The Legislature held a 5th week of Interim Committee Meetings this week. Several bills and topics of interest were considered, including funding, health and safety, public records, and ethics. The outcome of the legislative meetings of interest is provided in the first file below. In addition, updates on several federal issues are provided in the second file below. Please note that the 6th and final week of Legislative Interim Committee meetings will be held December 9-13, 2019.
Please note that all of the meetings listed below may be viewed in the Florida Channel Video Library.
Tuesday – November 12, 2019
SB 7012 – Mental Health by CFEA – AMENDED; PASSED
Providing additional duties for the Statewide Office for Suicide Prevention; requiring that certain information be provided to the guardian or representative of a minor patient released from involuntary examination; requiring specified persons to complete certain suicide prevention education courses by a specified date; providing that persons providing certain emergency care are not liable for civil damages or penalties under certain circumstances, etc. [NOTE: The bill requires all public schools, including charter schools, to incorporate 2 hours of suicide prevention training for all instructional personnel by October 1, 2020. The bill also requires all schools to have at least 2 school-based staff members certified or otherwise competent in the use of a suicide screening instrument and have a policy in place to utilize the instrument to gauge a student’s suicide risk before initiating a Baker Act or requesting the initiation of a Baker Act.]
SB 496 – Child Welfare by Book — PASSED
Specifying the rights of children and young adults in out-of-home care; requiring the Florida Children’s Ombudsman to serve as an autonomous entity within the department for certain purposes; requiring that a case plan be developed in a face-to-face conference with a caregiver of a child under certain circumstances; requiring a caseworker to provide specified information relating to subsidies that early learning coalitions provide to caregivers of certain children, etc. [NOTE: The bill is likely to have the greatest impact on school readiness programs and open enrollment programs because these programs must give preference to serving at-risk children.]
In the Senate Education Committee:
SB 120 – Naloxone in Schools by Pizzo — PASSED
Authorizing a public school to purchase a supply or enter into an arrangement to receive a supply of the opioid antagonist naloxone for a certain purpose; requiring the school district to adopt a protocol for the administration of naloxone; providing that a school district and its employees and agents and the physician who provides the protocol are not liable for any injury arising from the administration of the naloxone pursuant to the protocol, etc.
SB 130 – Florida Job Growth Grant Fund by Hutson – AMENDED; PASSED
Authorizing the Governor to approve workforce training grants to certain charter schools under the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund; authorizing certain charter schools to apply for specified grant funds, etc. [NOTE: The amendment opened up eligibility for the grants to all public schools (rather than only charter schools) that offer the Career and Technical Education graduation pathway option.]
SB 154 – Human Trafficking Education in Schools by Thurston – AMENDED; PASSED
Revising the required health education in public schools to include information regarding the dangers and signs of human trafficking; requiring the Department of Legal Affairs to develop human trafficking awareness campaigns, etc. [NOTE: Amendment clarified the content of the curriculum and also added elements such as prevention of the abuse of and addiction to alcohol, nicotine, and drugs.]
SB 156 – Early Childhood Music Education Incentive Pilot Program by Perry – AMENDED; PASSED
Extending the scheduled expiration of the pilot program, etc. [NOTE: The amendment modifies the eligibility requirements for the pilot program to provide that specified (rather than “each”) elementary schools in the district have a comprehensive music education program.]
SB 168 – Drinking Water in Public Schools by Cruz – AMENDED; PASSED
Subject to legislative appropriation, requiring each school district to install filters that meet certain specifications on drinking water sources; requiring such schools to post certain signage on certain water sources and to publish specified information on the school district’s website; authorizing school districts to request additional funding to compensate school district staff for the installation or replacement of filters, etc. [NOTE: The amendment provides a $3 million nonrecurring appropriation from the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Trust Fund to the board of a county water and sewer district to implement the requirements of the bill.]
Wednesday – November 13, 2019
HB 81 – Medicaid School-Based Services by Andrade — PASSED
Revises provisions relating to reimbursement of school-based services by AHCA to certain school districts & private & charter schools; specifies that U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is authorized to waive certain school-based provider qualifications.
SB 7006 – Violations of the Prohibition Against Abuse of Public Position by E&E — PASSED
Reenacting provisions relating to penalties for violations of the Constitutional Prohibition Against Abuse of Public Position, etc. [NOTE: The bill reenacts these provisions to ensure that these penalties would apply to violators of the provisions from Amendment 12 relating to abuse of a public position. Amendment 12 was proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission and approved by voters in 2018. The provisions of this Amendment, among others, include provisions that prohibits local government officials – including county commissioners, school board members and city commissioners – from lobbying their former governments for six years after they leave office, prohibits state and local elected officials from lobbying other governmental agencies, (including the federal government) for compensation while in office (the six-year ban would not apply to current office holders), and prohibits public officials from using their offices to obtain a “disproportionate benefit” for themselves, their families or their business interests. The Amendment did not define the term “disproportionate benefit” so this is left to the Legislature or Florida Commission on Ethics to define what that term means.]
Thursday – November 14, 2019
In the House Civil Justice Subcommittee:
HB 195 – Public Records by Rodrigues — PASSED
Prohibits agency that receives request to inspect or copy record from responding to such request by filing civil action against individual or entity making request.
The Subcommittee members received presentations on the Status and Uses of School Hardening Funds and on the Implementation of Mental Health Awareness & Assistance Training. In addition, the Subcommittee considered several Member Appropriations Project Requests. The meeting packet, which includes these presentations and project bills, is available HERE.
Congress and the Administration have until November 21 to either complete the fiscal year 2020 budget for the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies or pass another stopgap spending bill to continue government operations at fiscal year 2019 until a spending deal can be reached. The House passed a spending bill earlier this year, but the Senate has failed to secure the 60 votes required to initiate a floor debate on a fiscal year 2020 spending package. Given the distractions of the impeachment hearings, it is highly unlikely that the chambers will be able to agree on a spending bill, so it is expected that another Continuing Resolution (CR) will be approved that will provide additional temporary funding at fiscal year 2019 levels through December 20, 2019.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
In July, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed changes to the eligibility criteria for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP has a direct impact on school feeding programs because, under current eligibility criteria, any school aged children in families that qualify for SNAP are categorically-eligible or directly certified for free school meals under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). The proposed changes to the eligibility criteria for SNAP will reduce the number of families with school aged children that are categorically-eligible or directly certified for free school meals and, therefore, these families would be required to submit a household application to determine eligibility for free or reduced price meals, just like any other family that is not participating in the SNAP. The USDA’s updated analysis states that, nationwide, potentially as many as 982,000 children would no longer be directly certified for free school meals based on SNAP participation. The families of these children would have to apply for free or reduced price meals. IF an application is submitted, it is expected that, of these 982,000 children, about 445,000 (45%) would be remain eligible for free meals, about 497,000 (51%) would become eligible for reduced price (rather than free) meals. About 40,000 children (4%) would no longer qualify for either free or reduced price meals.
School board members are strongly encouraged check with your food service managers to determine the impacts of the proposed rule change in your school district and to contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives to express your concerns about this issue. To assist you, we have listed some key points that you may wish to mention:
Is this rule change necessary? — A stated objective of the revising the rule is to eliminate abuse. However, there is little evidence of abuse. The USDA’s own analysis found that 96% of students who are categorically eligible for free or reduced price school meals would continue to be eligible demonstrates that SNAP is, in fact, successfully serving families with an extraordinarily high degree of program integrity. Further, even the 4% that would become ineligible for SNAP cannot be entirely attributable to program abuse, but may be due to simple errors. Even so, instead of focusing on ensuring access for all who need it, the proposed rule creates barriers for children to participate in the NSLP and SBP by requiring families of close to a million students to complete an application to remain eligible for the programs.
Impact on Students — Maintaining access to, and promoting participation in, the NSLP and SBP are critical as many students rely on these programs as a main source of calories and nutrition and support long-term physical and mental health. Furthermore, regular access to healthy meals is key for academic success since research shows that children who experience hunger are more likely to be absent, have lower math scores and poorer grades. Increasing participation in the school meal programs also helps to reduce lunch shaming, the public shaming or bullying inflicted on students who fail to bring money for lunch.
Is There Cost Savings? — USDA’s analysis estimates that the proposed rule will result in federal savings of $90 million per year beginning in FY 2021 or $270 million over the next five years – a minimal amount in the context of a federal budget of approximately $4.2 trillion and an amount that would do little in addressing the current federal debt of approximately $22 trillion. It is important to note that a substantial portion of the cost savings would result from eligible students dropping out of the program because of the new application barrier. Of significant concern to school districts, the cost savings estimate does not include the additional costs for states to process the additional applications or to conduct the necessary education and outreach to alert households to the need to apply for the school meals programs. Ultimately, the proposed rule shifts costs from the federal government to states and school districts.
Impact on School Meal Debt — Across the nation, 75% of school districts have unpaid school meal fees. This debt will likely increase if low-income families are moved from free to reduced priced meals or are no longer eligible for either free or reduced priced meals.
You may access the USDA’s analysis of the proposed changes to SNAP eligibility HERE.
U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Targeted School Violence
Earlier this month, the United States Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) issued a report analyzing targeted school violence. This report expands upon twenty years of NTAC research in threat assessment and violence prevention. In line with this effort, NTAC conducted a study of 41 incidents of targeted school violence from 2008 to 2017. Among the key findings included in the report:
- It is impossible to identify a specific attacker profile or the types of schools where attacks occur;
- Usually motivations to attack involve multiple social stressors, including grievances related to school staff, classmates, personal relationships, or home environment;
- Most attacks involve the use of firearms, which attackers often acquire from their homes;
- Most attackers have histories of observable mental and behavioral health symptoms, including instances of disciplinary actions or contact with law enforcement;
- All attackers exhibited “objectively concerning or prohibited” behaviors and most communicated their intent to attack.
Taking these, and other, observations into consideration, the report underscores the role of prevention when addressing potentially high-risk situations. Significantly, the best practice of prevention must include a multidisciplinary threat assessment team along with adequate policies, tools, as well as regular training. In particular, the report emphasizes that “punitive measures are not preventative,” especially when addressing high-risk disciplinary situations. Furthermore, as timely communications are essential in preventing attacks, schools, students, and parents should be encouraged to report concerning behavioral patterns for appropriate interventions to take place.
The full report has been posted on the Health & Safety page in the FSBA Resource Room or may be accessed by clicking HERE.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
On Tuesday, November 12, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on three cases relating to President Trump’s decision in 2017 to end deportation protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Previously, three appeals courts had ruled against the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind the program, which grants deferral from deportation and work permits to nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children. The central question before the Supreme Court justices is whether the decision to end the program was based on legally sound reasons. For more information on this issue, please see the FSBA Issue Brief on this program.
On Wednesday, November 13, 2019, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing to examine lung illnesses and other issues relating to the rising use of electronic cigarettes by youth. This is an issue of interest for school districts and several have adopted resolutions on the topic. During the meeting HELP Committee chair Lamar Alexander stated that more than 1.6 million individuals are using e-cigarettes. HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray stated that e-cigarettes are tobacco products, and are causing serious health concerns, including increased use among students. Senator Murray cited that 1 in 4 high school students and 1 in 10 middle school students are using e-cigarettes. You may access the video of the HELP Committee meeting HERE.