Friday, March 06, 2009

FSCA: Legislative Update


This annual address concludes the first day of each legislative session. Monday night's State of the State address was briefer and most focused than in the past, and the Governor described hard times for Florida and called on legislators to "come together as never before" to address the grave issues before them. The Governor lauded schools for their recent progress, and called for an increase in per-pupil spending and for approval of the gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe. He did not address the issue of sales tax exemptions, but called for an adoption of a law to further reduce school district budget flexibility by requiring that 70% of all school district revenues be restricted to direct classroom costs.

Full text of prepared remarks at


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Under House and Senate rules, the filing deadline for most bills was yesterday. So far as I can tell, here are the most significant education-related bills currently under consideration:



HB 0457, HB 0803, SB 2236, and SB 2254, would provide different forms of flexibility in school district budgeting as measures to reduce the impact of severe budgetary cutbacks.

HB 0595 and SB 0396 would establish a sales tax exemption on school supplies for one week in August 2009.

HB 0765 and SB 0530 (not identical) would allow for school years calendars of 180 days of instruction or their hourly equivalent, and provides authority for adjusting these requirements in emergencies.

HB 0883 and SB 1978 would reduce local school district budget flexibility and mandate that 70% of all school district revenues would have to be expended for direct classroom costs.



HB 0353 and SB 1010 would make available McKay scholarships to students who receive certain services under the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program, and delete the requirement that a student must have spent the prior school year in attendance at a Florida public school to receive McKay scholarships.

HB 0453 and SB 1310 (not identical) would expand the current Corporate Income Tax Credit Scholarship by which businesses can receive tax credits for donating scholarships or vouchers used for private school tuition.

SB 0916 would modify the state's current program in which businesses receive tax credits for providing vouchers for private school tuition. If approved, the bill would require businesses to donate at least 25% of their contributions to scholarships to pay for tutoring of pubic school students, and would require school districts to account for these donations.

HB 0991 and SB 0610 would replace the defunct Schools of Excellence Commission with a new state Grade Improvement Commission, which could create "remedial charter schools" in school districts in which a district-run school received a school grade of "F."

HB 0999 and SB 2124 would require school districts to notify parents at any point in the school year in which any student's classroom exceeds the constitutional class size limit, to offer to reassign and transport the student to the parents' choice of another public school, and to offer a private school voucher.

See also HB 1005 and SB 0278 below.


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SB 0610 would establish a means for state approval of "remedial" charter schools. This new system would replace the now-defunct Florida Schools of Excellence.

HJR 0919, SB 1828, and SJR 2394 (not identical) would propose a constitutional amendment to require that class size limits remain at or similar to current levels but be based on average number of students at school level rather than at the classroom level. It would also limit the maximum number of students who may be assigned to each teacher in each PK-8 classroom.

HB 1005 and SB 0278 would clarify that charter schools are subject to constitutional class size requirements. The House version would permit charter schools to enroll students above the constitutional limits, but would not provide state funding for such students.

See also HB 0999 and SB 2124 above.



HB 0013 and SB 2174 (not identical) would add social studies to the FCAT.

HB 0019 and SB 0268 would remove the current statutory requirement that sex education programs teach that abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage is the expected standard for all school-age students, and would eliminate the requirement for such programs to promote the benefits of monogamous heterosexual marriage.

HB 0265 and SB 0220 would establish requirements for comprehensive sex education to include abstinence and contraception.

HB 0232 and SB 0092 would require that a student withdrawing from school be assigned to a school counselor who would continue serve as a resource for educational information until the student is 18 years old.

HB 0323 and SB 0082 would raise the age of mandatory school attendance from 16 to 18.

HB 0355 and SB 1874 would require school districts to include teacher turnover rates on school report cards and revise new teacher induction programs.

HB 0404 and SB 0613 would allow for the waiver of final examination requirement for students with at least an average grade of "B" for the semester and who has not had more than 3 days of unexcused absences during the semester.

HB 0543 and SB 2386 would eliminate science from the FCAT.

HB 0501 would abolish early learning coalitions and transfer most functions to the Agency for Workforce Innovation, which would administer school readiness programs and VPK. The bill would also abolish the Florida Early Learning Advisory Council, repeal subsidized child care program case management, and repeal subsidized child care transportation. (Compare to SB 2570.)

HB 1203 and SB 2476 would delete the grade 10 FCAT as requirement for high school graduation, along with the use of concordant college placement test scores for the same purpose. It would abolish mandatory third grade retention. It would change the current school grading system using letter grades to a school performance system which would use ratings of "declining," "maintaining," or "improving." Schools with "improving" ratings would be provided with greater flexibility in allocating FEFP, state categoricals, lottery funds, grant funds, and local funds. It would eliminate the current Florida School Recognition Program and replace it with an Every Child Matters Program, which would redirect funds to schools in "declining" status.

HB 1231 and SB 2608 would create an appeals process for students marked for grade level retention. It would add history, civics, geography, arts, music, and physical education to the subjects required by statute to be considered in decisions about grade level promotion. Current law only requires consideration of reading, writing, science, and mathematics.

HB 1293 and SB 2654 would make numerous changes to high school graduation requirements, including defining requirements for three kinds of high school diplomas: a core diploma, a college preparatory diploma, and a career preparatory diplomas. It would also eliminate options for the require physical education and health credit, authorize a Graduation Exit Option Program, and provide for applicability of major and minor areas of interest or electives as credit requirements. It would require each high school to offer a minimum number of AP, IB, or dual enrollment courses. It would create additional requirements for receipt of Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program awards.

HB 1527 would create a GED exit option for obtaining a standard high school diploma.

SB 0078 would remove letter grades for schools from the state's assessment system.

SB 0080 would revise components of progression programs, eliminate remedial and supplemental instruction requirements, eliminate mandatory retention grade three, eliminate midyear promotion, and revise guidelines for remedial reading instruction and intervention strategies.

SB 0100 would require that the minimum number of instructional hours in a prekindergarten program would increase from 540 hours to 720 hours.

SB 0178 would create grants to school districts to implement AIDS education programs.

SB 0196 would require 225 minutes of physical education per week for grades 6 through 8, and a mandatory recess with physical activity for elementary schools of 15 to 30 minutes on any day that students do not have physical education class. (See additional notes for this bill below in Public Health & Safety Bills.)

SB 0346 would require a mandatory one-half credit in health education, independent of physical  education credit requirements, for high school students who enter high school in 2008-2009.

SB 0290 would remove the current requirement for meeting class size maximums which allow a student to graduate from high school if the student passes the grade 10 FCAT, and remove the current requirement that a student earn a passing score on the FCAT or alternative assessment to graduate from high school.

SB 0776 would require school districts to add conflict resolution to character education programs.

SB 2174 would add social studies to the FCAT testing program.

SB 1128 would modify provisions for the designation of a surrogate parent for educational decision-making for a child who has or is suspected of having a disability and for whom no willing and able parent can be located.

SB 1248 would delete the requirement that a school collect 50 to 75 percent of a textbook's purchase price from a student who has lost, destroyed, or damaged a textbook that has been in use for more than 1 year.

SB 2396 would require teachers to present a "critical analysis" of the scientific theory of evolution.



HB 0533 and SB 1360 would allow delivery of an inspirational message at a noncompulsory high school event.

HJR 0617 and SJR 0232 would propose a constitutional amendment that would require the minimum salary for new full-time public school teacher to be national average salary for new full-time public school teachers and require the average salary for experienced full-time public school teachers to be no less than national average salary for full-time public school teachers. The law would also require that the resulting salary increases be independent of employee benefits and not alter, jeopardize, or decrease existing employee benefits, and would require the Legislature to fund the required salary increases.

HB 0677 and SB 0112 would prohibit use of a cellular telephone while operating a motor vehicle in a school zone.

HB 1323 and SB 2466 would provide for recall of school board members and would require school boards to adopt a superintendent recommendation's for teacher compensation unless 66% of the members vote against it.

HB 1411 and SB 2458 would replace professional services contracts with new "professional performance contracts," which could be offered for period of up to five years to teachers who successfully completed at least ten annual contracts.

SB 0232 would propose a constitutional amendment that would require the minimum beginning salary of any Florida teacher to be at least as high as the national average salary of all beginning teachers.

SB 0782 would amend certain requirements regarding tie votes of local school boards, and methods of elections of school board chairpersons.

SB 1540 would provide definitions to clarify that mandatory zero tolerance policies should not be applied to petty acts of misconduct and misdemeanors, including, but not limited to, minor fights or disturbances.



HB 0033 would create additional paperwork and consent requirements for parents seeking childhood vaccinations. SB 2024 would establish requirements for school-based management plans for students with diabetes, and would require schools to obtain services of diabetes care assistants.

HB 0597 would establish a homelessness prevention grant program; create a Housing First program; and provide school attendance exemption and school certification of school-entry health examination exemption for certain children in foster care.

SB 0918 would expand eligibility for Florida KidCare low-income health insurance program.

SB 0146 would require that children who enter public or private schools present evidence of having completed a class in swimming life skills conducted by a  certified instructor.

SB 0194 would require that children who enter public or private schools present evidence of a comprehensive vision examination.

SB 0330 would establish state matching grants for school nurses.



HB 0627 and SB 1320 would prohibit school bus stops from being established directly on a state-maintained road with a speed limit of 55 miles per hour or greater.

SB 0804 would require the Legislature to allocate funds sufficient to reimburse school districts for the difference between the average federal reimbursement for free and reduced-price breakfasts and the average statewide cost for breakfasts.

SB 0196 would establish extensive, specific requirements for each school district's health and wellness policy, to include a district-wide ban on the sale of diet sodas or any beverage containing caffeine, and a ban on frying equipment in school cafeterias.


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Note that many retirement bills not listed here affect special risk, senior executive, and elected officers retirement classes.

A full index of all retirement-related bills is maintained by the Florida Division of Retirement at

Of the bills related to regular class FRS retirement, these seem to be the most significant:

HB 0479 would nullify FRS retirement if there is a rehire at an FRS agency within 12 months, and would suspend retirement benefits completely if the retiree has been rehired into a position earning $100,000 or more.

SB 0534 would end enrollment of new hires in the traditional defined contribution plan, who would instead be enrolled in a defined contribution "investment" plan.

SB 1182 would prohibit a retired person from receiving both a salary from an employer in the state-administered retirement system and retirement benefits, and from reenrolling in the State Retirement System. Exemptions would include employees currently enrolled in DROP and substitute teachers, and also part-time, non-contractual education paraprofessional, transportation assistants, bus drivers, or food service workers.

SB 1482 would change the conditions by which a member earns a full retirement. Under current law, regular class FRS members earn a full retirement (i.e., no penalties for early retirement) with at least six years of service and reaching age 62, or with thirty years of service at any age. The new law would provide full retirement with at least six years of service at age 62, or with 25 years at age 50.

SB 1484 would redefine average final compensation to be based on an average of the member's highest-compensated three years of service rather than the current five years.

SB 1486 would increase health insurance subsidies for FRS retirees.


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VOUCHER SUMMIT: Former Governor Jeb Bush visited U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in Washington yesterday. They discussed school vouchers.

Chicago Tribune

TWEET THE PARENTS: Broward County appears to be the first Florida school district to formally use Twitter to communicate with the public.

Florida Sun-Sentinel,0,1337538.story

LESS FUN AND FEWER GAMES: The Florida High School Athletic Association has moved to reduce the maximum number of high school athletic events by 20% to 40% for many sports next year. The moratorium is subject to a Board of Directors vote in April.



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