Legislative Report, March 1-5, 2021
Posted on 03/08/2021

General Information

 This report contains pertinent information presented and discussed during the first week of the 2021 legislative session. Both the House and Senate held meetings to discuss a multitude of bills that impact public education. Below you will find a summary of the bills and highlights from the pertinent committee meetings. 

 State of the State

 Governor Ron DeSantis spent a significant portion of his speech talking about education in Florida.  He expressed gratitude to the superintendents, teachers and others who have made it possible to open the schools for all families since August.  “Open schools have been a godsend to parents throughout Florida, especially for single moms responsible for putting food on the table,” DeSantis said. With respect to the budget, DeSantis specifically stated that he does not support any reductions in K-12 funding this year.


 The  House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee met and continued to discuss the Florida Education Finance Program.  This week, Chairman Fine led the subcommittee through a review of the categoricals that are included within the FEFP.  He indicated that the categoricals amount to roughly one-third of the overall FEFP.  

 During Chairman Fine’s presentation, a question was raised concerning the ESSER II funds that were approved by Congress in late December but have not yet been released to the districts. Chairman Fine indicated that he approved of the DOE not releasing these funds or any guidance on them, because they were recognizing the spending authority of the Legislature. However, as we start turning the corner on the pandemic and assessing the impact to student learning gains/losses, this funding will be necessary to provide the necessary interventions. 


2021 Legislation

The following bills were on their second or third committee and were considered this week by various committees:

HB3 (Trabulsy) New Worlds Reading Initiative – reported favorably (unanimous) by the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.  The bill establishes the New Worlds Reading Initiative, which is designed to get free books sent to the homes of K-5 students reading below grade level.  This initiative was first introduced by Speaker Sprowls, and early literacy has been one of his main focal points this year.  The subcommittee adopted a committee substitute for this bill.  The original version left it up to districts to decide whether to participate and placed 50% of the cost on local, non-profit agencies with which the district partnered.  After hearing concerns that some districts may not be able to find local partners capable of raising sufficient funds to serve all of the students the bill seeks to serve, the bill was rewritten to make it mandatory in all 67 districts.  However, the full cost of the program will now be borne by the State.  Districts will still need to partner with local entities to help identify eligible students and spread the word about the program.  The program includes students enrolled in charter schools.  There is no cost estimate available yet, but there would have been approximately 557,000 children eligible for the program based on 2018-19 data.  With each child receiving one book per month for nine months out of the year, that would be over five million books distributed each year.  The Senate companion, SB 1372 (Burgess), has not yet received a committee hearing.

HB 529 (Fine)  Moments of Silence in Public Schools – reported favorably (17-1) by the  House Secondary Education and Career Development Subcommittee.  This is the House version of the moment of silence bill (SB 282 - Baxley).  The bill requires a one to two-minute moment of silence at the start of each school day for public school students. Teachers may not suggest to students how they will spend their moment of silence and instead must encourage parents to discuss it with their children.  The bill will now move to the  House Education and Employment Committee.  The Senate version is in the  Judiciary Committee.

SB 48 (Diaz)  Educational Scholarship Programs – reported favorably (11-8) by the Senate Appropriations Committee.  The bill underwent another overhaul with a strike-all replacement, and this was its third and final committee stop.  For the most part, the bulk of the bill remains the same as originally reported, and it will now move to the Senate floor.  

  • This bill consolidates the state’s K-12 voucher/scholarship programs, converts all existing K-12 scholarship/voucher programs to education savings accounts, and funds them through a line item in the FEFP.  
  • The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and Hope Scholarship are folded into the Florida Empowerment Scholarship, and the bill also combines the McKay and Gardiner programs into one program (McKay-Gardiner Scholarship).  
  • Further, the bill removes the requirement of prior public school enrollment for all K-12 scholarship/voucher programs.  

All attempts to amend the bill, other than the strike-all replacements, have failed, and the votes in each committee have been along party lines. 

HB 7 (McClure);  SB 72 (Brandes)  Civil Liability for Damages Relating to COVID-19 – after being temporarily postponed at the last meeting, the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee reported SB 72 favorably (7-4).  It will now move on to the Senate Rules Committee. 

In addition, HB 7 was one of the first bills to be heard by either the full House or Senate on second reading.  HB 7 will now move on to third reading.

  • These bills would extend liability protection to school districts facing potential civil lawsuits for COVID-19-related claims.  
  • Districts, as well as businesses, religious organizations, and other government entities, would be immune from suit unless the plaintiff pleaded their complaint with specificity, submitted an affidavit from a doctor confirming the doctor’s belief that the COVID-19 injury occurred because of the district’s conduct, and proved by clear and convincing evidence that the district was grossly negligent.  
  • If a plaintiff cannot demonstrate that a district failed to make a good faith effort to substantially comply with government standards and guidance available at the time, the district cannot be found grossly negligent and would be immune from liability.

The following bills had their first committee stops this week at various committees:

HB 5 (Zika)  Civic Education Curriculum – reported favorably (unanimous) by the House Secondary Education and Career Development Subcommittee 

  • This bill would require that the U.S. Government class required for high school graduation include comparative discussions of political ideologies that conflict with the freedom and democracy established in the United States (the bill references communism and totalitarianism).  
  • It also requires the Department of Education to develop an integrated civics education curriculum for all public school grades.  
  • Finally, it requires the DOE to develop oral history resources that can be used in the curriculum, which would be made up of a diverse group of individuals providing personal stories that demonstrate civic-minded qualities, including people who suffered under political philosophies different than those established in the United States.  This oral history program would be called the “Portraits in Patriotism Act.”   

HB 51 (McClain)  Charter Schools – reported favorably (12-4) by the  House Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee 

  • This bill would allow state universities or colleges to solicit, accept and approve charter school applications and then serve as the charter sponsor.  
  • Unlike school districts which must accept and review all charter school applications, colleges and universities would have complete discretion over whether to even consider an application.  
  • Any schools approved under this bill would not be part of the local school district.  The college or university would be considered the local education agency instead.  

Its Senate companion,  SB 1028  (Hutson), has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing.

HB 149  (DuBose and Plasencia) Students with Disabilities in Public Schools – approved a committee substitute and reported favorably (unanimous) by the  House Early Learning and Elementary Education Subcommittee

  • The bill defines seclusion and restraint and prohibits the use of seclusion.  
  • It restricts the use of mechanical or physical restraints to instances where it is necessary to protect students or staff due to an imminent risk of serious injury.  
  • Restraints may only be employed for as long as necessary to dissipate the threat, and they may not be used until positive behavior interventions and supports have been exhausted.  
  • Certain restraints, such as straitjackets or zip ties, may not be used in ways that restrict breathing or blood flow, nor may students be retrained in a face-down position with their hands behind their backs.  
  • Restraints are forbidden for disciplinary use, to induce compliance, or to inflict pain.  
  • School districts must adopt rules and procedures related to positive behavior interventions and supports and to identify all school personnel authorized to use restraint techniques. 
  • School districts must develop a crisis intervention plan for a student who is restrained more than once during a semester.
  • If a student is retrained more than once in a semester, the district must develop a crisis intervention plan for the student.
  • In any incident report following the use of a restraint, the report must include the date the person who restrained the student last received training on positive interventions and supports.
  • Finally, the bill creates a pilot program for placing a video camera in a self-contained classroom upon the request of a parent. The pilot program will be implemented in Broward County, after the original bill was amended to remove Volusia from the pilot program.

The bill’s Senate companion, SB 192 (Rodrigues), has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing.

HB 419 (Grall) Early Learning and Early Grade Success – reported favorably (unanimous) by the  House Early Learning and Elementary Education Subcommittee.  The bill would change the way early learning is governed in the State of Florida.  

  • It repeals the Office of Early Learning and replaces it with a Division of Early Learning within the DOE, which then provides the State Board of Education with rulemaking and oversight authority over both the voluntary prekindergarten and school readiness programs.  
  • It moves the Gold Seal Quality Care Program from the Department of Children and Families to the DOE.  
  • It brings Early Learning Coalitions under the SBE’s oversight.  
  • It seeks to create a VPK accountability system that looks at student outcomes, learning gains, and student-teacher interactions.  
  • The Commissioner of Education would develop a screening and progress monitoring system for VPK through third grade to assess VPK performance.

The bill will now move to the  House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee.  The Senate companion, SB 1282  (Harrell), has not been scheduled for a committee hearing yet.  

HB 1505  (Melo)  Workforce Programs and Services – reported favorably (unanimous) by the  Secondary Education and Career Development Subcommittee.  This bill seeks to create a “consumer-first,” “performance-based” workforce system with the DEO collaborating with both DCF and DOE in this effort.  With respect to K-12 students, the bill:

  • Requires that the middle school career and education planning course include state career planning resources.  
  • Requires that the character development program for grades 9-12 include instruction on developing a digital resume, researching career pathways, and learning how to use state career planning resources.

This bill has been assigned to four committees and now moves to the Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee.

HB 1507 (Yarborough)  Workforce Related Programs and Services – reported favorably (unanimous) by the House Secondary Education and Career Development Subcommittee.  This bill is more extensive than HB 1505 and would create an Office of Reimagining Education and Career Help in the Governor’s Office.  In part, the bill would:

  • Require DEO and DCF to evaluate how workforce services affected participants in welfare transition programs, including a report on their earnings.
  • Require DOE to create a dashboard that measures the State’s return on investment with respect to workforce development.
  • Looks to identify the state’s healthcare workforce needs, beginning with nursing.
  • Creates the Open Door Workforce Grant Program that would cover up to two-thirds of the cost of school district programs aimed at short-term, high-demand jobs.
  • Creates a Money-Back Guarantee Program, whereby school districts would have to refund the cost of tuition to students who cannot find a job within six months of completing certain programs.
    • Beginning in the 2022-23 school year, districts would need to designate at least four programs that prepare students to enter “in-demand, high-skill, high wage occupations” and offer a money-back guarantee for those designated programs.
    • The money-back guarantee would also be required for programs designed to meet a critical local need that has not been identified by the Labor Market Estimating Conference as a statewide need.
    • Districts would have to adopt eligibility criteria for the guarantee, which would include attendance, student performance in the program, attendance at a Career Service or Career Day event, participation in an internship or work-study program, documented job search efforts, and development of a career plan within the career service department.
  • Workforce performance funding would require that one-third of the funding be based on student job placement and two-thirds be based on the student’s earnings.

The bill will now move to the Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee.

HB 7011 Student Literacy – was heard during the House Early Learning and Elementary Education Subcommittee and reported favorably (unanimous).  It has a companion bill in the Senate, SB 1898  (Rodriguez), which has not yet been set for a committee hearing.  

The bill seeks to: 

  • Create new systems of support for students with substantial deficiencies in reading, allowing them to be identified as early as possible, and providing them with teachers and parents able to provide effective instruction and interventions.  
  • Require that a progress monitoring system covering VPK through 8th grade be created beginning in August of 2022.  This system must generate sufficient data to both identify struggling readers and measure the success of interventions attempted on the same readers.  
  • Creates the Reading Achievement Initiative for Scholastic Excellence Program, which will establish 20 regional literacy expert support teams throughout the state.  Supports from the RAISE program will include evidence-based professional development and help with data-informed instruction.  
  • Enhance educator training, including the requirement that the reading endorsement credential be updated.  
  • Create a new route to the reading endorsement.  
  • Require the Just Read, Florida! Office to identify instructional materials that implement evidence-based practices.  
  • Require Districts to support parents by keeping them up-to-date on their student’s progress with interventions and making them fully aware of all systems of support available in Florida for students with disabilities (e.g., ESE options, school choice options).  
  • Better align the transition from prekindergarten to kindergarten.

SB 188  (Berman) Solar Energy Systems Located on the Property of an Educational Facility – reported favorably (unanimous) by the  Senate Education Committee.  This bill would exclude the costs associated with a solar energy system from the cost per student station calculation for new construction.  The bill now moves to the  Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.  Its house companion, HB 551 (Hardy), has not been heard in a committee yet.

SB 366 (Hutson) Education Opportunities Leading to Employment – reported favorably (unanimous) by the Senate Education Committee.  The bill seeks to improve and expand upon apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs in the state’s career and technical education system. Among other things, the bill:

  • Establishes that students in a pre-apprenticeship program or a course that includes a work-based component are consider state employees for worker’s compensation purposes (medical benefits only).
  • Makes alterations to the Career and Professional Education program, including authorizing the SBE to adopt rules for CAPE and providing bonus funds for industry certifications that lead to occupations in critical industries.
  • Amends dual enrollment eligibility criteria to include the same 3.0 unweighted GPA, as well as “a demonstrated level of achievement of college-level communication and computation skills.” In addition to meeting the requirements on a common placement test, students will be able to demonstrate the necessary level of achievement through alternative methods adopted by the SBE by Jan. 31, 2022.

The bill now moves to the  Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

SB 486 (Bradley) Juvenile Justice Education Programs – reported favorably (unanimous) by the Senate Education Committee.  This bill would make amendments to the Department of Juvenile Justice programs operated in school districts.  The changes include:

  • Allowing the 250-day requirement to be defined by equivalent hours of instruction.
  • Increasing the minimum amount of FEFP funds that must be spent on instructional costs for students from 90% to 95%.
  • Clarifies that 100% of categorical funds generated by DJJ students must be passed on to the program and spent as designated.
  • Requires that all agreements between school districts and DJJ education providers be in writing and that district satisfy DJJ program invoices within 15 days.

This bill now moves to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. Its House companion, HB 723 (Massullo), has not been heard in any committees yet.


SB 582 (Rodrigues) and  HB 241 (Grall) Parental Rights – reported favorably (8-3) the Senate Judiciary Committee and without amendment (13-7) by the House Health and Human Services Committee, respectively.  This bill creates the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” providing that no governmental entity can infringe upon these fundamental rights of a parent unless the action is reasonable, necessary and narrowly-tailored in the service of a compelling state interest.  

The bill contains a great number of rights, but some of the enumerated rights that may give rise to issues in school districts based on differing interpretations of their meaning include:

  • The right to direct the education and care of his or her minor child.
  • The right, pursuant to s. 1002.20(13), to access and review all school records relating to his or her minor child.
  • The right to consent in writing before the state or any of its political subdivisions makes a video or voice recording of his or her minor child [there are exceptions for recordings related to a legitimate academic or athletic activity, security videos, and photo identification cards].
  • The right to consent in writing before his or her minor child's grades are released to a law enforcement officer or law enforcement agency by an agency or institution as defined in s. 1002.22 unless such release is authorized by s. 1002.221 and FERPA. 

School boards will also be required to adopt a policy, after consulting with parents, teachers and administrators, that promotes parental involvement in the school system.  There are several requirements regarding notice to parents about parental involvement, and the ultimate policy and parent information can be posted on the district’s website.

 The bill now moves to the  Senate Education and  House Judiciary Committees.

SB 886 (Thurston)  COVID-19 Impact on School Accountability – reported favorably (9-1) by the Senate Education Committee. This bill provides that school grades and other state-mandated accountability measures cannot be used this year to:

  • Move a school into turnaround status;
  • Apply sanctions to a school already in turnaround status for failing to raise its grade;
  • Determine third-grade retention;
  • Determine graduation eligibility; or
  • Calculating student performance for educator performance evaluations.

The bill now moves to the  Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.  Its House companion, HB 359  (Bartleman), has not yet been heard in a committee. 

SB 918  (Bradley) Advanced International Certificate of Education funding – reported favorably (unanimous) by the Senate Education Committee. The bill would require that the 80% bonus funding required to be distributed to the schools include programs administered by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, which prepares prospective students to enroll in AICE courses.  In addition to the regular $50 bonus paid to a teacher for each student successfully passing an AICE examination, a $25 bonus would be paid to a pre-AICE teacher for each student who passes the pre-AICE examination. The bill will now move to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.  Its House companion, HB 827 (Hawkins), has not been heard in any committees yet.

SB 934 (Wright) Educator Certification and Teacher Preparation Programs – reported favorably (unanimous) as a committee substitute by the Senate Education Committee.  The bill would:

  • Modify the core curricula for teacher preparation programs and Education Preparation Institutes competency-based program requirements.  
  • Remove the General Knowledge Test as a prerequisite for admission into a teacher preparation program.  
  • Seek to address the shortage of qualified CTE teachers by allowing successful completion of an EPI to demonstrate the necessary education, along with the requisite work experience, for non-degreed CTE teachers.
  • Provide that a master’s degree or higher may demonstrate mastery of general knowledge.
  • Modify and expand the reach and scope of the William Cecil Golden Professional Development Program for School Leaders.

The bill will now move on to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.  Its House companion, HB 1159  (Busatta Cabrera), has not been heard in any committees yet.

 Coming Up: The following pertinent bills are currently scheduled to be heard next week. Please note, this list is only final as it relates to committee meetings on Monday and Tuesday. The list for the remainder of the week will change as the varying notice deadlines for each committee approaches.

 Monday, March 8 
Government Operations Subcommittee - HB 947    Dues and Uniform Assessments (Plakon)

Tuesday, March 9 
Commerce and Tourism - 
SB 98    Workforce Related Programs and Services(Albritton)

 Criminal Justice - SB 498 Safety of Religious Institutions (Gruters)

 Ethics and Elections - SB 1238 Percentage of Elector Votes Required to Approve an Amendment or a Revision   (Rodriguez, A.)

Children, Families and Elder Affairs  
SB 826    Child Protection Teams (Baxley)
SB 1096    Screening of Summer Camp Personnel (Book)

SB 86    Student Financial Aid (Baxley)
SB 532    Workforce Education (Burgess)
SB 1450    Civic Education Curriculum (Rodriguez, A)
SB 726    Individual Education Plan Requirements for Students with Dis... (Taddeo)
SB 938    Purple Star Campuses  (Wright)
SB 1484    Florida Private Student Assistance Grant Program (Gruters)


Early Learning & Elementary Education

HB 559 Computer Science Instruction in Elem... (Hawkins)

HB 793 Measurement of Student Performance (Bell)

HB 383 Involuntary Examinations (Plasencia) 


Post-Secondary Education & Lifelong Learning 

HB 1505 Workforce Programs and Services (Melo)

HB 1507 Workforce Related Programs and Services  (Yarborough)


Wednesday March 10

Community Affairs

SB 760 Florida High School Athletic Association (Burgess)


Appropriations Subcommittee on Education

SB 200 Student Retention (Berman)