The House and the Senate are at the horse trading part of the session. The Senate bills by and large are supportive of public schools (except for SB 796). The House bills support charter school expansion. Both chambers are concerned with struggling schools. The House wants to shift these schools to the private sector. Senate bills focus on making it possible for public schools to improve.
Remember our Action Alert on 5101, 5103 and 5105? Everything is now different. Some things are better, at least for now. Here’s the latest:
HB 5101 was laid on the table yesterday and SB 2516 was substituted for it. The substituted bill expands the extra hour for reading for schools moving out of the lowest scoring for two years. It adds a 60 hour summer school for these schools. There is funding for these measures. It is now a good bill.
HB 5103 laid on table yesterday and SB376 was substituted. The new bill has a protection of the public interest by requiring facilities receiving capital outlay to revert to public ownership upon dissolution of the charter school, categorizes charters by the percentage of students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) and/or have disabilities. These schools receive a higher percentage of capital outlay funding. An amendment to the bill removes the requirement to share local discretionary millage for capital outlay with charter schools. This is the bill that made me smile.
HB 5105 is in conference.. The Senate refused to support this Schools of Hope bill that would take over failing schools after three years. Thus, the bill will also go to the conference committee. (Representatives from the so-called high quality charter organizations mentioned to manage Schools of Hope were quoted this week as saying they were not interested in Florida.)
SB 796 Bean is a Senate alternative to Schools of Hope. It is called High Impact Charter Organizations (HCMO). The bill calls for what appears to be a separate charter school system run by the State Board of Education. There might have to be a constitutional amendment to make this bill legal. It targets areas with failing schools. These HCMOs would receive federal money directly as if they were the local education agency. School boards have this designation, so there would be two in a district–one privately managed and one public. Charters in this category are not required to close if the school receives two F grades in a row. They take ‘corrective action’. This bill provides no mechanism for improving student achievement.
SB 468 Stargel requires Just Read! training for PK-3 teachers. To the extent that funding for the bill is adequate, it is a good provision.
SB 1598 Brandes Schools of Excellence gives flexibility to high achieving and lowest achieving school principals to waive teacher certification exam requirements and develop a teacher mentoring program. The bill also removes required school start and end times as well as minimum instructional time for subjects. It is curious that the schools in the middle range have to follow the more rigid rules!