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HEF 2019 Legislative Report

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

The 2019 Legislative Session ended on May 4 and the Governor was deciding on bills as late as mid-July.  During the Legislative Session, the governor has 7 days to sign a bill after it reaches his desk.  After Session the many bills which have passed the House and Senate have to be certified by the Legislature before they are sent to the Governor’s Office.  Following the Session, the Governor has 15 days after his office receives a bill to sign or veto or the bill or the bill goes into law without his signature. I It has taken some bills almost 2 months to reach the Governor’s office.  Depending on how controversial the bills are, lobbyists may still be trying to influence the Governor’s decision until he finally makes a decision.  With Committee meetings for the 2020 Legislative Session starting in September, lobbying is almost a year round job!

Here is what happened during 2019 Session and what has been signed into law.

The Gardiner Scholarship has been so popular with parents of children with certain disabilities that the Legislature has had to increase funding every year since it was created in order to cover the waiting list of applicants.  There were 1900 students on the waiting list and $23 million was added to the program in 2019 bringing the total allocation to $147,900,000.  This program allows parents of children with certain disabilities defined by law in s.1002.385(d) to use the funds (approximately $10,000) that would be spent on the child in a public school to customize the education for their child. This customization includes therapies, curriculum/instructional materials, tuition and fees and contributions to a college fund, tutoring services and many other ways.

The disabilities covered by the Gardiner Scholarship for a 3 to 4-year-old child or for a student in kindergarten to grade 12 are:

  1. autism spectrum disorder, as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association;

  2. cerebral palsy, as defined in s. 393.063(6);

  3. Down syndrome, as defined in s.393.063(15);

  4. an intellectual disability, as defined in s.393.063(24);

  5. Phelan-McDermid syndrome, as defined in s.393.063(28);

  6. Prader-Willi syndrome, as defined in s.393.063(29);

  7. spina bifida, as defined in s.393.063(40);

  8. being a high-risk child, as defined in s.393.063(23)(a);

  9. muscular dystrophy;

  10. Williams syndrome;

  11. rare diseases which affect patient populations of fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, as defined by the National Organization for Rare Disorders;

  12. anaphylaxis;

  13. deaf;

  14. visually impaired;

  15. traumatic brain injured;

  16. hospital or homebound; or

  17. identification as dual sensory impaired, as defined by rules of the State Board of Education and evidenced by reports from local school districts.

Parents interested in this program for their child can apply to AAA Scholarships or Step Up For Students.

Bright Futures Scholarship Changes

The Legislature made several changes to the Bright Futures Scholarship Programs. The scores will no longer be set by the Legislature in law. For the school year 2020-21 the scores will be set by the FLDOE based on the previous year cohort scores of no lower than the 89th national percentile score for the Academic and no lower than the 75th national percentile for the Medallion. The scores are rising as a result of the test-makers removing the quarter-point penalty for wrong answers in 2016. Concordant scores will be set for the ACT.

However, scores for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school year will remain the same which is 1290 on the SAT and 29 on the ACT for the Academic and 1170 SAT and 26 on the ACT for the Medallion.

  1. The projected scores for the Academic will rise from 1290 to around 1330. The projected scores for the Medallion will increase from 1170 to around 1200.

  2. Each year the FLDOE will publish any changes to the examination score requirements that apply to students graduating in the next 2 years.

Other Significant changes made to the Bright Futures Scholarship Program:

  1. Students that graduate midyear must apply no later than December 31 of the student’s graduation year in order to receive an award for the current academic year.

  2. Private school students in the past had received the Bright Futures Scholarships, but some private schools had reported that they could not access the state data base to allow the school to report the students’ volunteer hours. Now private school students are specifically included in the statute, so hopefully the reporting problem will be resolved.

  3. Students who apply and meet eligibility requirement to receive an award by high school graduation but do not accept the award, may reapply for up to 5 years after high school graduation. The reapplication period was increased in 2019 from 2 years to 5 years.

  4. For students who enlist in the military, the reapplication period of 5 years begins upon the date of separation from active duty.

  5. For students who cannot accept the initial reward due to religious or service obligation lasting at least 18 months which begins within 1 year after completion of high school graduation the period of reapplication begins upon the completion of the obligation.

Career and Technical Education

The Legislature has been trying to create a robust career and technical program in Florida since 2006 when Sen. Don Gaetz came to Tallahassee with a vision.  He wanted to build an educational system that provided rigorous and relevant curriculum that leads to high-skill, high-wage careers that are in high demand in the workforce and that could articulate to post-secondary coursework and/or lead to industry certifications.  While some changes to the traditional public education system were made along the way, it wasn’t until 2013 when the Florida Career and Professional Education Act (CAPE) was passed that the opportunities for students exploded.  Now public schools are offering career-themed academies and post-secondary career dual enrollment courses. The old vocational schools (trade schools) have been transformed into foundational programs for many careers that can lead to industry certifications or articulate to post-secondary course credit.

It has taken many years to build this system. Schools were initially required to offer digital materials, CAPE Digital Tool certificates and CAPE industry certifications for students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 to enable students to attain digital skills in order to provide students with the skills needed for the workforce.  Now there are more CAPE programs available throughout Florida than one can imagine. Students can begin coursework in high school through career dual enrollment that will lead to industry certifications, an AS degree or an AAS degree. Programs like Engineering Technology, automotive management and nursing are just a few.

See the CAPE Industry Certification (Secondary) Funding List: http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/8904/urlt/1920icfl.pdf

Home education students can begin taking some of these courses in career dual enrollment and earn an industry certification while still in high school allowing them to work in their chosen field while continuing their education toward a higher degree.

House Bill 7071 –  Relating to Workforce Education

The 2019 Legislature passed HB 7071 which, among other things, requires school boards to incorporate the career and technical pathway into the student’s progression plan for graduation as part of a new standard high school diploma.

It also requires middle school students to take one course in career and education planning in grades 6,7, or 8.  It helps students to begin focusing on and developing a vision for their future.  The Florida Legislature has funded a phenomenal website, free of charge, to anyone in the state of Florida beginning in middle school and going through college and the workforce. The site is: https://www.floridashines.org/find-a-career

MyCareerShines is housed on the Floridashines.org platform and includes evidence-based and developmentally designed career assessments, occupational exploration, education planning tools, college and scholarship searches, job prep tools and tutorials, resume/cover letter builder, and four-year education planning tool.  It is so comprehensive and thorough that it will take a long time to completely explore this site https://www.floridashines.org/find-a-career

In fact, you really need training to fully access all the information included on this site.  Home education and private schools can have training session set up online or in person by contacting:

Paula Crutchley for the South Florida counties from Monroe County up to Collier, Lee and Hendry County.  Paula can be reached at (805) 208-7539 or crutchleyp@kuder.com

Maggie Miller for the remaining counties in Florida.  Maggie can be reached at 863-279-8580 or millerm@kuder.com

Additional graduation changes in House Bill (HB) 7071:

  1. It created a new diploma which requires students who are interested in a career or technical pathway to graduate to complete the following: (a) complete the required 18 hours for a standard high school diploma, (b) earn 2 credits in career and technical education which result in a program completion or an industry certification and (c) complete two credits in work-based learning programs.

  2. It now allows high school students to substitute a computer science credit for either a math or science credit after completing the required Algebra I, Biology and Geometry.

  3. It now allows high school students to satisfy 2 credits in math if they earn an industry certification in 3D rapid prototype printing.

NOTE:  Bright Futures Gold Seal Vocational Scholars and Bright Futures Gold Seal CAPE Scholars Awards

A high school student taking career, technical or CAPE courses who meet all the eligibility requirements may receive one of two Bright Futures Scholarships

(a) Florida Gold Seal CAPE Scholarship or

(b) Florida Gold Seal Vocational Scholarship

These scholarships pay 100% of the credit hours or equivalent clock hours required to complete an Applied Technology Degree (ATP) program, technical degree education program or a career certificate program at a Florida public or nonpublic education institution that offers these specific programs and if the student transfers to another program level, the student is eligible for the higher of the two program credit hour limit.

Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment for home education students is mandated in statute.  However, as laws change it sometimes creates unintended consequences.  This is what occurred in 2012 when the public schools were required to pay the tuition for public school students that take dual enrollment courses.  Although the law did not change for private school students, the Department of Education Division of State Colleges in the Q and A following the passage of the law allowing state colleges to use the articulation agreement to require private schools to pay the tuition for their dual enrolled students. HEF has been fighting since 2012 to correct this in statute, but we have been unsuccessful.

Some of the larger private school associations joined in the effort last year to make dual enrollment available to private school students free of charge which helped the bill move closer to passing than one has in the past.  The problem is that state colleges want the funds for tuition. However, private schools cannot afford to pay the tuition and private school students are being denied access to dual enrollment.  This is completely unfair because these students are of compulsory attendance age and their parents pay taxes. Tthe Legislature has been unwilling to resolve this problem in the past.

However, bills were filed in the 2019 Session by Rep Ardian Zika (HB 189) and Senator Kellie Stargel (SB 1342) to amend the law stating that neither private schools or private school students could be charged tuition for dual enrollment courses and to appropriate $550,000 in recurring funds to cover the cost of the tuition and fees.  Although the House bill passed and was sent to the Senate, both bills died in the Senate the last week of Session.  So, HEF will continue to lobby this issue.  It often takes years to bring about positive change in statute.  We will keep fighting.

Dual enrollment Books for home education students

.I am happy to report that the funding for instructional materials for home education students is recurring though it has been said that no one is safe when the Legislature is in Session.  This means that every year when the Appropriation Committee prepares the annual budget that this line item will start off in the budget.  While there is no guarantee that it will stay in the budget each year, the likelihood is that it will.  But, it requires constant vigilance to make sure that in the tiny print of the budget no language appears to change the law that places the $550,000 in the budget to pay for home education students instructional materials.

For those of you who want to see the line item in the budget, it is Item 129 on page 39

Immunization Registry

House Bill 213 requires any health care practitioner that administers vaccinations or causes vaccinations to be administered to children from birth to 17 to report vaccination data to a central data bank at the Florida Department of Health. College and university health center practitioners are required to report immunizations administered to students ages 18-23.

HEF worked with the opponents of this bill to create an opt-out provision for parents or students who refuse to have their information or their child’s information included in the registry.  However, it is up to the parent/student to obtain an opt-out form from the Department of Health and submit it to the health care practitioner at the time of the vaccination. That practitioner will then submit it to the Department or Health or the parent can submit it directly to the Department of Health.  It also requires the Department of Health to remove any information pertaining to the student from the registry upon receipt of the form.

Senate Bill 64 has been filed for the 2020 Legislative Session by Sen. Lauren Book. It will remove the language allowing a parent to file a religious exemption to the required immunizations for a child.  It would require a newly created medical board to review any medical exemptions filed by a physician.  You can read SB 64 at:  http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/64/BillText/Filed/PDF

 Other Issues looming on the horizon are:

  1. High-stakes assessments for VPK students (that is for 4-year olds.)

  2. Background screening and/or abuse registry screening for parents who want to home educate their child(ren). Brenda Dickinson, your lobbyist, has been meeting with the proponents of this idea over the summer and this bill may not be filed this year. Time will tell.

  3. Mandatory vaccines by the US government.

The Home Education Foundation (HEF) is your voice in the Florida Capitol and we will continue to fight for your rights.

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