Florida Legislative Session 2020
The Florida legislative session is the 60-day period when state representatives go to Tallahassee to pass new legislation, including the state budget. This year, legislators and Gov. Ron DeSantis have said top education issues include improving teacher pay, school safety and continuing to expand school choice.
Florida legislators are working on measures that would allow more parents to send their children to charter schools and private schools through state programs.
- SB 56: Expands private school eligibility for state school choice scholarship programs, adding that schools may not deny enrollment to a student based on the student’s race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity
- SB 632: requires the same accountability for all schools (private, charter, and public)
- Gov. DeSantis' Recommended Budget - Voucher Family Empowerment Scholarship
- Florida Politics: School choice gets mostly positive reviews during House Education Committee hearing
Charter schools are public schools that operate with more autonomy than traditional public schools, which are more directly managed by local school districts. For the most part, charter schools can only open with local School Board approval. This year, the Legislature is considering some measures that would allow other groups to authorize new charter schools.
- SB 166: Requires charter schools demonstrate that it meets a need prior to district approval
- SB 526: temporarily bars certain individuals from opening a charter school if they were involved in a charter school that had been shut down
- SB 536: sets up High-Performing Charter School Council to review expansion applications
- SB 1578: Permits colleges and universities to sponsor charter schools
In light of the Parkland schooting and the opioid crisis, Florida legislators have passed a number of measures intended to improve school safety, including allowing the arming of teachers and guardians, which are less highly trained security personnel than school resource officers.
- SB 304: allows school districts who opted out of guardian program to spend extra funding on school safety
- SB 120: authorizes public schools to purchase and use naloxone, an opioid antagonist, in the event of an overdose
- CBS Miami: Number of armed teachers in Florida remains under wraps
- HB 341: requires school districts to offer specified courses relating to religion, Hebrew Scriptures, and the Bible district leadership
- SB 946: requires a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day in public schools
- SB 184: requires charter schools and private schools to teach specific Holocaust topics and revises the requirements for Holocaust instructional content in public schools
- SB 154: requires health education to include information about signs and dangers of human trafficking
- SB 1643: creates a new section of Florida statute spelling out parents’ rights when it comes to their children’s health care and education
- SB 678: requires Florida DOE to adopt native language versions of assessments
- SB 376: waives 10th-grade language arts test as a graduation requirement for teens still in English language learner programs
The following proposals affect the way school districts are governed. The biggest issue this year for Duval County is the J-1 bill, which would place a referendum on the ballot to make the Duval County School Board Superintendent an elected position rather than an appointed one. In Duval County, School Board members are already term limited to two terms, so state legislation would not have a local effect.
- HR 157:limits school board members to 8 years in office (four-year terms)
- SJR 1216: limits school board members to 12 years in office (four-year terms)
- HB 1079: changes the Duval County superintendent position from appointed by the School Board to elected
- Senate Joint Resolution 282: exemption for senior citizens for property tax on Florida Constitution amendment
- SB 542: provides for a 10-day Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday
- SB 968: legalizes betting on sports, taxable revenue could provide money for public education and college scholarships
Career technical education
- SB 130: provides job-growth grant funds public high schools that provide career-technical instruction programs
- Gov. DeSantis' Recommended Budget - Teacher Compensation
- Gov. DeSantis' Recommended Budget - Teacher and Principal Bonus Programs
- SB 106: establishes the "Florida Teacher Fair Pay Act," and sets the minimum annual starting salary for instructional personnel at $50,000
- SB 486: Repeals Best and the Brightest bonus program
- SB 1088: includes teacher salary increase in the General Appropriations Act, allows districts with a starting salary of $47,500 already to use the funds for district operating expenditure.
- HB 1223: provides minimum base salaries for or specified percentage increases to base salaries of instructional personnel for certain years; provides specified percentage increases to base salaries of educational support employees for certain years
- Gov. DeSantis' Recommended Budget - Florida Education Finance Program
- SB 360: requires school districts participating in the Florida Education Finance Program to spend 80% of funds on classroom spending purposes
Local and state issues
Get up to speed on education issues by reading the latest reports from the Jacksonville Public Education Fund and journalists around the state.
In Florida, a voluntary pre-kindergarten program allows 4-year-old children to attend pre-school with the support of the state. The quality and availability of these programs affects kindergarten readiness, which in turn helps students succeed in elementary school.
- Tampa Bay Times: Florida pre-k issues leave lawmakers with a long to-do list
This year, Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislators have signaled that improving teacher compensation is a priority, with a proposal to raise the starting salary for new teachers. Whether veteran teachers will benefit is still to be seen.
- JPEF poll: 4th Perceptions Poll shows high support for teachers, including increased compensation
- Orlando Sentinel: Starting Florida teacher should rise to $47,5000, Gov. DeSantis says
- Tampa Bay Times: Bill filed to repeal teacher bonus program
- Tampa Bay Times: Does Florida law allow the Legislature to set teacher pay?
- Tampa Bay Times: Florida House begins conversation on teacher raise proposal
- Tallahassee Democrat: Florida superintendents weigh in on higher teacher pay
- Tampa Bay Times: Florida falls in national teacher pay ranking to 46th
- Tampa Bay Times: Gov. DeSantis rolls out new teacher bonus proposal
- Orlando Sentinel: DeSantis seeks $900 million more for teachers in $91.4 billion budget proposal
- Tampa Bay Times: Gov. DeSantis fleshes out teacher pay, bonus proposals in draft bills
- Florida Politics: Manny Diaz bill floats lowering governor's proposed starting teacher salary
This year, Duval County Public Schools led a community conversation about our aging facilities for public schools and the need for a new source of revenue for massive updates, repairs and construction. The Duval County School Board passed a request to place a referendum on the ballot so that voters can decide on a half-penny sales tax to create more revenue for school facilities. The measure stalled in City Council, which declined to place it on a ballot, and the School Board and City Council are now battling over the issue in court.
- Education Dive: Years of inadequate funding have left many school facilities neglected
- Florida Times-Union: Duval School Board OKs superintendent's funding charter schools via sales tax
- Florida Times-Union: State audit says Duval School Board meets requirements for sales tax vote
- Florida Times-Union: City Council rebuffs School Board's request for sales tax referendum
- Florida Times-Union: Duval School Board sues city to get sales tax vote
Teacher recruitment and retention
In Duval County, and across the state and nation, schools are suffering from a teacher shortage as fewer college students choose to enter the profession and many teachers choose to leave the profession.
- Washington Post: Why Florida is struggling to fill more than 2,000 teaching positions
The Florida Standards were adopted several years ago in an effort to raise the rigor of public education, ensuring that students are prepared for college and success after high school. The Florida Standards provide guidance across public school for what skills students should have at each grade level, and the statewide Florida Standards Assessment is based on these guidelines. When Gov. Ron DeSantis came into office, he issued an executive order calling for the elimination of the Florida Standards and a new set of standards to be written. That work is in process now under the Florida Department of Education.
- Florida Department of Education: FDOE Standards Review Process
- JPEF blog: What top teachers think about revising the Florida Standards
- Tampa Bay Times: Fifth time in 24 years
- Orlando Sentinel: Florida's Common Core standards: No need for 'any great change,' educators tell state
Florida is a choice state, which allows parents to send their child to any public school in the state (pending capacity), or use a voucher, education savings account, or tax-credit scholarship (if the family income or student disability qualifies).
HB 1079 (elected superintendent for Duval County)
Following the Duval County Public Schools' effort to get a tax referendum placed on the ballot, legislation has been filed that would change the position of appointed superintendent to an elected superintendent.
- Florida Times-Union: Duval's legislators will introduce bill to have referendum on elected superintendent
- JPEF blog: Four facts about an elected vs. appointed superintendent.
- Florida Times-Union: Rep. Fischer files new bill focusing on elected superintendent
Don't see an issue that you think is important to public education? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts.