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Alachua County Advocates PTA 2018 Legislative Update

Following is a summary of legislation that was passed during the 2018 Legislative Session that will most likely have an effect on Alachua County Schools:

The Good

  • Accountability: Some enhanced accountability for private schools (for example: background checks for staff).
  • Title I Funds: More administrative funds are being provided, which means we can implement more district-wide programs to help all Title I schools.
  • New School Construction: The district has more autonomy for school construction when the funds used are from voter-approved initiatives.  There is also more flexibility with building codes when schools are not designated shelters, such as the elimination of some redundant requirements.
  • Capital Outlay: As of last year, school districts were required to share some capital funds with charter schools. For this year only, the state will provide some of that funding.
  • Mental Health Pilot: Some funds were allocated for schools to provide mental health services to kids (however, the funding is not sufficient to hire the counselors that are needed). ACPA is currently looking to work with an external provided to provide additional resources.

The Bad

  • Tax Credit Scholarship: This allows businesses to funnel money into private school vouchers that would have gone into the state’s general fund, thus lessening the overall funding available for public schools (as well as other public entities).
  • Hope Scholarship: This allows students being bullied (or meeting other similar criteria) in a public school to receive a voucher to attend a private school. Florida PTA does not support this because it does nothing to curb the bullying at its source, which would help all children.
  • Teachers Unions: Teachers unions will be dismantled and must petition for re-certification if their membership drops below 50%. Alachua County’s current membership is 60 – 65%.
  • Charter School Expansion: The bill makes it easier to replicate a high performing charter school and more difficult to terminate a low performing one.
  • Surtax: Local governments (including school districts) are now required to undergo a performance audit when asking for a voter referendum for local funding. This is in addition to the many audits and oversight that districts currently go through. The audits must be done within 60 days before a referendum is placed on the ballot, causing many districts to push the process through quicker.
  • Financial Transparency: There are additional requirements for financial audits and transparency that districts must go through, with no funding provided for these activities.

School Safety

  • School Resource Officers: All schools are required to have a full-time SRO. Gainesville Police Department will be hiring five additional officers in order to meet this requirement locally.
  • Statewide Office of Safe Schools created to provide oversight and school personnel training. Alachua County school staff already participate in ALICE training.  
  • District Requirements:
    • School safety policies & procedures
    • School Safety Specialist
    • Threat assessment teams
    • Risk assessments
  • Required parental disclosure of previous mental health services and referrals upon enrollment in school.  
  • Increased referrals to mental health services
  • More coordination of services statewide
  • Mobile crisis teams

Funding

  • Average funding per student FTE (full-time equivalent):
    • Nationwide (2017): $11,642
    • Florida: $7,306.63
    • Alachua County: $7,038.68
  • Increase in base student allocation from previous year: $.47 (.01%)

Constitution Revision Commission (CRC)

  • 37-member commission, appointed by the legislature and the Governor.
  • Meets every 20 years
  • Initiatives will be placed on the ballot this November for a public vote. If passes, the amendments will become a part of the Florida Constitution for the next 20 years.
  • Proposal 6003:
    • School Board term limits (8 years)
      This limits the public’s ability to continue to elect School Board members who they would like to keep in office.
    • Statewide charter school authorizer
      This allows for a statewide body to authorize and oversee charter schools rather than local school districts. This essentially creates a separate and competing system of public education, which is not in the best interest of our students or our tax dollars.
    • Civics education
      This is already included in the Florida Standards, but the amendment would make it a requirement to keep it there.

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