Helping our public schools thrive by cutting red tape
The Capitolist | By Kathleen Passidomo | September 17, 2023
As the new school year begins, it is amazing to reflect back on what an exciting year 2023 has been for education in the Sunshine State. Just a few months ago, the Legislature passed and Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law historic school choice and parental empowerment legislation championed by House Speaker Paul Renner, and sponsored by Senator Corey Simon (R-Tallahassee) and Representative Kaylee Tuck (R-Lake Placid).
The goal of making school choice a reality for every child across our great state has been a long time coming, and with the steadfast resolve and leadership of so many, Florida now offers an Education Savings Account for every student in the K-12 system. The money Florida taxpayers dedicate to education now follows the child, and parents – a child’s first and best teachers – have the right to guide their child’s education as they see fit.
One of the most important choices available to Florida parents is the opportunity to send their child to a neighborhood public school – the same legacy schools that have been serving our communities and families for generations. Because traditional public schools should always be a strong option for Florida’s families, a huge component of our historic school choice legislation will reduce some of the outdated, unnecessary, and quite frankly, burdensome regulations public schools have to abide by. We want to reduce red tape so public schools have a meaningful chance to compete right alongside other school choice options, and we need your help to make that happen.
In a show of good faith, incorporating recommendations from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, led by former Senator Bill Montford, the legislation we passed earlier this year took the first step towards reducing onerous and excessive regulations on public schools with several immediate revisions to Florida’s Education Code.
For example, the new law reduces hurdles to a 5-year temporary teacher certificate for anyone with a bachelor’s degree and for those with three years of effective or highly effective service. The law repealed the requirement that a student take one online course in order to graduate from high school, which is not currently required in private schools. The law also offers districts flexibility in facility costs for new construction, and offers student transportation flexibility to improve efficiency, while maintaining student safety.
To reduce additional regulation on public schools, the next step in implementing the new law is for the State Board of Education to review the entirety of the Florida Early Learning-20 Education Code for potential repeals and revisions to be considered during the 2024 Legislative Session. The law requires consideration of input from teachers, superintendents, administrators, school boards, public and private postsecondary institutions, home educators, and other entities. That process is ongoing, and I hope you’ll be a part of it.
If you would like to offer suggestions for repeals or revisions to Florida’s education code, I encourage you to complete the online survey the Department of Education is utilizing to compile ideas. With committee weeks starting this fall, the Senate will be working on legislation to formalize a plan for cutting red tape that hinders our traditional public schools, and we would benefit from your thoughts.
Here in the free state of Florida, we can all be proud to lead the nation in options for parents to select the education environment best suited to their children’s individual learning needs, unhindered by income or zip code. And, we can all play an important role in keeping the traditional, neighborhood public schools that have served our communities and families for generations a great option for Florida students.
Kathleen Passidomo is President of the Florida Senate. In addition to her leadership responsibilities, she represents Florida’s 28th Senate District comprised of Collier, Hendry and part of Lee County. She resides in Naples with her husband, and has three children and two grandchildren.