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Final weeks of the legislative session

Senate Democrats attempted unsuccessfully to remove the section in a school safety bill that would potentially arm teachers; the vote went along party lines.

Tallahassee, Florida
Photo by Raymond Cunningham

By LuAnne Schendel April 2019

Several significant education bills moved ahead in the seventh week of the legislative session, RefineEd reports. A Senate committee approved a bill creating a new scholarship to eliminate the waiting list for Florida Tax Credit Scholarships after making several significant changes that bring it closer to the House’s version. The Family Empowerment Scholarship — while continuing to prioritize students from lower-income families — would now would be open to families making up to 300% of the federal poverty level ($77,250 for a family of four), up from 260%. The student enrollment cap in the first year has also been raised — from 15,000 to 18,000.

Many Florida teachers are telling the Florida Department of Education to keep the current state academic standards in place. A review of more than 3,000 responses to a state survey shows strong educator support for the current standards for schools, which are based on the controversial federal Common Core standards.

Senate Democrats attempted unsuccessfully to remove the section in a school safety bill potentially arm teachers; the vote went along party lines. The bill also contains other provisions with broad support in both parties, such as better reporting on crimes in schools, a standardized risk assessment process for dangerous students, and new guidelines on school-based mental health.

Committees in both the House and Senate approved bills that would create a list of people who would be barred from working in public, private and charter schools. Such people would be banned from operating a private school or serving on a charter school board. Both bills (S.B. 1444 and H.B. 1127) would prohibit schools from hiring anyone on the list.

A bill that would allow concealed-carry gun permit holders to take weapons into churches that share space with schools stalled in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

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