2010 Legislative Agenda
2010 Legislative Priorities
- Raising graduation standards to prepare students for the 21st century economy,
- Creating a dynamic workforce of educators,
- Rewarding teachers for student achievement,
- Harnessing the power of technology to customize education, and
- Expanding school choice to more Sunshine State students.
Preparing Students for the 21st Century Economy
Today’s economy places a premium on knowledge, especially in science and math. Legislation passed this year aligns graduation requirements to better prepare students for the rigors of college and the demands of this increasingly competitive global marketplace.
To expand access to rigorous college preparatory courses, the legislation requires all high schools to offer advanced math, science, history, and English courses (AP, IB, AICE, or dual enrollment). Florida’s high school students will also have to pass more rigorous math and science courses to earn a diploma:
- Class of 2014: Algebra II
- Class of 2015: Geometry
- Class of 2016: Biology
- Class of 2017: Chemistry or Physics
SB 4, sponsored by Senator Nancy Detert and Representative John Legg, passed the Legislature with bipartisan support.
Creating a Dynamic Workforce of Educators
To successfully prepare students for the 21st century economy, America must recruit and retain the best and brightest to the teaching profession. SB 6, sponsored by Senator John Thrasher and Representative John Legg, passed both chambers but was vetoed by a once-supportive Governor Charlie Crist after a week-long campaign funded by the teachers’ union.
Highlights of the reform legislation:
- Required teachers to be evaluated based on how much their students learned during the year in their classroom. Last year, 99.7% of teachers in the state earned satisfactory marks, yet 50% of our high school students, 35% of our middle school students and 30% of our elementary students didn’t learn a year’s worth of knowledge in reading.
- Ended tenure for newly hired teachers. Currently, teachers earn tenure – essentially a lifetime guarantee of employment – after just three years of satisfactory evaluations.
- Required higher salaries for effective teachers. Currently, teachers earn raises based on degrees and seniority – not whether their students are learning.
- Required higher salaries for teachers of high-demand subjects such as math and science and for teachers in high-poverty or low-performing schools.
Harnessing the Power of Technology to Customize Education
Technology can customize education so each child learns in their own style, at their own pace. It solves the primary obstacle to student achievement – access to quality educational content tailored to meet the unique needs and interests of the individual student. During a jampacked session for education, HB 1173 sponsored by Representative Erik Fresen and SB 2262 (in its original form) sponsored by Senator John Thrasher, were not heard in committee.
Highlights of the reform legislation:
- Allowed all students (public, private and charter school as well as home education) to take classes through any of Florida’s virtual programs,
- Allowed funding for textbooks to be used for hardware, such as computers to access digital content,
- Allowed virtual providers to operate in the state without opening up a brick-and-mortar office, and
- Allowed qualified individuals to teach online courses with out-of-state certification.
Expanding Choices for More Sunshine State Students
Florida is closing the achievement gap by giving parents the financial freedom to choose the school that will prepare their child for success in school and beyond. Legislation passed this year expands two proven and popular school choice programs.
The McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities provides education choices to more students with disabilities. Legislation passed this year eliminates barriers to the program for disabled kindergarteners and students who attended a public school during the previous five years. HB 1505, sponsored by Representative Anitere Flores and Senator Andy Gardiner, passed the legislature with unanimous support.
The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship allows corporations to reduce their tax bill by contributing to K-12 scholarships for students in low-income families. The program saves the state about $39 million annually. This year, the Legislature expanded this education option to more financially-strapped Florida families, specifically:
- Increases amount of scholarships proportionately to increases in public school funding,
- Allows the program to expand to meet growing demand, and
- Makes more taxes eligible for credit to incentivize corporate contributions.
SB 2126, sponsored by Senator Joe Negron and Representative Will Weatherford, passed the Legislature with historic bipartisan support - more than two-thirds of the Senate and a staggering 81% of the House.