Nine Florida Chamber-Backed Education Bills Move Forward in Legislature
By: Tracey Lowe
The Florida Chamber of Commerce believes a quality education system is the best way to ensure our students can get the skills and training they need to compete in a rapidly changing global economy. If Florida is truly to become the best business environment in the nation it will need a well-prepared workforce, as talent is quickly replacing the tax incentive as the economic development tool of choice. That’s why we are fighting hard to make sure Florida’s entire education system, from Pre-K through the post-graduate level and beyond, continues to improve.
This week was a busy one in the Florida Legislature as we quickly approach the final few weeks of the 2017 Legislative Session. Nine Florida Chamber-backed education bills were heard and voted on.
Here’s a Recap of This Week’s Education Discussions in the Florida Legislature:
Education (SB 926, Sen. Anitere Flores, and HB 549, Representatives Manny Diaz and Randy Fine)
The Florida Chamber continues to support the enhancement of our statewide assessment and accountability systems. Both the House and Senate’s testing reform bills saw action this week and, after clearing their respective final committee stops, are now ready to be heard by the full bodies of each chamber. While negotiations on the final language will be on-going, both bills currently address pushing back the state assessment window to the last three weeks of school, requiring easy-to-understand, parent-friendly score reports to be utilized, allowing school districts to use paper-and-pencil exams instead of computerized tests, updating the Value-Added Model (VAM) formula used to evaluate teachers, eliminating various End-of-Course (EOC) exams, and requiring the Commissioner of Education to review nationally-recognized college entrance exams to determine alignment to Florida’s standards.
Gardiner Scholarship Program (SB 902, Sen. David Simmons)
The Florida Chamber believes that all students and their families deserve to have options when it comes to selecting what educational programs suit their individual specialized needs. SB 902, which passed in the Senate’s Education Subcommittee on Monday, expands access to the Gardiner Scholarship Program for students with intellectual disabilities.
School Choice (HB 7101, Rep. Bob Cortes)
The Florida Chamber supports legislation that empowers all students to succeed by providing options for high-quality education programs. This bill, which passed out of the House on Wednesday, removes barriers that inhibit high-performing charter management organizations from replicating their success and expanding. HB 7101 will now head to the Senate for further legislative action.
Charter Schools (SB 796, Sen. Aaron Bean)
Similar to the House’s HB 7101, this bill also removes bureaucratic barriers on high-performing charter schools so that they may replicate their success in Florida. SB 796 passed out of the Senate Education Committee on Monday and is now headed for the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Educational Options (HB 15, Rep. Jennifer Sullivan)
The Florida Chamber supports HB 15 because it helps provides students with intellectual disabilities and students from low-income families the opportunity to participate in specialized, high-quality education programs. The bill revises and strengthens the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program and expands access to the aforementioned Gardiner Scholarship Program. HB 15 passed off the House floor on Thursday and will now head to the Senate for consideration.
Best & Brightest (SB 1552, Sen. David Simmons)
The Florida Chamber supports legislation that provides students with opportunities to succeed and access to the best teachers and administrators. That’s why we support this bill, which expands the eligibility criteria for the Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program and creates the Florida Best and Brightest Principal Scholarship Program. The bill also provides education options for students in low performing areas, who are seeking a high-quality education. SB 1552 passed out of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on PreK-12 Education on Tuesday.
Voluntary PreK Education (SB 468, Sen. Kelli Stargel)
Few investments in education programs are more valuable than those that help students to read. The Florida supports SB 468, which was passed out of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on PreK-12 Education on Tuesday. This legislation provides additional opportunities to assist young students who are struggling readers, offers additional training to teachers, reading coaches and school principals and proposes additional accountability to the Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Education Program.
Virtual Instruction (SB 868, Sen. Dennis Baxley)
Having a quality education system where parents are empowered to choose the best environment for their children is the best way to ensure Florida’s students can succeed. That’s why the Florida Chamber supports SB 868, which further enables parents to take control of their child’s academic future. SB 868, which passed out of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on PreK-12 Education on Tuesday, removes the prior year in public school requirement and provides students, including those in home education and private schools, the ability to access virtual instruction options.
Take Action Now:
Register today for the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2017 Learners to Earners Education Summit on June 14 in Orlando. Contact Kat Bustamante for more information.