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Bill seeks to establish parity among public, private and charter schools

“There should be some starts of parity in the state no matter what school you choose.”

A Florida bill up for consideration during the upcoming Legislative Session seeks to establish uniformity among public, private and charter schools on multiple standards.

Senate Bill 632 would require teachers at all charter and private schools to have a bachelor’s degree at a minimum.

The bill states the only exemption would be unless the instructors have “at least three years of teaching experience in public or private schools, or have special skills, knowledge, or expertise that qualifies them to provide instruction in subjects taught.”

Certification would also be required for the teachers.

Orange County Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart filed the bill Oct. 23. Stewart said public schools are held to different requirements than charter and public schools.

“There should be some starts of parity in the state no matter what school you choose,” Stewart said in a news release. “There have been stories coming out about some alternative schools and their lack of professionally educated staff, substandard facilities, and limited ability to show academic progress among students.”

The bill would also require private schools to meet the state construction guidelines, of which Stewart says public and charter schools already comply.

SB 632 would also require private schools to follow state academic standards, administer state exams to an eligible percentage of students, receive state grades and require at least 20 minutes of recess for primary schools.

“I’m not trying to limit the options that alternative choice schools seek to offer, nor am I trying to tell parents they don’t have the right to choose what they want for their children,” Stewart said. “I just want to make sure that all students have some form of regulation for their school that has their academic growth and safety in its best interest.

Stewart told the Tampa Bay Times in October she does not want to control curriculum because many families choose private schools for religious instruction.

However, opponents of the bill say it would limit choice schools’ freedom because parents can already decide to remove their children from them.

“I just find it interesting that traditional public school advocates complain about the mandates from the state being stifling to their programs, yet they want the same regulations for the other programs rather than free their programs from the burdensome regulations,” charter school operator Erika Donalds told the Times.

Donalds’ husband is state Rep. Byron Donalds, a Naples Republican.

In November, SB 632 was referred to the Senate’s Education Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and the Appropriations Committee.

If passed, the bill would take effect on July 1, 2020.

House Bill 859 is an identical companion to SB 632. Democratic state Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil of Maitland filed the House version on Dec. 4. The House version of the bill was referred to the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee, PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee and the Education Committee.

The Session is scheduled to start on Jan. 14, 2020.

Written By

Mark Bergin is a freelance journalist, who previously worked as an online writer for 10News WTSP in St. Petersburg. Bergin has covered the Tampa Bay Rays’ stadium negotiations, the 2018 midterm elections, Hurricane Irma, Tampa Bay’s transportation issues and city/county government. He also covers the NFL for the Bleav Podcast Network and for BrownsNation.com. You can follow his work on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram at @mdbergin. Reach him by email at markdbergin@gmail.com.

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