Florida lawmakers aim to cut red tape for public schools with new legislation

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(The Center Square) — Florida lawmakers have filed a new bill to cut red tape for certain aspects of public and charter school assessments, accountability, instruction and education choice.

Senate Bill 7004 was introduced by the Florida Senate Committee on Education Pre-K-12 and builds on the deregulation of public schools provision in House Bill 1, providing additional authority to school districts related to pre kindergarten programs, school improvements, assessments, reporting and instructional materials.

The bill’s analysis states that the bill would remove the requirement that each public school district offer a summer voluntary pre-kindergarten program while modifying the program’s funding and program attendance systems.

For school assessments, the bill changes several requirements, including allowing a parent to determine whether they want their child promoted to 4th grade if they feel it is in the best interest of their child. Current law states that if students have not reached a certain proficiency with their reading by 3rd grade, they would be held back for a year.

The requirement to pass Algebra 1 and 10th grade English Language Arts assessments to gain a high school diploma would be eliminated by the bill. School district superintendents would also be authorized to determine the timeframes students with disabilities can apply for extraordinary exemptions.

Students in the Department of Juvenile Justice prevention, residential, or day treatment programs would have requirements for common assessments removed.

To improve accountability, the bill specifies that changes made by the State Board of Education might not be effective until the following school year. School districts would be given an extended timeframe to implement a district-managed turnaround plan, increasing that time from two to four years.

According to the bill, beginning in 2026, the commissioner of education would be required to publish a full list of instructional materials that school districts have adopted and allows district school boards the authority to provide core subject instructional materials to students.

Currently, minutes of recess per day are required to be unstructured and consecutive. This would be removed, and school district virtual instruction programs would be authorized to provide equipment to students, regardless of their family’s income status.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee, and if signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, it would go into effect on July 1, 2024.

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