Financial literacy, Bible school bills in limbo as House education budget committee likely holds final session

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Posted April 1, 2019

At the end of a 70-minute meeting on Monday, Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations President Chris Latvala had a planning message for his members.

“We are not currently scheduled to meet in week six,” the Clearwater Republican announced. “This will probably be our last committee meeting.”

If so, this decision places some high profile bills and ideas currently assigned to the panel on life support. Among them:

• HB 73, establishing a high school diploma requirement in financial literacy. The bill — a Senate favorite for several years — won a favorable recommendation from the PreK-12 Quality Committee a week ago at its final meeting of the 2019 session.

• HB 195, requiring public high schools to offer optional Bible study courses. This measure received approval from the PreK-12 quality committee at the start of the session, but has not moved since. There is no mate in the Senate, which makes lifting this legislation even more difficult.

HB 123creating a trust fund for the victims and survivors of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting. PreK-12 credits were the bill’s first point of reference, and it was never heard from, any more than his identical senatorial companion.

• HB 1037, design of a high school civics course that encourages student community projects. Sponsored by Democratic Representative Ben Diamond, the bill’s Senate counterpart backed by Republican Senator Jeff Brandes received unanimous support during its first committee two weeks ago.

Others still in line for the committee’s blessing include HB 1193regarding voluntary assessments and accountability of pre-kindergarten, and HB 9197seeking public funding for safety in accredited non-public schools.

Recent sessions have demonstrated that lawmakers can revive troubled bills by amending them in other laws, reassigning them to committees that have yet to meet, or sending them directly to the prosecution, among other measures. Nothing is therefore certain about the fate of one or other of the measures.

Yet the air was eliminated from all bills requiring a House Appropriations Committee vote PreK-12.

Before concluding, the panel took and adopted five bills In Monday. The most notable of these was HB 7095which would expand the state’s Schools of Hope charter school program, among other actions.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Vance Aloupis, R-Miami, touted the proposal’s efforts to expand the number of neighborhoods a state-licensed charter school operator could enter, by including “zones of opportunity” set out in the recent federal tax bill.

“There is poverty in every corner of Florida,” Aloupis said, “and there is a need for economic opportunity in every corner of Florida.”

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, meanwhile applauded the proposed change from the definition of a low-performing school to one that has a D or F grade in three of the last five years. The current rule states that a school would have to achieve these ratings in three consecutive years to be considered for state liability and remedial interventions.

The change, Donalds said, would ensure schools with only one positive year among many poorer ones would get the attention they deserve.

“It’s extremely important for the students,” he says.

HB 7095 then goes to the full education committee.

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