2017 Legislative Session: Week 7 Highlights

2017 Legislative Session: Week 7 Highlights

Friday, April 21, 2017

As we enter the final weeks of Florida’s 2017 Legislative Session, policymakers are demonstrating their commitment to Florida’s students with several student-centered pieces of legislation that expand educational options and ensure college and career readiness.

  • HB 15, which expands the Gardiner Scholarship program for students with special needs, unanimously passed the Florida House on April 19.
  • HB 293, which examines what other states are doing to beat the “Middle School Slump,” passed the Florida House on April 20. The companion bill, SB 360, will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting on April 25.
  • SB 796, which creates a supportive environment for high-impact charter management organizations to establish schools, passed the Senate Education Committee on April 17. The bill will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting on April 25.


Highlights from week seven of Florida's 2017 Legislative Session.

House Bill 15 and SB 902 - Gardiner Scholarship Expansion:

Legislation to expand the Gardiner Scholarship Program, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, unanimously passed the Florida House on April 19. The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.

During a recent committee meeting to discuss the proposed legislation, bill sponsor Rep. Sullivan spoke directly to parents of Gardiner Scholarship program students thanking them for their courage to find the best education to meet their child’s needs.

HB 15 would expand the Gardiner Scholarship program to all Florida children with an Individualized Education Plan. The scholarship program is currently serving more than 7,500 Florida children with unique abilities.

The legislation also increases the state’s commitment to the students in Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program. More than 98,000 Florida students currently participate in this program, which has a proven track record of educational gains for students and savings for Florida’s taxpayers.

A companion piece to this legislation focused only on the Gardiner Scholarship Program, SB 902 sponsored by Sen. David Simmons, passed the Senate Education Committee on April 17.

House Bill 293 - Middle School Performance Study:

Legislation to study what other states are doing to beat the “Middle School Slump” and raise academic achievement in middle grades unanimously passed the Florida House on April 20.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Colleen Burton, directs the Florida Department of Education to conduct a study examining practices instates with high-performing middle schools.

A companion piece to the legislation, SB 360, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 25.

Senate Bill 926 - Fewer, Better Tests:

Sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, SB 926 passed the Rules Committee and will now move on to the Senate floor.

The legislation would give teachers more time to teach by moving statewide assessments to the end of the school year. The bill also increases transparency by providing teachers and parents with easy-to-understand and actionable student score reports, and it ensures teachers receive timely results from local assessments to help inform classroom instruction.

A similar piece of legislation, HB 549, passed the House Education Committee on April 20. The legislation, which is sponsored by Rep. Randy Fine and championed by Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., would also ensure parents receive helpful student score reports.

Leaders from Florida’s education and business communities have expressed their support for this important piece of legislation. A recent editorial on how to fix “classroom dead time” underscored the necessity of Florida’s Fewer, Better Tests legislation.

Senate Bill 468 - VPK-Grade 3 Reading:

A comprehensive early literacy bill, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, passed the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on PreK-12 Education on April 18. The bill will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 25.

The legislation would lead to more students reading on grade level by providing statewide research-based training to Florida elementary teachers,reading coaches and VPK teachers.

SB 468 also proposes providing struggling VPK students with the opportunity to enroll in a second year of VPK at their parent’s discretion.

The companion piece to this legislation, HB 757, passed the House Subcommittee on PreK-12 Innovation last month. HB 757 is sponsored by Rep. Byron Donalds and Rep. Jason Fischer.

Senate Bill 796 - High-Impact Charters:

Legislation to bring high-impact charter schools to the Sunshine State passed the Senate Education Committee on April 17.

SB 796 will help thousands of Florida’s low-income students gain a quality education by removing administrative barriers and creating a supportive environment for high-impact charter management organizations to operate and serve educationally disadvantaged students.

A high-impact charter management organization is one that has demonstrated success in serving disadvantaged students and helping those students make significant academic progress. Currently, Florida is home to only two high-impact charter networks: KIPP (Jacksonville) and the SEED School(Miami).

The bill will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 25.

Senate Bill 868 - Virtual Education:

Senate Bill 868 sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, passed the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on PreK-12 Education on April 18. SB 868 removes barriers so that all Florida students can participate in virtual instruction.

More than 900 Florida Virtual School students were not able to continue their education during the 2016-2017 school year because of arbitrary prior-year enrollment rules currently in place. Kate Baxley, Sen. Baxley’s granddaughter, recently shared her story on why this legislation is needed.

A companion piece to this legislation, HB 833 sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, is on the Special Order calendar and will likely be heard on the House floor on April 25.

Visit Foundation for Florida’s Future – 2017 Legislative Session for more information on these student-centered, teacher- and parent-friendly bills.

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