FLORIDA LEGISLATIVE SESSION OPENS TOMORROW
It may be hard to believe given the heavy committee work that has been going on for weeks, but the actual legislative session doesn't official open until tomorrow morning. Here's a short list of what to watch:
Budget: Well, yes. This is by far and away the most important topic. Even during periods of prosperity, passing a balanced budget is the only absolute requirement placed on Legislature. During years like this one, however, doing so will be a harrowing process. Issues and options include transferring state costs to local governments and school districts, reducing retirement benefits, dealing with the long-delayed gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and plenty of additional fines, user fees, and other "revenue enhancements."
Class size: By far the most costly of all education reforms enacted in Florida's history is the constitutional limits on class size. Proposed bills would modify the class size calculations to allow for some flexibility and use of averages, rather than on the classroom-by-classroom limits scheduled to go into effect this year. Related bills include H7039, S0002, S0120, S0738, and S1762.
High school testing and graduation requirements: Lawmakers are considering phasing out some or all the high school administrations of the FCAT in favor of end-of-course examinations. Some proposals would also require a minimum score on a college entrance examination as a requirement for high school graduation. Related bills include H0209, H473, H7053, S0120, S0420, and S1154.
Medication for foster children: Sen. Ronda Storms (R-Valrico), chair of the Human Services Policy Committee, wants to restrict the use of certain drugs to treat foster children. Related bills include S2718.
Sales tax holiday: The Governor's budget proposal called for a renewal of the state's sales tax holiday for the purchase of school supplies. Some lawmakers are in favor of doing so. Related bills include S0160 and S0514.
Seclusion rooms: Some lawmakers seek to ban schools from using "seclusion rooms" for students whose disabilities make them disruptive or dangerous to themselves or others. Related bills include H0081, S2118, and S2616.
Security for school locker rooms: Some lawmakers seek to require schools to provide additional security in school locker rooms. Related bills include H1261 and S2602.
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DISTINGUISHED HIGH SCHOOL COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER AVAILABLE
The White House has announced a competition in which high schools seek to have President Obama speak at their high school commencement. The deadline to apply is March 15th.
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FLORIDA'S RACE TO THE TOP PROPOSAL SEEN AS HIGHLY COMPETITIVE
The U.S. Department of Education is expected to announce the first round finalists for Race to the Top this week. A New York charter school advocacy foundation has reviewed all 40 of the nation's Race to the Top proposals and found only three to be fully-competitive: those from Florida, Louisiana, and Tennessee.
City Journal (Web page)
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ACHIEVE, INC. ASSESSES STATE PROGRESS TOWARD AMERICAN DIPLOMA PROJECT
Achieve, Inc. today issued its fifth annual report on state progress toward adopting the goals of its American Diploma Project, which seeks to align U.S. high school curricula with its own college and career readiness standards. Achieve, Inc. works closely with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the partnership has become the leading force in nearly all U.S. policy development in curriculum planning.
Note that several of the standards by which Achieve, Inc., judges Florida to fall short in this report are already being addressed by the Florida Legislature—for example, Achieve, Inc. wants every high school student to be required to take a college entrance examination and at least two current bills (S0120 and S0420) would accomplish exactly that.
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