Putting Education Reform To The Test

What’s Next in Education in the Florida Legislature?


As the legislative session approaches the midway point, education will take a prominent place in the Florida Legislature this week amid budget talk and proposed tuition increases.

The Florida House has announced its budget proposal; now it’s the Senate’s turn. Senate President Mike Haridopolos has scheduled a series of budget subcommittee meetings as the chamber tries to craft a spending plan.

The House’s $69.2-billion budget boosts public school funding by more than $1-billion. It increases spending per student by about $141. It also hikes college tuition by 8 percent.

Charter Schools

Beyond the budget, a number of education bills will be considered this week. Charter schools will get more opportunities for expansion under a bill before the Senate Education Pre-K -12 Committee. It authorizes Florida College System institutions that offer an approved teacher preparation program to operate one K-12 charter school.

Virtual Education

The same committee considers a bill that would make a series of changes to the state’s virtual education offerings. Among other things, the bill authorizes the Florida Virtual School to provide full-time and part-time classes for students in grades K-12. It specifies that the Florida Virtual School has the same authority and responsibilities as a school district relating to its full-time program. It also enables full-time virtual school students to take part in extracurricular activities.

Ad Space on School Buses

We’ve heard about proposed legislation to allow school districts to sell ad space on school buses. The proposal will go before the full House and will be considered by a Senate budget subcommittee this week. Now, additional cameras are being considered for school buses as a means of catching drivers who ignore the flashing stop sign when children are getting on and off the bus. The measure gets its first hearing before the Senate Transportation Committee.

Education Funding

College presidents go before the House Education Committee to discuss higher education reforms, and the Florida Legislative Black Caucus meets to discuss trends in Florida’s education funding.

Gov. Rick Scott has requested an additional $1-billion for K-12 education, and it appears both chambers will comply. But the governor opposes a tuition increase for colleges and universities. Scott has said he wants to keep Florida competitive by keeping tuition lower than other states. Lawmakers may ultimately write the budget in such a way that Scott won’t be able to veto their tuition hikes. University presidents are asking for the increases, saying the added income is crucial. But community college presidents are asking lawmakers to reject the idea, saying many of their non-traditional students are barely making ends meet.


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