Florida Session Week 9 Highlights

Florida Session Week 9 Highlights

Friday, March 9, 2018

We’re down to the final hours of Florida’s 2018 Legislative Session. Here’s a look at legislation that made it across the finish line this week.

  • 2,300 students with special needs will be able to participate in the Gardiner Scholarship program next school year thanks to a $25 million increase in the legislative budget.
  • House Bill 7055 will soon move to Governor Scott for consideration after passing both the House and Senate on Monday.
  • Florida students will have greater access to computer science education thanks to House Bill 495, which now moves to Governor Scott for consideration.

Legislative Budget Priorities:

Senate and House leaders published their legislative budget on Wednesday evening. Here’s a look at a few of the student-centered funding items within the budget.

  • Per Student Funding – Policymakers included an increase of more than $100 per public school student for the upcoming school year. If the budget is approved by the Governor, the Full-Time Equivalency (FTE) for the 2018-19 school year would be $7,408.13 per student.
  • Gardiner Scholarship – The budget included an increase of $25 million, which will cover the 2,300 Florida students with special needs who would have not been able to participate in the program next school year and would have been wait-listed.
  • Capital Outlay Funding –  The funding level for charter schools, which serve more than 280,000 students, increased to more than $145 million. This funding significantly increases the state’s commitment to public charter schools, while easing tensions over the sharing of local dollars between traditional and public charter schools. Along with an increase in capital outlay funding, legislators also strengthened autonomy for public charter schools.
  • Mental Health Assistance – A new allocation of more than $69 million was included in the budget for mental health assistance in schools.

K-12 Education Legislation – House Bill 7055

On March 5, legislators passed K-12 education legislation that expands educational opportunities for Florida families, including those with students with special needs, students reading significantly below grade level and students who have been bullied or harassed.

HB 7055:

  • Establishes the Hope Scholarship Program for students who have been subjected to bullying or harassment so that they can attend another public or private school. 
  • Creates Reading Scholarship Accounts for students in grade 3-5 who are struggling readers. The program, which is the first of its kind in the country, would give priority to students who are English learners. 
  • Opens an additional funding source beginning in the 2019-20 school year for the Gardiner Scholarship Program, which empowers parents of students with special needs with the resources to customize their child's education.  
  • Improves accountability and transparency in Florida’s private school choice scholarship programs and provides the Florida Department of Education with the financial resources to implement the legislative changes.
  • Restores equal and open access to dual enrollment courses for all Florida students. The legislation also includes an appropriation of $550,000 to ensure home education students are not charged for the costs of dual enrollment instructional materials.
  • Strengthens the autonomy of Florida’s public charter schools, which serve more than 280,000 students.

The bill will now be sent to the Governor for consideration.

Computer Science Education 

Legislation to expand computer science education for public middle and high school students passed both the House and Senate today. House Bill 495 will now move to the Governor for action.

We thank Senator Kathleen Passidomo and Representative Elizabeth Porter for working to ensure each and every Florida student is prepared for success in the classroom and in life.

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