By Florence Brainerd, FRA Legislative Advocate
FRA Board Meeting - May 2000
The 2000 Legislative Session ended at sunset on May 5, with a $50.9 billion budget that will benefit many special interest groups. The big winners are educaation, Everglades restoration, road construction, and more than half a billion dollars in tax relief for Florida's families and businesses. Education received a $1 billion increase that will go a long way toward special programs and teacher salaries. The 7% increase in teh FEFP marks the largest FEFP increase in education spending in the history of the state. From the $15.5 billion (general appropriations) education budget, FRAwill benefit in the following programs.
The $26 million federal reading grant received by DOE is not included in the state budget.
There were more education bills that failed than passed this year. The two major bills of interest to FRA are HB 63 Teacher Quality, and SB 850 Insturctional Materials.
HB 63 Teacher Quality - The 16 page bill addresses a variety of teacher issues. There are two statutes of particular interest to FRA. One is the restructuring of FL Statutes Chapter 231 - Personnel of the School System as it deals with certification in s.231.002, (2), (b) and (d), F.S. Teacher quality; legislative finding --
Chapter 240.529 - Teacher preparation programs. The new language of interest appears in s.140.529, (4), (e), 2. F.S. -
The statute language is general in content, and it is expected that the State Board of Education will adopt a rule on the specific proviso language. It requires 12 semester hours in reading/literacy acquisition for early childhood and elementary education, and 3 semester hours for secondary education. The Teacher Preparation Program Committee will present its Core Curriculum Recommendations to the Cabinet in June.
The second bill of substance is SB 850 Instructional Materials. The bill streamlines the materials adoption process. It defines "adequate instructional materials" which must be provided for each student in the core courses of mathematics, language arts, science, social studies, reading, and literature. The bill changes the term of adoption from 8 to 6 years. It requires district school board policy to include collecting funds from parents for lost, damaged, or destroyed materials, and keeping accurate records of funds. School districts are allowed to use public school technology funds to purchase electronic book readers.
Other education bills passed both houses include:
Sixty-three legislators will not be returning to their capitol offices in 2001 because of term limits. This is a great opportunity for FRA members to interview and support candidates who are educators or those who understand education issues. Senate President Toni Jennings was an educator and reading specialist. Under her leadership in the Senate we began to see reading issues take a front seat to all other issues. She would often say, "if you can't read, you can't do anything." She has been a good friend to FRA.