EDUCATION Several education bills are making their way through the Legislature this year. One details how funding would be distributed to charter schools and creates the Florida Institute for Charter School Innovation at Florida State University. The Institute’s mission is to research policy related to charter school accountability, instruction, finance management and operations. Charter schools may use the Institute as a resource as they move through the approval process. Another bill would allow parents to move their child to any school in the state, as long as the school is not over capacity. It would also set guidelines for parents to switch teachers within the same school. Schools that chose to require school uniforms will get a financial incentive to do so if another bill becomes law. Finally, the Legislature will change how penalties are calculated for schools that are not in compliance with class size requirements.
PERSONAL LEARNING SCHOLARSHIPS Created last session, the Florida PLSA program allows special needs K-12 students to apply for scholarship funds that may be used for, among other things, instructional materials, curriculum, specialized services, enrollment and tuition. The Legislature is on course to expand the program by broadening the definition of autism and include students who have muscular dystrophy. The scholarships will also be available for private school students as well as eligible three and four year olds. Expansion of the PLSA is a priority of House and Senate Leadership.
FLORIDA HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION Although it would still remain illegal for high schools to actively recruit players, a bill would make it easier for transferring students to participate in their new high school’s athletic program without taking the previously mandatory year break from sports. Children who are home schooled or attend private school would be able to participate in any public school’s athletic program. Most controversial, the measure would overhaul the current structure of the FHSAA board and allow the Education Commissioner to decide in 2017 whether to keep the FHSAA or replace it with another non-profit board.
COLLEGE TEXT BOOKS Governor Scott announced his intention to eliminate the sales tax on college textbooks. The average saving per student would be roughly $60. Should the tax break be endorsed by the Legislature, it would cost $41 million in lost revenue.