Legislative Updates, April 5-9, 2021
Posted on 04/12/2021

General Information

This report contains pertinent information presented and discussed during the sixth week of the 2021 legislative session. Below you will find a summary of the week’s events.

  2021 Legislation

The following bills were considered this week:


HB 241  (Grall)/SB 582 (Rodrigues)Parents’ Bill of Rights – The House passed its version of this bill last week and has sent the bill to the Senate.  The Senate version made its third and final committee stop this week and was reported favorably by the Senate Rules Committee with a vote along party lines. 

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.  There are too many rights spelled out to list them all here, 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 (this is the language that causes concerns for LGBTQ advocates).

·       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).

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.

HB 15 (Clemons and LaMarca) /SB 50 (Gruters)Sales and Use Tax.  These bills call for the collection of sales taxes on essentially all internet purchases.  The additional revenue will be used to replenish the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund to prevent rate hikes as a result of the pandemic.  The Senate approved its version last week, and the House laid its bill on the table and took up SB 50, which it then approved with one amendment calling for reducing the tax on commercial rent after the unemployment fund has been replenished.  The Senate concurred with the House amendment and passed the bill with the House amendment by a vote of 27-12.  It is now ready to be sent to the Governor.

SB 84 (Rodrigues)Retirement – passed by the Senate and sent to the House for consideration.  The bill would prohibit new employees from joining the FRS Pension Plan beginning July 1, 2022.  The bill has been amended to leave employees in the Special Risk Class with the option to enroll in the pension plan, but it would not be open to teachers and other school board personnel hired after July 1, 2022. 

SB 86 (Baxley)Student Financial Aid – passed by the Senate with a vote of 22-18 and sent to the House for consideration.  This is the Bright Futures bill.  The bill now requires the Board of Governors (BOG) to create an online dashboard tracking post-graduate salary, student loan debt, and other information to help guide students.  It also requires career planning and the development of a list of career certificate and degree programs that do not lead directly to employment.  The latest version still changes the 75%  and 100% awards to an amount determined  annually in the General Appropriations Act and appropriated by the Legislature.  In its current version, no student would be prohibited from using Bright Futures for a particular major, and the language that could reduce the Bright Futures award based on accelerated credits received in high school and applied toward the student’s degree was also removed.

SB 7018Employer Contributions to Fund Retiree Benefits – passed by the Senate and then passed by the House with an amendment that strikes the health insurance subsidy reduction from 1.66% to 1.5%.  The proposed FRS rate hike remain identical.  The bill will now return to the Senate.

HB 1505 (Melo)Workforce Programs and Services – reported favorably by the House Education and Employment Committee.  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 and 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 was the fourth and final committee hearing for the bill, which has no direct Senate companion.  It will now move to the House floor.

HB 1507 (Yarborough)Workforce Related Programs and Services – reported favorably after multiple amendments adopted as the bill’s third committee substitute by the House Education and Employment Committee.  This bill, which is entitled the Reimagining Education and Career Help Act, is much more extensive than HB 1505 and would seek to redefine workforce education in the State of Florida, starting with the creation of an Office of Reimagining Education and Career Help in the Governor’s Office. The bill would:

·       Create 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.

    ·       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 with additional weight for underserved populations.

    The bill has completed all four committee hearings now and will move on to the House floor.  The Senate appears poised to take up the House bill after it is passed off the House floor.   

    HB 7035 (LaMarca)School Safety – reported favorably by the House Education and Employment Committee.  This bill is very common sense measures like making sure schools have a family reunification plan and seeking to address mental health issues.  However, it would empower the Office of Safe Schools to determine that a district was not in full compliance with all school safety laws, which would then require the school board to withhold the Superintendent’s salary.  Meanwhile, if a charter school is not complying with all of the laws, the Commissioner must facilitate compliance by making recommendations to the school board sponsor to fix the problem.  The bill also requires “timely” notification of parents of all events affecting the health, safety, or welfare of students. Finally, the bill requires districts to pay for and provide a law enforcement officer (SRO or school board officer) to a charter school that is unable to obtain its own officer or guardian.    

    This bill will now move to the House floor, but there is no Senate companion at this time. 

    HB 545 (Chaney)/SB 410 (Rodriguez)Materials Harmful to Minors – As originally drafted, these bills would seek to ban “obscene” materials from the public schools and require districts to obtain written consent (opt-in) from parents before teaching any sexual education curriculum.  The House version previously was amended to include only the “opt-in” clause concerning sexual education.  Meanwhile, the Senate version was amended to retain a parent’s right to opt-out of this required instruction, rather than require that they opt-in.

    The House Education and Employment Committee was scheduled to consider the bill this week, and there was an amendment filed by the sponsor to align it with the current Senate language retaining the opt-out status we have now.  However, the Committee ran out of time to hear the bill, so it remains to be seen if they will meet again to consider it.  On the Senate side, the bill has completed only one of three originally assigned committee hearings, but one of those references was removed, leaving it with just the Senate Rules Committee.  

    HB 1475 (Tuck)/SB 2012 (Stargel)Sex-specific Student Athletic Teams or Sports / Promoting Equality of Athletic Opportunity – reported favorably by the House Education and Employment Committee.  These bills would prohibit transgender females from participating in girls’ sports.  The debates on these two bills have grown more contentious with each hearing, but they continue to move forward along party lines.  The House version has now competed the committee process and is awaiting action on the House floor.  The Senate version still has one committee hearing left.

    HB 1159 (Busatta Cabrera)/SB 934 (Wright)Educator Preparation and Certification – reported favorably by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.  These bills would modify the core curricula for teacher preparation programs and Education Preparation Institutes (EPI) competency-based program requirements, remove the General Knowledge Test as a prerequisite for admission into a teacher preparation program, address the shortage of qualified CTE teachers, provide that a master’s degree or higher may demonstrate mastery of general knowledge, and modify and expand the reach and scope of the William Cecil Golden Professional Development Program for School Leaders.  With the latest amendments approved in the Senate, the bill would also allow advisory committees to meet virtually instead of in a physical place, and it would allow high performing districts to provide two days of virtual instruction as part of the 180 required days.

    Both bills have one more committee assignment.

    HB 827 (Hawkins)/SB 918 (Bradley)School District Funding / Education – reported favorably by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.  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.  Both bills have now completed the committee process and are awaiting placement on the Special Order Calendars.

    HB 419 (Grall) /SB 1282 (Harrell)Early Learning and Early Grade Success – reported favorably by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. These bills would change the way early learning is governed in the State of Florida, but following a strike-all amendment approved in the Senate this week, they would accomplish this in different ways.  Both versions seek to consolidate responsibility under one entity.  In the House, the bill would repeal the Office of Early Learning (OEL) and replace it with a Division of Early Learning within the DOE.  This would then provide the State Board of Education (SBE) with rulemaking and oversight authority over both the voluntary prekindergarten (VPK) and school readiness programs.  The House version also moves the Gold Seal Quality Care Program from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to the DOE, and it brings Early Learning Coalitions (ELCs) under the SBE’s oversight.  Both bills also seek to create a VPK accountability system that looks at student outcomes, learning gains, and student-teacher interactions.  In the House version the Commissioner of Education would develop a screening and progress monitoring system for VPK through third grade to assess VPK performance.  In the new Senate version, the OEL would remain in place, but OEL would assume most of the responsibilities assigned to the DOE in the House version (e.g., transfer of Gold Seal Quality Care Program from DCF to OEL).  Both bills have one additional committee assignment left.

    HB 149 (Dubose and Plasencia)/SB 192 (Book)Students with Disabilities in Public Schools – reported favorably by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.  The bill would prohibit the use of seclusion in a school and impose greater restrictions on the use of restraints.  The House version has completed the committee process but has not been heard on the House floor yet.  The Senate version has one more committee hearing left.

    HB 7033/SB 1816 (Rouson)Task Force on Closing the Achievement Gap for Boys – reported favorably by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.  This bill would create a task force to examine the problem of the large achievement gap for boys (test scores, discipline rates, disability rates, etc.) and make recommendations to close that gap.  The Senate bill has one more committee stop, and the House bill is still waiting to be heard by the House Education and Employment Committee.

    SB 1028 (Hutson)Charter Schools – reported favorably by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.  There are multiple charter school bills in each chamber, but this is the only one moving through the Senate.  It does not have a direct House companion, but there are three different house bills addressing charter schools in some way.  This bill would authorize state colleges and universities to solicit charter applications and become charter sponsors, making it the local education agency (LEA).  In addition, it provides for the withholding of funds by the DOE if the State Board of Education determines that the district is in violation of a charter school decision.  Finally, it provides for prevailing party attorney’s fees in any court proceeding between a charter school and the district.

    HB 131 (Duggan)/SB 1864 (Perry)Educator Conduct – reported favorably by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.  This bill has made its way through the House the last couple of years and attempts to address school employees being accused of sexual misconduct with students and then resigning before an investigation can be completed only to wind up working a different district.  The Senate version is very similar but not identical, as many of its provisions would address district employees who resign prior to the completion of an investigation or in lieu of termination for anything that affects the health, safety, or welfare of students, not just sexual misconduct.  The House version has completed the committee process and is on the Special Order Calendar for April 15, 2021, while this was the second of three scheduled stops for the Senate version.

    HB 7045 (Fine)School Choice – reported favorably after multiple amendments by the House Appropriations Committee.  This bill, like SB 48, seeks to revamp all the school choice programs currently embodied in Gardiner, McKay, Family Empowerment Scholarships, Hope Scholarships, and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.  While there are some similarities between the two bills, there are also some major differences, and each of them has gone through significant amendments as they have moved forward.  SB 48 has not yet come up on the Senate floor despite receiving its final committee hearing March 10, 2021. 

    HB 311(Silvers)/SB 1456(Rodrigues)Public Records / Examination and Assessment Instruments – This bill would expand the scope of the public records exemptions for certain examination and assessment instruments, such as the statewide kindergarten screening instrument.  The Senate version received its second of three committee hearings and was reported favorably by the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.  The House version has completed the committee process.

    HB 1031(Rodriguez)/SB 1468 (Gruters)Charter Schools – reported favorably by the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.  The House bill has grown.  As originally filed, it would allow charter schools to apply at any time during the calendar year and then decide for themselves when they would open.  It has been amended to bring back an old idea that was previously overturned in the courts – a statewide charter application review committee separate from the district sponsors.  The courts previously ruled that the Florida Schools of Excellence Commission, which performed a similar function, was unconstitutional.  The proposed Charter School Review Commission would have seven members, all of whom would be selected by the Commissioner.  The bill requires that these commission members have “experience or expertise,” but it does not require any specific expertise in areas charter schools often fail to address adequately in their applications (e.g., ESE, finance, ELL, general curriculum, etc.).  This was its third of four committee hearings.  The Senate version has not received a committee hearing yet.

    HB 157(Hawkins and Busatta Cabrera)/SB 280(Baxley)K-12 Physical Health Requirements / Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Training in Public Schools – reported favorably by the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.  This bill would require basic first aid instruction and CPR training to be incorporated into 9th and 11th grade instruction.  The House version has one more committee hearing, and the Senate version still has two left, but it is scheduled to be heard in theSubcommittee on Education next week.

    HB 1061(Smith)– Schools of Hope – reported favorably by the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.  The bill would allow Hope schools that serve as the LEA to report students directly to the DOE, and it would allow Hope operators to conduct background checks of its employees instead of having to go through the district for it.  Finally, it addresses last year’s lack of school grades by establishing that a Hope school can move in when a district school has had three grades below a C in three of the last five years for which the school received a grade.

    2020-21 Accountability

    The Commissioner of Education released a new Emergency Order on Friday, April 9.  Amongst many things, it gives schools the option to opt-in for things like exiting turnaround status, but it specifically says that a school will have to assess at least 90% of its students. It also addresses waivers for retention of 3rd grade students that do not receive a passing score on the FSA as well as the graduation requirement. I have attached the order for your convenience.

    2021-22 Fiscal Year Budget

    The Revenue Estimating Conference completed its spring updates this week and presented a much better economic forecast than the previous forecasts from 2020, including an additional $2 billion in General Revenue. However, the House and Senate budget proposals were both built from the earlier estimates and have not been adjusted.

    HB 5001, HB 5003, and HB 5101/SB 2500 and SB 2502Appropriations – The Senate and House both passed their appropriations and implementing bills this week.  The bills will now go to conference.