At Session’s Close, Future Brighter for Florida Students

May 3 • 304 Views • View Comments

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At Session’s Close, Future Brighter for Florida Students
Florida Legislature Sends Student-Centered Bills to Governor Scott

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – At the conclusion of Florida’s 60-day Legislative Session, student-centered bills fared well, and many now head to the desk of Governor Rick Scott for the opportunity to be signed into law. Efforts to involve parents in the education decisions of their children with unique abilities, prepare students for career paths in the digital age, fairly evaluate Florida’s teachers, and support the educational choices Florida is known for offering are all among the policies on their way to becoming realities for Sunshine State students.

“The Florida Legislature approved measures that will be life-changing for many Florida students,” said Foundation for Florida’s Future Executive Director Patricia Levesque. “The sky is the limit when we provide quality education opportunities and choices to all families.”

Below are the results of student-centered priorities this session:

Empowering Parents
Exceptional Student Education, Senate Bill 1108, passed from both chambers with unanimous votes. This bill will give parents of students with disabilities expressed consent on certain life-altering decisions regarding their children’s education, allowing parents to be fully informed and engaged in the process. It is on track to be a national model for increasing parental rights and awareness in the educational decisions of children with disabilities.

“I am excited to see Florida on the verge of becoming the first state in the nation to ensure parents are informed and empowered to play their critical role in developing their child’s Individual Educational Plan,” said Natalie Gozar, Casselberry parent of a fifth-grade public school student. “I applaud Florida lawmakers for bringing this issue forward this legislative session.”

Graduation Requirements
Florida Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 1076, a bill allowing students to substitute rigorous industry certifications for certain graduation course requirements. The bill passed both chambers with broad, bipartisan support and creates programs for careers in the digital age, ensuring that Florida students will receive more meaningful pathways to a successful future.

New Technology for a New Day
House Bill 7029 now heads to the Governor as well. It includes provisions that would expand students’ access to online courses, including those across district lines.

Teacher Preparation and Evaluations
Senate Bill 1664 was OKed by the Legislature. This bill ensures teacher preparation programs are held accountable for the quality of their graduates. It also tweaks the state’s teacher evaluation system to ensure teachers are fairly evaluated based on students they teach and assessments that accurately measure their impact on students.

Equality and Equity in School Choice
Charter schools, which are public schools as well, continue to prove they are an effective, successful option for many Florida families. House Bill 7009 increases accountability and transparency for these schools, cracking down on rogue charter school operators that give others a bad name.

Parent Empowerment Act
Twenty Florida senators and 68 representatives trusted Florida parents and voted to include them in the decision-making process on how to improve failing schools. Unfortunately, it was not enough. While the Parent Empowerment bill, Senate Bill 862, will not reach the Governor’s desk this year, Levesque said the Foundation will not ignore the voices of all who supported this bill and thanked those who petitioned, traveled and spoke on behalf of empowering parents this year.

The silver lining: House Bill 7009, which passed both chambers, was amended to include language improving students’ odds of being assigned to an effective teacher. This bill has the potential to create life-long learning benefits for Florida students, no matter what their school grade.

Funding Success
Lawmakers voted to recognize the hard work of teachers, staff and school leaders by maintaining Florida’s School Recognition Program to grade schools – just like students – on an A-F scale. The program recognizes and rewards schools for student learning, and provides parents, teachers and taxpayers with a transparent picture of the level of student learning at each school. They also voted to increase funding for the professional development of Advanced Placement teachers in low-performing schools. The Legislature showed its continued commitment to education through funding for Florida schools and raises for the state’s hardworking teachers.

Visit www.AFloridaPromise.org for more information, and in the coming months, look for the results of Florida’s Education Report Card, which grades Sunshine State legislators’ support of education reform.

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