The 2024 Florida Legislative Session began Tuesday, January 9th. For the next 60 days, the Florida House and Senate will debate many policies that will impact students and their schools.
Positive changes for children
Senate President Passidomo has prioritized a set of bills aimed at the “deregulation” of public schools- including changes to graduation requirements. During the lead up to session during Committee Weeks, the Senate removed a proposal within the bills that would have eliminated children’s right to daily recess after tremendous pushback from advocates and families. From the Tampa Bay Times, “Before the final vote, the Senate removed a contentious provision that would have given parents the authority to override mandatory third grade retention for low reading performance. It instead added a new alternate path to promotion, including more interventions to help struggling readers.”
“The House Education Quality Subcommittee put forth a bill (PCB EQS 24-01) with bits and pieces of the Senate proposals. It primarily focuses on eliminating requirements for specific reports and repealing repetitive or obsolete programs.
Among its more notable proposals, the House bill would remove the requirement that virtual education providers be nonsectarian. One speaker raised concerns the provision might pave the way for a publicly funded religious school similar to St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School in Oklahoma, which has become the subject of lawsuits.
It also would allow districts to charge a $100 processing fee when they review multiple book challenges brought by people who do not have a child enrolled at the school where they raised the objections. A representative from the Florida PTA backed this idea, while a speaker from Florida Citizens Alliance opposed it.”
The stark contrast between the two bills will likely result in negotiations between the two chambers at the end of session. Stay tuned for more on this as the session progresses.
Child well-being and attendance
Efforts to address chronic absenteeism provide a rare opportunity for bi-partisanship this session. Chronic absenteeism rates- when a student misses at least 10% of school- have continued to climb since the pandemic. When children are absent, they risk dropping out and miss social services like school breakfast and lunch programs. The House Education Quality Subcommittee has already held a hearing on the topic and proposed legislation is coming. From WEAR News,
“The bill has no name and hasn’t been introduced yet, but Rep. Michelle Salzman says it will track students who are absent. It will also show how often they missed school, and why.
“Basically the bill is creating a database and a dashboard and then requiring a collaborative effort not just with Department of Education but community partners as well so we can try and find the true why and what’s going on with these kids and then address each of those instances individually,” Rep. Salzman said.
Rep. Salzman says the bill would also support schools in creating teams directly responsible for determining why a student is consistently absent.” The Biden administration has made this a priority, as well.
The Florida Legislature must pass a balanced budget during its 60 day session with education funding playing a large role in that process. The governor’s proposed budget includes “increases for teacher pay”. But, it’s now up to the Legislature to determine the details of how much funding to allocate and to which priorities.
From WGCU, “Separately, 2,200 proposals, many overlapping with the House, have been submitted by senators, carrying an overall $5.2 billion price tag. Those requests are on top of tens of billions of dollars in big-picture spending on programs such as schools, health care, prisons and transportation.
DeSantis has pitched a $114.4 billion budget for the 2024-2025 fiscal year, which will start July 1. Lawmakers will use that proposal as a starting point as they negotiate a budget during the legislative session that started Tuesday.”
Visit the Advocacy Dashboard to speak up for students. We make it easy to identify and contact your legislators via email and/or social media. Together, we can advocate for policies that invest in children and families and support our future.