Senate Appropriations Committee Passes Strong Academic and Financial Accountability for Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program
Tallahassee — Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) today praised the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Joe Negron (R-Stuart), for adopting strong academic and financial accountability standards for Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program.
Under a provision approved by a bipartisan majority of the committee, students receiving Florida Tax Credit Scholarships will be subject to annual academic testing using the same Department of Education-approved assessments that are in place for this program. Scholarship funding organizations will be audited annually by the Auditor General to track how funds are spent and to ensure that no state dollars are used for lobbying or political purposes.
“Speaker Weatherford and I jointly committed to expanding school choice through the Tax Credit Scholarship Program,” President Gaetz said. “The question we have been working on is how to include meaningful accountability so parents, teachers and the public will be able to assess student performance. I am very pleased the bill passed today accomplishes those objectives and makes this legislation acceptable to the Senate.”
Senate Bill 1512 by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) affirms private school autonomy over curriculum and instructional materials and requires those schools to use a Florida Department of Education-approved test for scholarship students. Under the bill, the Learning Systems Institute at Florida State University will provide testing reports to parents, showing how their students are progressing in math and reading skills compared to like assessment components in other public and private schools. Reports will be based on similar components across various stated-approved assessments, so parents can compare apples to apples. The Institute will also produce school-based reports and student-based reports, without identifying student information.
The academic accountability measures will begin this fall with a focus on the schools serving the largest number of scholarship students assessed in the 2014-2015 school year. As currently exists in statute, scholarship students in private schools aretested by Florida Department of Education-approved assessments. Financial accountability provisions begin immediately for all schools receiving the publicly-funded scholarships.
Senate Bill 1512 also creates Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts for students with disabilities in kindergarten through high school. The bill eliminates the Special Diploma and creates additional options for students with disabilities to satisfy the requirements for a standard high school diploma. By eliminating the Special Diploma, and creating additional opportunities for students to satisfy the requirements for a standard high school diploma that focus on postsecondary goals and career transition planning, the legislation empowers parents and students to choose education options that best meet their unique needs.
The legislation is now ready for the Senate floor.
Katie Betta, (850) 487-5210
Britton Alexander, (850) 487-5184