Putting Education Reform To The Test

Florida Legislature Puts Tuition For Children of Immigrants At Top Of Agenda

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

Immigrant activists say their next step is fighting for status for their parents and passing the DREAM Act.

Florida lawmakers are holding committee meetings in the state capital this week, preparing for the start of the legislative session on March 5th.

So far, just a handful of education-related bills have been filed in the Florida House of Representatives.

The big issue is complying with a federal court ruling that says Florida can not charge out-of-state tuition to the U.S.-born — or U.S. citizen — children of undocumented immigrants. Typically, out-of-state tuition is at least three times more expensive than in-state tuition.

HB 29 would grant any U.S. citizen who graduates from a Florida high school after attending for one year in-state tuition at Florida colleges and universities.

HB 17 would set stricter rules to qualify for in-state tuition. Students would have to attend a Florida high school for four consecutive years to qualify for the lower tuition. HB 11 also mandates dependents of undocumented immigrants who are U.S. citizens also qualify for in-state tuition, but would leave it to the State Board of Education to set the rules.

Schools with more low-income students would receive more funding if lawmakers approve HB 31. The bill was filed by three Republicans and a Democrat and creates a poverty-based school funding category.

Schools with a higher percentage of students enrolled in the federal free and reduced lunch program would receive a supplement in the state budget. The money is to be used for reading programs, to reduce class sizes or intervene with at-risk elementary school students.

School districts would have to approve a schedule of district-required standardized testing if lawmakers approve HB 53, introduced by Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah. School districts would have to publish the testing schedule to their websites.

Florida has seen a growing backlash to the amount of class time spent on standardized testing. State officials have taken the brunt of the criticism, but they argue that school district add other testing on top of what is required by the state.

HB 65 requires school districts have at least a year to plan and budget for any changes to Florida education code. HB 1 would outline the rules for selling advertisements on school buses.

Yet to be filed — but expected — are bills overhauling the state’s higher education system, providing charter schools a larger share of local school property taxes and creating a statewide board to authorize and oversee charter schools.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the bills Senators have introduced so far.


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