Passidomo’s Mental Health Bill is not Rational

SB 1434 (Passidomo) was supposed to be about mental health programs for schools. It is now amended to be mostly about charters that take over low performing schools. Some of the language about capital outlay funding is better. It also slips in language about Florida Tax Credit Scholarships.

The bill extends the reach of charters beyond the takeover school zone. This is a ploy to recruit students from any Title I school whether or not it is low performing. The bill adds sweeteners by increasing access to Schools of Hope funding for extra services. The bill acknowledges that finding highly qualified principals to work in these Schools of Hope may be difficult. So, the bill allows a principal to oversee more than one school. These are now called ‘franchise schools’.

The bill slips in an expansion of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program. It redefines dual enrollment collegiate programs as ‘structured programs’. Now, FTC students can enroll in at least 30 credit hours of dual enrollment, and charters can contract directly with these structured programs that may be public or privately owned post secondary institutions.

Florida’s educational system is becoming a patchwork of fixes for a choice system that is not working for children. It is no longer even a system. Sorting through who is responsible for what and how well anything is operating is becoming impossible. Maybe that is the point.

The Education Committee did a ‘delete all’ of the original bill and inserted new language below:

  1. Charters take overs of low performing schools can include any students from a Title I school, not just those within a 5 mile radius.

  2. Districts must maintain facilities it owns that charters take over. Charters cannot use capital outlay to build new facilities, but they do receive capital outlay from the district.

  3. Charter take over schools located in district facilities may receive Schools of Hope funding for supplemental services.

  4. Franchise model charters are established in which the same principal can lead more than low performing school. The principal has authority to reallocate resources and personnel between schools.

  5. Eligibility for FTC Scholarships continues until a student graduates from high school or is 21 years old. Students from low performing schools have priority over other qualified students.

  6. District turn around plans can include an extended school day and/or a summer program.

  7. Collegiate programs for dual enrollment in FTC schools are redefined as ‘structured programs’. These programs can provide at least 30 hours of dual enrollment credit. While priority for courses that meet core courses or common prerequisites, it also may include elective courses. Moreover, the bill provides that the charter school may directly contract with the other post secondary institutions within and outside of the Florida College System may participate.

  8. Capital outlay funds from discretionary millage for charters must be used for facility construction, maintenance or improvement of a publically owned facility or if owned by a 501c3, the facility must revert to a publically owned entity if the charter closes. The formula for allocating the capital outlay for charters changes.

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