Wrapping Up Education Bills In The 2012 Florida Legislative Session
The big school issue was the budget, and Gov. Rick Scott threw out a challenge early on — add $1 billion to K-12 funding or risk a veto.
Lawmakers hit that target, though schools say the new money won’t make up for rising enrollment and past budget cuts.
Here’s a wrap-up on the other big education issues of Florida’s 2012 legislative session.
Accelerated learning — Students who want to graduate high school in less than four years can do so if Gov. Rick Scott signs this bill into law. This was a top priority of the Foundation for Florida’s Future, the education non-profit founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush.
Online learning — If signed into law, this bill would allow more students access to online courses offered by the Florida Virtual School. In the past some students had to take virtual classes full-time, now they can pick and choose which courses they want to take. The bill would also open up virtual courses to elementary school students.
Tax credit expansion — This bill expands the state tax credit program for businesses donating scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools. The state can grant up to $230 million in tax credits this year.
Inspirational messages — This bill lets school districts allow student-led messages at school events, including mandatory gatherings. The goal is for students to “inspire” classmates, and can include sectarian prayers. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign this bill and the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are likely to challenge it in court.
Sick leave — Teachers could share their sick leave with colleagues dealing with an illness or taking care of a spouse. Previously, school employees could only donate their sick time to a district-wide pool.
What didn’t pass
Parent trigger — The most controversial piece of education legislation failed in the Senate on a 20-20 vote. The bill would have allowed the majority of parents of children attending failing schools to choose how to restructure the school.
Charter funding — This bill would have required school districts to share local dollars for construction and maintenance equally with charter schools. House lawmakers said charter school funding is a problem, but that this solution was not fair.
In-state tuition for undocumented immigrants — Dozens of students wore orange mortar boards at a Senate hearing, but it wasn’t enough as the bill died on a 4-3 vote. The bill would have allowed undocumented immigrants who graduated from Florida high schools, the children of undocumented immigrants (some of whom are U.S. citizens) and children whose parents are incarcerated access to in-state tuition rates.
School bus ads — Lawmakers shot down the proposal to allow schools to sell advertising space on the side of buses.