News from Tallahassee - Week of January 26, 2015

News from Tallahassee – Week of January 26, 2015:
The Governor Budget Proposal, Charter School Legislative Priorities, No Opting Out of Tests, and District Charter School Pilot Program Bill

FLORIDA - January 30, 2015 – This week, students, parents, and school choice advocates across the country celebrated School Choice Week. In Florida, hundreds of activities and celebrations took place including a School Choice Week kick off in Jacksonville with more than 2,000 in attendance. Meanwhile in Tallahassee, legislators continued to prepare for the upcoming legislative session. Here is a brief recap from the FCPCS Advocacy Team.

Governor’s Budget Recommendation
On Wednesday, January 28th, Governor Scott officially released his 2015 Budget Recommendations. Governor Scott had already announced several key portions of his budget, including an $842 million increase for public schools that would come from both local property taxes and state dollars, $100 million in General Revenue funds for Charter School fixed capital outlay needs, and a roughly $500 million cut in taxes. The Governor’s recommendation to the Legislature is only that, because it is the Legislature that is constitutionally charged with writing the roughly $79 billion budget for the state. State lawmakers will use the proposed budget as a framework for a final budget that will be passed during the annual session that starts on March 3rd. We have to wait and see if lawmakers follow the Governor’s proposal. The Governor’s budget is available at http://www.keepfloridaworking.com/

Charter Schools Legislative Platform Released
The Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS) released its 2015 Legislative Platform this week. Click here to review the priorities which reflect the views of FCPCS member schools, including grassroots charter school operators, charter school stakeholders, and FCPCS Board Members. Recommendations developed by the Task Force on Quality Charter School Authorizing in Florida – Chaired by Broward Superintendent Runcie and State Rep. Adkins - also helped develop the platform.

District Charter School Pilot Bill Introduced
A bill that would give districts the ability to provide certain school principals greater power over their school's operations with the expectation that the return would be improved student performance was filed by Chairman of the House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee, Representative Manny Diaz (R). Under District Charter School Pilot Bill (HB 357) eighteen district-run public middle and high schools (three in each of six Florida school districts) would have fiscal and administrative autonomy similar to that granted to public charter schools. Currently, there is no Senate companion bill filed.

Education Commissioner Says No “Opting Out” of Tests


In a letter to lawmakers this week, Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said that opting out of the state assessment test is illegal, and doing so could result in negative consequences for students, parents, teachers, and school districts. 

In response to several state senators who had asked questions about opting out of testing, Stewart wrote that students are required to take the tests and teachers could face disciplinary action if they actively encourage skipping the exams. Only students with specific disabilities or medical needs listed in law may receive an exemption. Stewart did add that exemptions for local testing requirements are a local decision.

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