2009 Legislative Agenda
How Lawmakers Measured Up in 2009
Lawmakers earn their grade based on their support of the annual legislative priorities of the Foundation for Florida’s Future and key legislation that improves the quality of education in the Sunshine State.
In 2009, the Foundation for Florida’s Future legislative priorities were:
Expanding School Choice to Break the Cruel Cycle of Poverty
For nearly a decade, Florida has allowed corporations to earn corporate income tax credits for contributions to K-12 scholarships for students in low-income families. In 2009, an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the Florida Legislature voted to make the insurance premium tax eligible as a tax credit under the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.
Since 2001, the program has provided scholarships to about 23,000 needy students annually. The program also saves the state $1.49 for every tax dollar contributed toward a scholarship, which is around $39 million annually.
Funding Programs that Incentivize Student Achievement
While most of the press focused on the bottom-line budget for education, the Foundation for Florida’s Future focused on maintaining funding for programs that make the greatest difference in student achievement. Thanks to the leadership in the House and Senate, specifically Representatives Anitere Flores and David Rivera, and Senators J.D. Alexander and Stephen Wise, Florida maintained funding for two programs that are directly related to results.
School Recognition: In 1999, Florida began awarding cash to schools that earn an A or improve a letter grade. Historically, more than 85 percent of the funds are used to provide bonuses to teachers and staff. Since then, the number of A and B schools has nearly quadrupled and the number of D and F schools dropped by more than half. During the last decade, the program has awarded more than $1 billion to schools.
Bonuses for Rigor: For more than a decade, Florida has rewarded schools with bonuses for every student who passes an Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) or Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) exam.
Assessment: Florida restored adequate funding to maintain our commitment to state assessments.
Preparing Students for the 21st Century Economy
While progress has been made, Florida needs to better prepare students for the rigors of college and the demands of an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Raising expectations for what students learn in school is the first step.
Bills in both the House and Senate incorporated recommendations by the American Diploma Project to require students to pass higher level math and science courses, such as Geometry, Algebra II, Biology and Chemistry or Physics. The law would have also required students to read and do math on a tenth grade level to earn a high school diploma; right now students can earn a diploma with a below 10th grade score on the FCAT. Additionally, the law would have raised the requirements for a Bright Futures Scholarship, ensuring students who received state money to attend college had the knowledge and skills to succeed upon their arrival.
Creating a Dynamic Workforce of Educators
To lead America into the 21st century economy, Florida must produce a dynamic workforce, starting with the educators who are preparing our students for the jobs of the future.
In Florida, teachers can earn tenure after just three years of satisfactory evaluations. Under the current evaluation system, 99 percent of teachers earned satisfactory marks, making tenure virtually inevitable.
Moreover, teachers’ salaries are based primarily on length of service and level of education. Tenure – essentially a lifetime guarantee of employment – and a compensation structure that rewards longevity over performance fosters complacency in the classroom.
The proposed legislation reformed teacher tenure, encouraged market-based compensation and increased accountability for closing the achievement gap and overall student performance. It also removed obstacles to certification that prevented qualified professionals, including graduates of the Troops to Teachers and Teach for America programs, from entering the classroom.