Florida Chamber Education Update: Week 5

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. That’s why we are fighting hard to make sure Florida’s entire education system continues to improve. Here’s a recap of this week’s education discussions in the Florida House and Senate:

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 PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee on Monday, and subsequently passed out of the House Education Committee on Thursday, removes barriers that inhibit high-performing charter management organizations from replicating their success and expanding. HB 7101 will now head to the House floor. Similar legislation in the form of SB 796, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean, was set to be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Monday, but was not considered as the meeting ran out of time.

Fewer, Better Tests (SB 926, Sen. Anitere Flores)

The Florida Chamber continues to support the enhancement of our statewide assessment and accountability systems, which is why we endorse SB 926. This bill cleared the Senate Education Committee on Monday after a compromise between lawmakers was struck. Following the adoption of several amendments, this bill now contains pieces of a few different testing reform proposals. The revised bill now pushes back the state assessment window to the last three weeks of school, requires easy-to-understand, parent-friendly score reports to be utilized, allows school districts to use paper-and-pencil exams instead of computerized tests, repeals the Value-Added Model (VAM) formula used to evaluate teachers, eliminates various End-of-Course (EOC) exams, allows students who pass certain exams (Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate) to be exempt from the statewide assessment in those areas, requires the Commissioner of Education to review nationally-recognized college entrance exams to determine alignment to Florida’s standards, and requires the Department of Education to conduct a study on Florida’s statewide assessment achievement levels – including how best to define the levels in order to communicate the meaning of these levels to students, parents and teachers.

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 Education Committee on Monday, as it 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.

Best & Brightest (SB 1552, Sen. David Simmons)

We support legislation that provides students with high-quality teachers and administrators. That’s why we support this bill, which passed out of the Senate Education Committee on Monday. SB 1552 expands the eligibility criteria for the Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program and creates the Florida Best and Brightest Principal Scholarship Program.

Educational Options (SB 1314, Sen. Denise Grimsley)

The Florida Chamber supports SB 1314 because it helps all students succeed by providing options for high-quality education programs. This bill, which passed out of the Senate Education Committee on Monday, revises and strengthens the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. A related bill, SB 902 Gardiner Scholarship Program, sponsored by Sen. David Simmons, which expands access to the Gardiner Scholarship Program, was scheduled to be heard in the same meeting. Due to the committee running out of time, SB 902 was not considered. The House companion bill (HB 15, Rep. Jennifer Sullivan) was passed out of the House Education Committee on Thursday. HB 15 will now head to the House floor.

Digital Learning & Virtual Education (HB 833, Rep. Jennifer Sullivan)

The Florida Chamber will continue to fight for an education system which also creates an atmosphere that allows parents to take control of their child’s academic future. This bill, which was passed out of the House Education Committe on Thursday, removes the prior year in public school requirements and provides that all K-12 students, including home education and private school students, are eligible for both full-time and part-time virtual instruction options. HB 833 will now head to the House floor.

Take Action Now

For more information about where the Florida Chamber stands on these and other education-related issues, click here or contact me at bhunt@flchamber.com.

Florida Chamber Education Update

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. That’s why we are fighting hard  to make sure Florida’s entire education system continues to improve. Here’s a recap of this week’s education discussions in the Florida House and Senate:

Excellence in Higher Education (HB 3, Rep. Bryan Avila)

This bill, which passed out of the House Post Secondary Education Subcommittee on Monday, would establish tuition and fee incentives through a block tuition policy, promote on-time student graduation, and responsibly increase student financial aid and tuition assistance. It also establishes a world-class faculty and scholar program and a university professional graduate degree excellence program in order to promote the prominence of Florida’s graduate schools. Finally, it links education to job opportunities by providing internship opportunities to students. HB 3 is the House’s companion bill to SB 2, a priority of Senate President Joe Negron, which previously passed off the Senate floor on March 9.

Voluntary Prekindergarten Education (HB 757, Rep. Byron Donalds)

This bill, which passed out of the House Pre-K Innovation Subcommittee on Tuesday, promotes better identification and enhanced focus on struggling readers from Pre-K to third grade and offers additional training to teachers, reading coaches and school principals. The bill also proposes additional accountability to the Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Education Program.

K-12 Student Assessments (SB 926, Sen. Anitere Flores)

On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee held a workshop on this bill. This legislation requires the Commissioner of Education to review nationally-recognized college entrance exams to determinte alignment to Florida’s standards, provides teachers more time to teach by moving the state assessment window to the last three weeks of school and requires easy-to-understand, parent-friendly score reports to be utilized.

Take Action Now

For more information about where the Florida Chamber stands on these and other education-related issues, click here or contact me at bhunt@flchamber.com.

Sen. Flores Stands Firm on U.S. – Cuba Relations on Bottom Line

Last December, President Obama announced a possible normalization of relations between Cuba and the U.S.- a decision that places Florida directly in line to be affected by the consequences.

Senator Anitere Flores, Chair of Senate Fiscal Policy Committee, shares the historical context of the discussions and why the U.S. – and Florida— must exercise caution.

“Just imagine yourself or your family members having, from one day to the next, absolutely everything is taken away from you… and the person who took that away is still the person in power,” explained Sen. Flores. “Where the president made a mistake number one, was in not consulting those who are affected by this but number two was not listening to history. History of relations with Cuba have shown that the Castro brothers at any given moment will take what they want for themselves and this time doesn’t show us that it’s going to be any different.”

Throughout the many Washington D.C. trips the Florida Chamber takes to meet with Florida’s congressional delegation, one thing has always been clear- Cuba has the power to end the embargo today if they take certain steps.

“A lot of people think that the embargo is something that is imposed unilaterally by the United States onto Cuba,” said Sen. Flores. “But the united states congress took action to say that if Cuba takes certain steps- free political prisoners, have free and fair elections- if they took those steps, then the embargo would be lifted. So if Cuba would simply move toward democracy, move toward democratic principles, then the embargo would be lifted right away and they could be our partners.”

In the Florida Senate, Sen. Flores has stood resolute in sharing Florida’s positon.

“Just recently, the Florida Senate took a very affirmative step in standing with our colleagues… in saying—we are not going to stand for normalization with Cuba until Cuba starts to embrace democratic principles, which is the opposite of what’s being done right now,” said Sen. Flores.  “Cuba is a place where the visitor can have it all— where they can  go to the best hotels, stay on the most beautiful beaches— but residents receive a ration book every single month that dictates what you can eat and when you can eat it. The same happens with companies. Companies in Cuba are not allowed to make decisions as to who to hire, what to pay- all of that is dictated by the government. That’s not something that we should stand for in the United States, we should stand for freedom because if we don’t stand for freedom, then who will?”

In Florida, we stand for free enterprise principles- they have helped our economy thrive and succeed past times when many thought our state was over. The Florida Chamber has a long-standing position opposing normalizing relations with Cuba, and as long as there is a dictator that won’t recognize democracy, freedom and free enterprise as a path toward a better life for its people, our position will remain the same. Sen. Flores urged caution for businesses thinking of working with Cuba’s “free enterprise” principles.

“I would ask them to be very careful,” said Sen. Flores. “Nothing has happened over the last 55 years that shows that the Castro government would treat businesses today any differently. Right now, there is no free enterprise. Things that are done under the cloak, under the wording of free enterprise in Cuba, those folks are told who to hire, are told what to pay, are told when to open, what businesses they can deal with. One can’t wake up one day and say you know, today I want to open a nail salon or today I want to have a trucking business— you have to ask the Cuban government and say ‘can I be in this business’. And then the government makes that decision and they govern every single decision that is made by that company. So I would warn those who are watching or business executives from around the country to just be very careful because the Castro regime has shown us that they will do nothing in the future that is different than what they’ve done in the past.”