A crucial education bill is brewing in the Florida Senate. As noted by Emily L. Mahoney in the Tampa Bay Times, the Senate intends to have the policy “filed as one, large package bill by the first week of the legislative session, which [began] March 5.”
The bill is significant because it provides a framework for how to reform K-12 education to achieve greater effectiveness. Three key highlights outlined in the article are of great interest to Discovery:
- The Family Empowerment Scholarship creates a new school voucher intended to reduce the list of low-income children awaiting the existing tax credit scholarships. However, to make vouchers work, there needs to be excess capacity in the school system. In other words, high-quality schools tend to fill up with local students, or in the case of private schools, students who come from affluent families. In either case the options for student to attend a specific school are quite limited. Furthermore, vouchers will need to be weighted to reflect the differing cost of each child, since children learn at different rates and in different ways. Only time will tell if the vouchers give the intended positive results.
- The bill will include a category for teacher bonuses, allocating more authority to the principal of a school by awarding teachers with bonuses not just based on the usual measurement of student performance. The bonuses originally have been granted based on students ACT and SAT scores. Principals need more authority and autonomy in order to make the school successful.
- The bill would dramatically reduce the unneeded teacher certification requirements. Reducing or eliminating certification laws is a major component of Discovery’s “Game Plan” for improving our schools. States need to focus on hiring “qualified” teachers, not just “certified” teachers. Florida is getting ready to take on this issue. This is a big step in the right direction for improving our schools.
The three components of this bill, if passed, will begin the transformation process of Florida’s schools. A lot more needs to be done, but this is a wonderful beginning. The beneficiaries will be the children of Florida.