Senate clears ‘Learn Local’ Act

by | Jan 11, 2024

The Florida Senate passed the “Learn Local” Act on Wednesday, ratifying a trio of bills aimed at decentralizing educational control to local districts

The Florida Senate passed the “Learn Local” Act Wednesday, a legislative package designed to overhaul public school regulations by decentralizing control from the state to local districts.

The legislative package, part of a broader move to shift educational decision-making to local authorities, encompasses Senate Bills (SB) 70007002, and 7004, all of which unanimously cleared the chamber.

SB 7000 addresses teacher recruitment and retention, introducing flexibility in setting teacher salaries and simplifying the certification process. This provision was drafted into the bill in response to teacher shortages, particularly in low-income areas, and allows the use of federal funds for recruiting teachers in these regions. The bill also advocates for multi-year teacher contracts, aiming to provide more stability in the teaching profession.

SB 7002 streamlines administrative processes within school districts by simplifying rulemaking procedures for school boards and enhancing the decision-making powers of superintendents.

The measure of the widest breadth, SB 7004, proposes significant changes in public school assessment and accountability through the revision of methods for assessing student progress. The legislation also increases parental involvement in educational decisions and removes some testing requirements.

“When I hear this talking point that we are lowering the standards of education in the state of Florida, that is the furthest thing from the truth. There are facts of the matter and there are feelings on the matter,” said Sen. Corey Simon during a Senate Committee on Fiscal Policy meeting in December that elected to advance all three bills. “The fact of the matter is we will continue to push the envelope and increase the standard of education.”

Through deliberations, educators, school board members, and union representatives voiced strong support for the bills, pointing to the need for practical pathways for student and educator success.

Patrick Strong, a paraprofessional from Okaloosa County, emphasized the necessity of SB 7002 in addressing staffing challenges, particularly in hiring essential school staff such as bus drivers.

“We are struggling in Okaloosa hiring teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians, skilled trades, and bus drivers,” Strong told the committee. “Let me urge support for allowing additional flexibility for the use of funds generated from school zone infractions.”

Hillsborough County School Board member Patty Rendon also expressed her district’s support for all three bills, asserting that deregulation will contribute to the success of public schools in the current educational landscape.

“Deregulation will expand the opportunities for students, teachers, and staff and to have vital public schools to be successful in its current educational landscape,” said Rendon. These bills are a huge step in the right direction.”

Sen. Alexis Calatayud, a leading proponent of the reforms, told fellow lawmakers that the goal of these bills is to foster a “more adaptable” and “innovative educational environment” while maintaining focus on student safety and academic standards.

“We’re excited, philosophically, and in all real terms, to equalize the playing field for our public [schools] with the new ecosystem that we have launched in Florida after HB 1,” said Calatayud. “Our true belief is to be a partner with the highest quality, and make sure that all of the education providers can be flexible [and] be creative in a way that in no way jeopardizes our focuses.”


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