- Six education bills were approved by the Senate Education K-12 Committee, including a bill to enhance teacher recruitment efforts and two bills on athletics associations for high schools in Florida.
- A portion of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Teachers’ Bill of Rights” package filed by Sen. Alexis Calatayud would establish a scholarship program for dual enrollment courses, a teacher apprenticeship program, and a Heroes in the Classroom Bonus Program.
- Senate Bill 308 filed by Sen. Jay Collins aims to allow the state Board of Education to designate multiple athletic associations for high schools in Florida, and grant high schools belonging to a state athletics association the right to make a two-minute opening remark before a sports game, including prayer.
- Other bills include Senate Bill 478 to delete a provision requiring the evaluation of the Early Childhood Music Education Incentive Pilot Program, Senate Bill 636 to require school districts to provide information and instruction to students with disabilities and their parents on self-determination, and Senate Bill 196 to require schools to notify parents and students of career and academic planning options.
Less than 24 hours before the start of the 2023 legislative session, six education bills were approved by the Senate Education K-12 Committee.
Senate Bill 244, part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ‘Teachers’ Bill of Rights’ package filed by Sen. Alexis Calatayud, aims to enhance teacher recruitment efforts amid a critical statewide educator shortage. Vacant teaching positions in Florida have risen 21 percent compared to last year and more than 200 percent since 2018, according to the Florida Education Association (FEA). Following a review of each Florida school district’s website in January, there are 5,294 teacher vacancies and 4,631 support staff openings posted.
“The tools provided in this bill provide for a pipeline into teaching that is needed to make sure our school districts and children have the quality education they deserve,” said Calatayud. “It creates a set of incentives for new educators and current educators through a three-pronged approach.”
The legislation would establish the Dual Enrollment Educator Scholarship Program to assist current high school teachers in earning a Master’s degree in order to teach dual enrollment courses on a high school campus. The program would cover the cost of all tuition and fees under the stipulation that the educator would instruct a dual enrollment course at a high school for three years.
A teacher apprenticeship program would also be established under Calatayud’s legislation, providing individuals who have an Associate’s degree with an alternative pathway to becoming educators. Participants of the program would lead a classroom under the tutelage of a mentor teacher for two years as they work toward satisfying credential standards. Mentors in the program would be eligible for a pay bonus.
The third arm of the bill introduces the Heroes in the Classroom Bonus Program, which would provide retired first responders, including law enforcement officers and paramedics, and veterans with a sign-on recruitment bonus if they begin teaching in an area with a critical shortage of educators.
The bill was unanimously passed and will move to the Appropriations Committee on Education.
The second bill heard by the committee, Senate Bill 308 filed by Sen. Jay Collins, aims to allow the state Board of Education to designate multiple athletic associations for high schools in Florida. Presently, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) serves as the only athletics association in the state.
“As we seek to bring choice, just as we allow choice in all other aspects of education, I fundamentally believe in the power of athletics to help hone and craft children into successful members of the community,” said Collins. “Nothing is being mandated in this bill. Schools can remain in FHSAA or join another approved association.”
The bill also seeks to grant high schools belonging to a state athletics association the right to make a two-minute opening remark, if requested by the school, before a sports game, including prayer.
Under the bill’s purview, the athletic association may not control the content of the opening remarks. Before the remarks are given, the school would be required to announce that the content of any opening remarks is not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views and opinions of the athletic association.
An accepted amendment to the bill filed by Sen. Erin Grall allows students attending a charter school the ability to play sports at a private school.
The bill was approved by the committee through a 9 to 3 margin.
Senate Bill 478, filed by Sen. Keith Perry, seeks to delete a provision requiring the University of Florida’s College of Education to conduct a specified evaluation of the Early Childhood Music Education Incentive Pilot Program. As previously written in the bill, The evaluation studies and reports a quantitative analysis of student achievement of students enrolled in the music education program.
The bill was met with no questioning or debate but was commended by Senators Calatayud and Osgood. The piece of legislation was voted on favorably by all twelve members of the committee.
Senate Bill 636 would require school districts to provide information and instruction to students with a disability, as well as their parents, on self-determination and the legal rights and responsibilities regarding the educational decisions that transfer to the student upon attaining the age of 18.
Under the bill, filed by Sen. Corey Simon, information must be provided to the student and their parent guardian at least one year before the student, informing them that once the student reaches adult age, certain legal rights and responsibilities transfer to the student. The bill includes information on how the student can provide informed consent to their parents, including information on current legal avenues to grant informed consent, guardian advocacy, and guardianship.
A single amendment was proposed and adopted to provide clarifying language from the Department of Education specifying their rule-making authority in order to implement the bill. Simon’s bill received unanimous support from the committee.
Senate Bill 196 filed by Sen. Shevrin Jones implements a requirement for schools to notify parents and students of career and academic planning options.
The bill also requires students in grades 6 through 8 to develop a personalized academic and career plan to be developed in consultation with a certified school counselor. Jones’ bill was unanimously approved.
The final bill on Monday’s docket, Senate Bill 294 filed by Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez would implement required instruction in the History of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Florida schools if adopted.
The piece of legislation amends a previously-adopted series of statutes that details requirements to teach historically significant events across history, including the history of the United States, the history of the Holocaust, and African American history.
“This bill would require the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to be taught in public schools,” said Rodriguez. “This includes instruction regarding their immigration, citizenship, civil rights, identity, and culture. Instructional material must include the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to society.
When asked, Rodriguez stated that the curriculum has not yet been designed, but if the legislation were to pass, the state Department of Education would develop the material to be taught. Her bill was unanimously passed.