LegisLetter: March 20, 2017

Volume 24, Number 3

A review the Legislative actions of the past week is reminiscent of the opening line from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …”

First, the good news. The Florida Senate put increased funding and accountability for the Florida University System on the forefront of their agenda. There is strong, bipartisan support to increase funding for needs-based student aid, faculty recruitment and retention, graduate education, and preeminence. These are all initiatives identified in FSU’s Strategic Plan to reach our goal to become a top 25 public research university.

At the same time, the Senate has reviewed existing programs at the 12 state universities and proposed $130 million in cuts. Florida State University did not receive a single recommended budget cut in the Higher Education Budget.

It is common in the legislative process for one chamber to take an opposing view of another chamber’s priority; such is the case in the Florida Legislature. Though it is very early in the process, the State University System did not fare as well in the Florida House of Representatives this week. The House is conducting intensive inquiries into the budgets of all universities. They did not publish specific program cuts, but they did announce two budget cut scenarios based on projected revenues over the next two years.

Target A would reduce university budgets by a cumulative amount of $144 million this year to cover projected current year budget shortfalls; Target B would reduce all university budgets by $304 million to cover anticipated shortfalls over the next two years. The House has not decided how much they will cut, but Appropriations Chair Carlos Trujillo (R-Miami – FSU Alum) stated with certainty that there will be budget cuts to universities.

Official budgets will be released the week of March 27. Once each side produces their budget, they will spend several weeks to work out the differences. We are optimistic that legislators will be receptive to our advocacy for additional funding. We have a great story to tell.

  • FSU​ ​leaped​ ​5​ ​places​ ​in​ ​the​ ​U.S.​ ​News​ ​and​ ​World​ ​Report​ ​Public​ ​University​ ​rankings​ ​– more​ ​than​ ​any​ ​other​ ​top​ ​50​ ​University​ ​in​ ​the​ ​United​ ​States.
  • FSU​ ​receives​ ​more​ ​National​ ​Science​ ​Foundation​ ​funding​ ​than​ ​any​ ​other​ ​public university​ ​in Florida. 
  • FSU’s 4-year graduation rate is 65%, placing us in the top 15 among the nation’s top public research universities.
  • FSU has the highest graduation rate among African-American students of nearly 700 universities examined in a new national study.

Additionally, this week the U.S. News and World Report named Florida the “Best State for Higher Education,” recognizing the state’s significant achievements in areas including graduation rates, low debt at graduation, and tuition and fees.

We anticipate asking our alumni and friends to engage in the process once we get into budget conference. We will send out alerts though our “Advocate for Florida State” website.

Please take a few moments to register to receive those alerts at www.advocateforfloridastate.fsu.edu. If you have not done so already.

You can also keep up with all of the legislative proceedings through live and taped coverage of the session on The Florida Channel (local cable channel 4). Please feel free to contact me with questions about pending legislation, and requests for copies of bills and their analysis at kmears@fsu.edu or 850-645-1328.


HB 1111 – Teacher Certification by Representative Rene Plasencia (R – Titusville), revises the requirements for a district professional development certification and educator competence program to provide greater emphasis on teacher mentorship and induction support. Under the bill, a temporary certificate holder who completes a Florida Department of Education (DOE) approved program and earns a highly effective rating will qualify for a renewable professional certificate without having to complete additional classwork or pass the Professional Education Test. The bill allows charter schools and charter management organizations to offer a professional development certification and educator competence program and requires the mentorship and induction component of the program to, at a minimum, provide weekly opportunities for mentoring and induction activities, including:

  • common planning time;
  • ongoing professional development targeted to the teacher’s needs;
  • opportunities to observe other teachers;
  • co-teaching experiences; and
  • reflection and follow-up discussions.

The mentorship and induction activities must be provided for a teacher’s first year in the program and may be provided until the teacher attains his or her professional certificate.

The bill requires the DOE to adopt standards for approving a professional development certification and educator competence program, including the mentorship and induction component.

With respect to professional development, the bill allows mentoring activities, including serving as a mentor, to count towards a teacher’s in-service requirements for certification renewal. The bill requires professional development activities to provide training to mentors. The training must include components on teacher development, peer coaching, time management, and other related topics as determined by the DOE. The bill requires model professional development programs disseminated by the DOE to include effective mentorship activities to new teachers and training to mentors.

The bill also streamlines the temporary certificate application process.

The bill reported favorably by the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee last week and is now in the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.  A similar bill in the Senate, SB 1474 by Senator Keith Perry (R – Gainesville), has been referred to the Education Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre-K – 12 Education and the Appropriations Committee.

HB 7057 – Civic Literacy by Representative Jake Raburn (R – Valrico),. Florida law incorporates several aspects of civic instruction into the public education system, including:

  • academic standards for civics at all grade levels K-12;
  • required instruction on the history, significance, and principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, flag education, and the arguments in support of adopting our republican form of government;
  • civics and U.S. government course requirements in middle school and high school, respectively;
  • a civics end-of-course assessment that constitutes 30 percent of a student’s final grade for the middle grades civics course; and
  • Celebrate Freedom Week, during which public school students must receive specified instruction on the Declaration of Independence and recite the Declaration at the beginning of each school day.

Currently, there are no civics education requirements for students enrolled in public postsecondary institutions in Florida. To bolster civics instruction in Florida and prepare students to be civically engaged, knowledgeable adults, the bill:

  • designates the month of September as “American Founders’ Month” and authorizes the Governor to issue a proclamation urging public and private organizations within the state to celebrate the month;
  • encourages all public schools to coordinate instruction on the founding fathers with “American Founders’ Month;”
  • requires the Just Read, Florida! Office to develop sequenced, content-rich programming to help elementary schools incorporate social studies, science, and fine arts content into literacy skills instruction;
  • provides that it is a priority of the K-20 public education system to prepare students to become civically engaged and knowledgeable adults who make positive contributions to their community;
  • requires students entering a Florida College System or State University System institution in 2018-2019 or thereafter to demonstrate competence in civic literacy either through a general education civics course or by passing an assessment adopted by the State Board of Education (SBE) or the Board of Governors (BOG); and
  • requiring the chairs of the SBE and BOG to jointly appoint a faculty committee to:
    • develop a new course in civic literacy or revise an existing general education core course; and
    • establish competencies and identify outcomes for the course.

The bill has been referred to the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee and to the Education Committee.  A similar bill in the Senate, SB 1668 by Senator Keith Perry (R – Gainesville), has been referred to the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and the Appropriations Committee.

HB 1137 – Use of State Funds by Representative Katie Edwards (D – Sunrise), provides limitations on the expenses for lodging that may be reimbursed and authorizes an employee to expend their own funds on lodging expenses that exceed specified amount.  The bill establishes maximum costs per square foot guidelines for new state-funded construction and requires legislative budget requests for fixed capital outlay for new construction to comply with certain requirements.  The bill prohibits the use of state funds to purchase alcoholic beverages & food or beverages for certain state agency appreciation or recognition events.  Specifically:

  • Per Diem and Travel Expenses - The bill provides that when an employee of a state agency or the judicial branch is attending a meeting, conference, or convention organized or sponsored in whole or in part by a state agency or the judicial branch, the reimbursement for lodging expenses may not exceed $150 per day. However, an employee may expend his or her own funds for any lodging expenses in excess of the limit.
  • Maximum Cost Per Square Foot for New State-funded Building Construction - The Department of Management Services is responsible for the overall management of the Florida Facilities Pool, as well as other facilities and structures DMS has been given responsibility to manage. Current law does not establish a fixed pricing structure for the construction of new buildings. The bill provides that a state entity that requests state funds to construct or contract for the construction of a new building must comply with maximum cost per square foot requirements provided in the bill. All new building construction must utilize the maximum cost nearest in proximity to the location of the building proposed for construction. The bill establishes the methodology that must be used to calculate the cost per square foot of a proposed new building.
  • State Fund Prohibitions - Current law prohibits the use of state funds for the purchase, preparation, printing, or mailing of any card to convey holiday greetings. The bill prohibits the use of state funds for the following additional purposes:
    • The purchase of alcoholic beverages; and
    • The purchase of food or beverages for events related to state agency employee, board member, or vendor appreciation or recognition.

The bill reported favorably by the Oversight, Transparency and Administration Subcommittee.   A similar bill in the Senate, SB 1668 by Senator Keith Perry, (R – Gainesville), has been referred to the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and the Appropriations Committee.

CS/SB 328 – Regulation of Nursing by Senator Denise Grimsley (R – Lake Placid), removes an obsolete pathway for certification as an advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) and modifies provisions pertaining to the approval of nursing education programs.

The bill authorizes the BON to conduct an on-site evaluation of applicants for nursing education programs, and modifies the program approval process as follows:

  • Applies the minimum graduate passage rate standard to all first-time test takers;
  • Removes the requirement that a graduate who does not take the licensure examination within 6 months of graduation must complete an examination preparatory course;
  • Clarifies when programs in probationary status must be terminated;
  • Requires accredited and non-accredited programs to disclose probationary status and its implication to students;
  • Prohibits a terminated or closed program from seeking approval for a certain time;
  • Requires the termination of a program that fails to meet accreditation requirements;
  • Closes a loophole for terminated programs to reapply for program approval within 3 years using an institutional name change or creating a new institution with the same ownership;
  • Authorizes the BON to adopt rules relating to nursing curriculum, including rules relating to the use and limitations of simulation technology; and
  • Removes the responsibility of the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) from preparing certain reports and performing certain tasks, and places responsibility for those tasks and reports on Florida Center of Nursing (FCN).

The bill reported favorably by the Health Policy Committee last week.  A similar bill in the House, HB 543 by Representative Cary Pigman (R – Sebring), has been referred to the Health and Human Services Committee.

CS/HB 303 – Religious Expression in Public Schools by Representative Kimberly Daniels (D – Jacksonville, FSU Alum), authorizes a student to:

  • Express religious beliefs in written and oral assignments free from discrimination.
  • Wear jewelry that displays a religious message or symbol to the same extent as secular types of jewelry that displays messages or symbols are permitted.
  • Engage in and organize religious groups before, during, and after the school day in the same manner and to the same extent that secular student organizations and groups are permitted.

The bill requires a school district to:

  • Allow a religious group the same access to the same school facilities for assembling as given to a secular group and allow a religious or secular group to advertise or announce its meetings.
  • Permit school personnel to participate in religious activities on school grounds that are student-initiated and at reasonable times before or after the school day as long as the activities are voluntary and do not conflict with the duties and responsibilities of such school personnel.

The bill reported favorably by the PreK – 12 Quality Subcommittee last week.  The Senate companion, SB 436 by Senator Dennis Baxley (R – Ocala, FSU Alum), is waiting to be heard by the full Senate.

HB 773 – K-12 Student Assessments by Representative Manny Diaz, Jr. (R – Hialeah Gardens), revises requirements relating to the statewide assessment program as follows:

  • Beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, the statewide, standardized English language arts (ELA) assessment in grades 3-10 and mathematics assessment in grades 3 through 8 must be administered no earlier than the last 3 weeks of the school year.
  • The bill exempts the “grade 3 Reading assessment” from the new testing window.
  • The results from the statewide, standardized ELA and mathematics assessments must be reported to the student’s current teacher and to the student’s teacher for the subsequent school year before the start of the school year. It must contain information related to the student’s performance, including:
    • identification of areas of strength and areas in need of improvement;
    • ways the student’s parent can assist his or her child based on the results;
    • longitudinal data based on the student’s previous performance, if available;
    • a comparison of the student’s score with other students in the school district, state, and, if available, other states; and
    • predictive information on how the student might perform on college entrance assessments.

The bill requires that any new contract for the statewide, standardized ELA and mathematics assessments must define a Level 3 achievement score as “proficient.” The bill requires the Commissioner of Education to review the SAT and ACT to determine their alignment with Florida’s academic standards for ELA and mathematics. The commissioner must submit a report with the review’s findings to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by December 1, 2017.

The bill also requires school districts to provide results from a district-required local assessment to a student’s teacher within 7 days after the assessment is administered.

The bill reported favorably by the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee last week.  The identical bill in the Senate, SB 936 by Senator Anitere Flores (R – Miami), is scheduled to be workshopped in the Education Committee this week.

CS/SB 392 – High School Graduation Requirements by Senator Dorothy Hukill (R –Port Orange), creates the “Personal Financial Literacy Education Act” to specify financial literacy standards and instruction for students entering grade 9 in the 2017-2018 school year. Specifically, the bill revises:

  • The Next Generation Sunshine State Standards to establish requirements for financial literacy distinct from the existing financial literacy requirements specified under the economics curricular content within the standards for social studies; and
  • The requirements for a student to earn a standard high school diploma by:
    • Establishing a separate one-half credit requirement in personal financial literacy;
    • Deleting the requirement that the one-half credit in economics include financial literacy; and
    • Reducing the number of required elective credits from eight to seven and one-half.

The bill reported favorably by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre-K – 12 Education last week and is not in the Appropriations Committee.  A similar bill in the House, HB 955 by Representative Larry Ahern (R – Seminole), is waiting to be heard in the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee.