daily or weekly instruction.
- The same autonomy over personnel and budgetary decisions for the school’s principal as provided to principals participating in the Principal Autonomy Pilot Project Initiative.
- Exemption from district-set starting and stopping times for the school day.
- Allowing a teacher to substitute 1 school year of employment at a School of Excellence for 20 inservice points toward the renewal of their professional certificate, up to 60 inservice points.
The bill also incorporates many of the provisions of HB 1111 (outlined above). The bill allows a temporary certificate holder who completes an approved professional development certification program and earns a highly effective rating to qualify for a renewable professional certificate without having to complete additional classwork or pass the Professional Education Test. The bill also allows charter schools and charter management organizations to offer a professional development certification and educator competence program and requires the mentorship and induction component of a program to, at a minimum, provide weekly opportunities for specified mentoring and induction activities. The mentorship and induction activities must be provided for a teacher’s first year in the program and may be provided until the teacher attains his or her professional certificate. The bill requires the DOE to adopt standards for approving a professional development certification and educator competence program, including the mentorship and induction component. In addition, the bill allows mentoring activities, including serving as a mentor, to count towards a teacher’s inservice requirements for certification renewal. The bill requires professional development activities to provide training to mentors, requires model professional development programs disseminated by the DOE to include effective mentorship activities to new teachers and training to mentors, and also streamlines the temporary certificate application process.
In addition to consideration of the bills listed above, the Subcommittee is also scheduled to receive a presentation by the Future Farmers of America.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet (2:00-4:00 pm; 110 SOB) to consider the following items and others:
SB 436 — Religious Expression in Public Schools by Baxley
The bill creates the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act” to protect K-12 public school students, their parents, and school personnel from discrimination based on their religious belief and expression. The bill protects students from discrimination based on their religion as follows:
- Requires that students’ course work be graded according to the expected academic standards, without regard for any religious content.
- Provides that, if students in a given school setting are permitted to wear clothing, jewelry, or accessories that display a secular message or symbol, then students may also wear items displaying religious messages or symbols.
- Authorizes students to express themselves in a religious manner, and to engage in and organize religious activities to the same extent as secular expressions and activities are permitted.
The bill protects school personnel from discrimination as follows:
- Provides that school districts may not discriminate against their employees on religious grounds.
- Provides that school personnel may not be barred from joining in certain types of student-initiated religious activities under certain circumstances – i.e. the activity must be on school grounds, occur at reasonable times before or after school, be voluntary, and not conflict with the duties of the employee joining the student-initiated activity.
The bill protects religious groups from discrimination by requiring school districts to permit these groups access to the same facilities for assembly that it permits such access to secular groups. In addition, the bill requires school districts to adopt a policy establishing a “limited public forum” for student speakers at certain school events. The policy must include or be comprised entirely of the model limited public forum policy that the bill requires the Florida Department of Education to develop and publish. [NOTE: The House companion bill – HB 303 – is also under consideration on Tuesday in the House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee (see above).]
SB 80 – Public Records by Steube
The bill grants discretion to a court to award attorney fees and costs relating to public records enforcement actions. A court may award attorney fees and costs to a plaintiff, if an agency unlawfully refuses to comply with a public record request and if the plaintiff provided written notice of the public records request to the agency’s records custodian of public records at least 5 business days before filing the lawsuit. The bill also directs the court in determining whether the agency unlawfully refused a records request to consider whether the request was made in bad faith or if the agency responded in good faith. The court may award attorney fees and costs to the agency if the plaintiff filed the action in bad faith or if the action was frivolous. Finally, the bill entitles a plaintiff to attorney fees and costs only if he or she shows by a preponderance of the evidence that the agency intentionally or willfully refused to permit a public record to be inspected or copied.