The Florida House passed its version of HB7055. The Senate version has the same bill number but different content. It is moving forward. Compare the two versions.
Private School Expansion. Both legislative chambers would expand the corporate tax credit scholarships to students who could demonstrate they were bullied or otherwise harassed. Tax credits on new car sales would fund these private school scholarships, but the House would allow $105 per sale and the Senate would provide an option for buyers to donate $20 per sale. The Senate also proposes stronger fiscal audits and background checks for private schools and would raise standards for teachers who now are not required to have baccalaureate degrees from accredited colleges and universities.
Charter School Expansion. The House proposes converting public schools to privately managed charters and organizes charter school districts. These charters have governing boards appointed by private charter companies. The Senate proposes district-run charters that allow districts a more level playing field. Public school districts could be freed of stringent facility and staffing regulations, as charters currently are. Locally elected school boards, however, retain the responsibility of district-run charters.
In a long awaited move, the Senate bill takes aim at charter school profiteering. It prohibits financial enrichment by charter school owners and managers and their associated real estate companies. Charter school buildings that receive state funding for supplemental services must be transferred to a district, governmental entity, college or university if the charter closes.
Support for Low Performing Students. The House bill awards $400 per student who fails the third grade English Language Arts exam. Additional services would be funded by sales tax revenue. Families would be on their own to find a private tutor or other instructional materials. The Senate creates Hope Supplemental Services as part of current educational funding to school districts. These services provide $2000 per student for tutorial and after school programs as well as student and parent counseling and nutrition education. In addition, the Senate proposes an intensive mental health program be initiated in public schools.
Yes, the Senate threw a bone to the House by including a small amount of funding for the ‘bully bill’, but on balance, it is a much better bill. It gives districts control of charters that it decides to create. It puts meaningful control on charter profiteering. It supports struggling students in low performing public schools.
There is more to come. Watch for the House Ways and Means bill HB7087. They will continue to try to get more money to the private sector. The bill creates the Florida Sales Tax Credit Program. This is all a prelude for the November 2018 election when the pro choice advocates will attack the Florida Constitution to allow vouchers.