2017 Florida Legislative Session
(A Look Back)

Public education faced many hurdles as top Republicans traded blows at each nother and Gov. Rick Scott for the entire 60 day session After leaders failed to reach an agreement on a budget prior to the well-known deadline, they were forced to extend it by three days. In the final day of the Session, legislators approved a long line of budget-related bills, including a sweeping education bill crafted behind closed doors without public review or comment that directs state money to privately owned charter schools.

In the end, there was little focus on really improving education and teacher retention; tax cuts were forced upon local governments, reducing funds for schools; and, only a modest improvement was made in per-student funding.


Who's my Rep?  
   

PASSED

K-12 EDUCATION: (HB 7069)
See summary to the right

RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION (SB 436)
Allows student to express their religious beliefs in public schools and requires districts to adopt policies allowing students to pray at school events.

TEXTBOOK CHALLENGES (HB 989)
Allows parents or district residents to challenge materials used in classroom instruction or school libraries, including books, pamphlets and presentations that the complainant finds is objectionable, offensive or inappropriate for the age of the student.

Public Employees: (SB 7022)
Included among changes for employees of the state, the FRS default choice was set to be the investment plan for new education employees. They may change to the pension plan in the first nine months.

Assistive Technology Devices (HB 0371)

Revises provisions related to the use of assistive technology devices by students with disabilities and recognizes that access to and use of the assistive technology device is essential for a student moving from school to home and community, based on the the student's IEP.

Educational Options (CS/CS/CS/HB 0015): Expands the Gardiner Scholarship program by expanding the pool of applicants with additional disabilities and the use of scholarship funds for equine, art, or music therapy services. It also Revises the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program by increasing the base annual scholarship amount and allowing a dependent child of a parent who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces to apply for a scholarship at any time. Prohibits a student enrolled at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind from being eligible for the scholarship.

About HB 7069
The 274-page bill was crafted behind closed doors by lawmakers and failed to include educators at the table when drafting educational policy.
  • Budgets $140 million for "schools of hope" encouraging charter schools owned by out-of-state private corporations) to open up either in the attendance zone of, or within five miles of, a local traditional public school that has earned either an F or D grade from the state for three straight years - forcing the designated public school to close.
  • Redirects more than $400 million in state money from traditional public schools to charter schools, requiring school districts to share construction money with charters. (NOTE: If these charter schools close, the facilities built, renovated or leased with the public money would remain in private hands and cease to be public assets.)
  • Requires 20 minutes of recess daily be provided in all traditional (not charter) public elementary schools.
  • Eliminates Algebra 2 end-of-course exam and pushes the state testing program back to the last four weeks of the school year.
  • Calls for a study to use the SAT or ACT as an alternative that would help lawmakers determine if those tests could in the future substitute for end-if-course exams.
  • Expands the state's "Best and Brightest" bonus program for teachers to principals by recognizing those rated "highly effective" by their district and having scored in the 80th percentile on either the SAT or ACT as eligible for the bonus, but caps it at $6,000 instead of the advertised $10K.
  • Ensures zero job security for annual contract teachers. Even highly effective teachers, can no longer be guaranteed a job the following year through collective bargaining. (NOTE: This was a separate bill that was much contested and then was snuck into HB 7069 at the last minute. )

 

FAILED
  • Labor unions would need to recertify as certified bargaining agents (HB 0011 & SB 1292)

  • High school students need written parental permission to leave campus for lunch.
    (SB 148 & HB 85)


  • Computer coding and courses may satisfy state university admissions requirements for math and science. (HB 0265)

  • Two credits in computer coding courses may substitute foreign language credits. (SB 0104)

  • Changes to Reading Instruction including:
    a) integration of content-rich texts from other core subject areas into reading instruction,
    b) reviews of Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, teacher certification requirements and examinations in areas that involve reading instruction.
    c) teacher preparation programs providing instruction in explicit, systematic, and multisensory reading instructional strategies,
    d) district school boards prioritize the allocation of remedial and instructional resources to students in K-3 who have a substantial deficiency in reading, and revised intervention requirements, and
    e) providing additional information to parents of students with substantial reading deficiencies. (CS/HB 0079 & SB 0656)
 
  • STEM Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
    (SB 0274 & HB 0403)

  • Establishing School of Excellence designation and benefits for schools in 80th percentile or higher, statewide, for schools of its type (elementary, middle, high, or combination) for 2 of the last 3 school years. (HB 1331)

  • Elimination of requirement for the Department of Education to compare student performance data of charter schools within a school district with public schools within that district, and with the other charter schools in Florida as well as the posting of such information on each charter school's Internet website. (SB 1362)

  • Requirement that each public high school provide for the administration of the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) or the preliminary ACT to all enrolled 10th grade students. (SB 1362)

  • Exemption of a home education program student from the grade point average requirement for admission to a dual enrollment program and clarified that private school and a home education program students are not required to reimburse tuition for dual enrollment. (HB 1391 & SB 1556)
  • Graduation requirement of half-credit in financial literacy. (SB 392/HB 955)

NOTE:
The following bills also failed, but most of their provisions were included in HB 7069 which then passed on the last day. HB 0773, SB 0796, SB 0376, SB 0274, HB 0403, HB 1111, HB 7057 & SB 1710