LegisLetter: March 11, 2019

Volume 26, Number 2

One week down, eight weeks to go; what a week it was. According to a recent study, the collective miles logged by FSU officials at the Capitol last week would wrap the earth 2.7 times. The results of this study were both valid and reliable, at least it felt like it.

The week started with a meaningful press conference on the steps of the Old Capitol with hundreds turning out in the bitter cold to honor the life of Maura Binkley, our student who was tragically killed at a local yoga studio, along with our beloved professor Dr. Nancy Van Vessem. Maura’s father Jeff, and her mother Margaret were joined by President Thrasher, Dean Jim Clark, and high-ranking legislators including Senate President Bill Galvano to kick off the new research foundation, “Maura’s Voice.” FSU will partner with the Binkley’s to conduct research that will lead to public policies to prevent violence, particularly against women. In addition to the conference, Mr. Binkley and Dean Clark were invited to address the Senate Committee on Children and Families to bring public awareness to this important initiative.

Also speaking at the Capitol this week was Dr. Thomas Joiner. The House Committee on Health and Human Services asked Dr. Joiner to present on his world-renowned research on suicide prevention. The committee members were inquisitive and engaged in meaningful dialog on reducing the suicide rate in Florida.

It was an honor for FSU to provide our expertise in these important policy discussions.

Additionally, FSU joined two other universities to present our requests for new buildings before the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee. VP for Finance and Administration Kyle Clark and President Thrasher attended the meeting where VP Clark provide a detailed presentation on our capital requests.

The Florida House of Representatives has been unequivocal in their desire to scrutinize every dollar expended in the state budget, particularly for higher education buildings. With the tax source for Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds plummeting, and the recent controversy at UCF regarding a building project, the prospects for new building funds are dim. However, we continue to make the case that there are few initiatives that have a better return on investment to the state than higher education. Though the questions were tough, many members commented after the presentation that FSU’s requests were compelling and meritorious. You couldn’t ask for a better result.

Finally, we had unanimous support for FSU’s member appropriation bill, HB 3347 by Rep. Geller. This request is for the third-year funding for the Northwest Florida Mosquito Surveillance program, conducted by our Panama City Campus. Senator Bill Montford has the Senate version. We are grateful to these two Seminole champions for shepherding this project through the process. There is still a long way to go, but the first important step happened this week.

There are other bills making their way through the legislature that, if passed, will impact FSU. We have included five in this edition’s “Spotlight on Bills.”

We are in the midst of an extremely competitive funding environment this session. Legislators are (rightly) thoroughly evaluating every project and program. They want results. Thanks to the excellent work of our students, faculty, and staff, we have a great story to tell about Florida State University.

It is a busy time of year, but we are always available to answer your questions about legislation and actions during Session. Thank you for your interest in state government affairs.

Kathy Mears

Spotlight on Bills

CS/HB 217 – Education for Certain Military Personnel, by Representative Adam Hattersley (D – Riverview), requires the Board of Governors (BOG) to adopt regulations and the State Board Education (SBE) to adopt rules to create a uniform system to enable service-members and veterans of the United States Armed Forces to earn academic college credit at public postsecondary educational institutions for college-level training, education, and experience acquired in the military. The bill delineates the minimum required procedures for evaluating military credentials and experience and awarding academic college credit based on such credentials and experience.

The bill requires state universities, Florida College System (FCS) institutions, career centers operated by a school district, and charter technical centers to waive the transcript fee for active duty members and honorably discharged veterans of the United States Armed Forces, and their spouses and dependents.

The bill reported favorably by the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee and will next be heard by the Education Committee.  A similar bill in the Senate, SB 442 by Senator Tom Lee (R – Brandon), has been referred to the Education, Military and Veterans Affairs and Space, and Appropriations committees.

HB 7051 – Higher Education by Representative Cord Byrd (R – Jacksonville Beach), increases higher education transparency and accountability by:

  • Requiring the Board of Governors (BOG) to develop and annually deliver a training program for trustees. Trustees must complete the training within 1 year of appointment and reappointment.
  • Allowing the presiding member of either house of the Legislature, the Chief Financial Officer, or any member of the board for which an investigation is sought, to require the BOG Inspector General to investigate allegations of waste, fraud or financial mismanagement by a state university or its board of trustees.
  • Requiring the Commissioner of Education to report to the State Board of Education (SBE) any findings by the Auditor General that a district school board or Florida College System (FCS) institution is acting without statutory authority or contrary to state law. The SBE must then require the district school board or FCS institution board of trustees to document compliance with the law.
  • Requiring the Chancellor of the State University System (SUS) to report to the BOG any findings by the Auditor General that a state university is acting without statutory authority or contrary to state law. The BOG must then require the university board of trustees to document compliance with the law.
  • Revising SUS direct-support organization (DSO) public records exemptions to ensure that auditors reports, management letters, any information necessary for auditor’s reports, any information related to the expenditure of funds, and any supplemental data requested by the BOG, university board of trustees, the Auditor General, and OPPAGA are public records.
  • Strengthening oversight of DSOs by FCS institutions boards of trustees by requiring each board to establish thresholds for approval of purchases, acquisitions, projects, and issuance of debt.
  • Revising FCS institution DSO requirements relating to personal services.
  • Prohibiting FCS institutions from transferring state appropriations to any DSO with a fund balance of greater than $50 million, unless such funds are pledged for capital projects.
  • Requiring all FCS institutions to report annually to the Legislature the amount of state appropriations transferred to any DSO during the previous fiscal year, the purpose for which the funds were transferred and the remaining balance of any funds transferred.
  •  Prohibiting FCS boards of trustees from authorizing the use of state funds for travel expenses by any FCS institution DSO.
  • Deleting an exemption to the prohibition against the giving of any gift, either directly or indirectly, to a political committee by a FCS institution DSO.

The bill was workshopped by the Higher Education and Career Readiness Subcommittee last week.  A comparable bill in the Senate, SB 1744, by Senator Dennis Baxley (R – Lady Lake, FSU Alum) was filed.
SB 7070 – K-12 Education by Senator Manny Diaz (R – Hialeah Gardens), establishes and modifies K-12 education programs to support students and families, public schools, and teachers. The bill expands educational choice and opportunity for low income families, supports public schools by expanding student support services and reducing regulations, and benefits teachers by removing teacher certification barriers and providing incentive awards. Specifically, the bill:

  • Provides additional educational options and support for families by:
  • Creating the Family Empowerment Scholarship to help a specified number of students from low-income families attend an eligible private school and to reduce the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship waitlist.
  • Authorizing unallocated funds under the Hope Scholarship Program to be used to fund the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship.
  •  Provides support for public schools, teachers, and principals by:
  • Modifying the Best and Brightest Teachers and Principals Scholarship Programs to provide recruitment, retention, and recognition bonus funds to teachers, and modifying awards to principals based on the academic improvement of schools.
  • Modifying teacher certification requirements relating to the general knowledge examination and requiring changes to specified certification examination fees.
  • Removing school district requirements relating to an educational plant survey and cost per student station restrictions when only local funds are used for facility construction.
  • Modifying funding for wraparound services by establishing a categorical program to help district-managed turnaround schools offer services to improve the academic and community welfare of students and families, subject to a school plan.
  • Promoting the expansion of, and funding for, community schools to engage and support parents and community organizations to improve student learning and well-being.

The bill reported favorably by the Education Committee last week.  A comparable bill in the Senate, SB 1576 by Senator Tom Lee (R – Brandon), was filed.

HB 7061—Teacher Preparation by Representative Byron Donalds (R – Naples, FSU Alum), addresses teacher preparation and retention by increasing the opportunities for mentorship, professional development, and examination preparation to equip first-time teachers with tools and supports when they enter the classroom. The bill establishes consistent requirements for curriculum and field experience provided by teacher preparation programs.

Teacher Certification
The bill extends the timeframe by which a candidate may satisfy the General Knowledge Test (GKT) from one to three years, aligning the timeframe with the number of years in which a teacher-candidate may be employed pursuant to a temporary certificate. The bill increases access to GKT preparation materials and establishes a baseline for materials available to teacher-candidates. The bill requires the State Board of Education (SBE) to establish separate fees for each subtest of the GKT.

Teacher Preparation
The bill revises requirements for teacher preparation program uniform core curricula. For both school district-operated teacher preparation programs and Educator Preparation Institute (EPI) programs, the bill revises program requirements to include content aligned to state standards. The bill requires programs to administer participant satisfaction surveys and report survey results. For all teacher preparation programs, the bill requires practicum experience to include classroom management in a variety of teaching environments and for diverse student populations.

Teacher Professional Development
The bill increases the school district-operated mentorship program from one to two years and provides an exemption from passing the GKT for those teacher-candidates who successfully complete a two-year mentorship program. The bill increases the opportunities for mentorship and professional development and standardizes professional development content. The bill requires the Department of Education (DOE) to publish results of a biennial survey on teaching conditions and student learning at the school, district and state levels.

The bill reported favorably by the Pre K-12 Quality Subcommittee.  The is no Senate companion at this time.

SB 190 – Education by Senator Kelli Stargel (R – Lakeland), modifies the requirements associated with the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program (Bright Futures program), and removes restrictions in current law regarding funding for the operation of schools and performance funding for industry certifications. Specifically:

  • Regarding the Bright Futures program, the bill: o Removes the requirement that students enroll in a Florida postsecondary education institution within 2 years of graduation from high school.
  • Eliminates the 45-credit hour annual restriction in the award of a scholarship.
  • Specifies the eligibility of a student, who enrolls in the pilot program at the University of Florida and who meets specified criteria, to receive an award during the fall term.
  • Codifies the existing State Board of Education rule that allows students who earn a high school diploma from a Florida private school to meet the high school credential-specific eligibility criterion.
  • Extends the annual deadline, from August 31 to December 31, by when a student who graduates from high school midyear must apply for the scholarship.
  • Revises the examination score requirements for award eligibility to align the SAT and ACT examination scores with the SAT national percentile rank specified in law; and requires the DOE to publish ongoing updates to the examination scores.
  • Regarding funds for the operation of schools in the Florida Education Finance Program, the bill:
  • Removes the requirement related to prorating the level of appropriation for the federally connected supplement.
  • Modifies the formula for the safe schools allocation to require that of the remaining balance of the safe schools allocation, one-third must be allocated based on the most recent official Florida Crime Index provided by the Department of Law Enforcement and two-thirds must be allocated based on each school district’s proportionate share of the state’s total unweighted full-time equivalent student enrollment.
  • Saves the funding compression allocation from repeal by removing the July 1, 2019, expiration date
  • Regarding performance funding for industry certifications, the bill removes the $15 million annual cap on the performance funding for industry certifications to Florida College System institutions and school district workforce education programs.

The bill reported favorably by the Education Committee last week and is waiting to be heard in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.  There is no House companion at this time.