Highlights:

  • The Family Empowerment Scholarship program gains more traction as the Senate Appropriations Committee amended portions of Senate Bill 7070 to raise the income limit, making some middle-income families eligible.
  • Expanded computer science education and professional development for public school teachers legislation passed the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
  • State colleges and universities may be able to authorize the creation of new public charter schools with legislation passed both Senate and House committees this week.

Family Empowerment Scholarship Program:

A Senate Education Committee-proposed bill, Senate Bill 7070, contains several student-centered policies, including a proposal to create a new K-12 scholarship program called the Family Empowerment Scholarship.

On April 18, the Senate Appropriations Committee amended SB 7070 to raise the income limit for the program to include some middle-income families, in addition to low-income families who are already eligible. The legislation would allow students from families of four making up to $77,000 to be eligible for a scholarship.

This action moves the bill closer to the House proposal, House Bill 7075, which would give low-income and middle-class families the opportunity to attend a private school of their choice, with priority given to low-income families.

However, the Senate’s version is now capped at 18,000 scholarships. The House’s scholarship annual cap (in the first year) is 28,000 scholarships. Since the House’s proposal does not count recurring students against the cap, the program could serve as many as 112,000 students in the first four years, compared to only 18,000 students in the Senate version.

 

Computer Science Education:

In the 2018 legislative session, Florida leaders expanded access to computer science education by requiring computer science courses to be integrated into each districts middle and high schools.

The legislation from 2018 also established a grant program within the Florida Department of Education to fund training for teachers to earn a certification in computer science and a bonus program for teachers, certified in computer science or holding an industry certification in that area and evaluated as effective or highly effective in the previous year, to earn an annual bonus ($500 – $1,000) for a period of three years.

Senate Bill 1366, by Senator Dennis Baxley, would fully fund the previous legislation, allowing public school districts to apply for funding for professional development in computer science. The legislation would also greatly expand the number of digital certifications schools can offer students.

 

Other Bills Moving Through the Capitol:

Lawmakers are considering several pieces of legislation that would expand access to public charter schools and early college programs.

House Bill 1197 by Representative Jason Fischer passed the House Education Committee on April 16. The legislation would allow state colleges and universities to authorize the creation of new charter schools in the state of Florida.  Senate Bill 1470 by Senator Manny Diaz Jr., passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 18 and would allow the Charter School Commission to sponsor certain charter schools. Both bills can now be considered by their full chambers.

Senate Bill 1444 by Senator Manny Diaz, Jr. passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 18. The legislation would require the Florida Department of Education to maintain a disqualification list so that “bad actors” are not allowed to open or maintain a public charter school. A similar piece of legislation, House Bill 1127 by Representative Wyman Duggan, is ready to be considered by the full chamber.

House Bill 1061 by Representative Toby Overdorf passed the House Education Committee on April 16. The legislation increases funding to public school districts for students who earn College Board Advanced Placement Capstone Diplomas.

According to the College Board’s 2018 Advanced Placement results, Florida moved up one spot to the third best state in the nation in the percentage of graduates scoring a 3 or above on their exams, which provides students an opportunity to earn college credit