Senate panel approves school turnaround bill despite concerns

Baxley said he wants no more F schools in the state.

The Senate Education Committee unanimously approved school turnaround legislation despite some concerns by members.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley (SB 1498) speeds up the timetable for F-rated schools to adopt and put into place improvement plans. Members of both parties raised concerns that the required timeline might be too strict and not always in the school’s best interest. 

Under Baxley’s legislation, schools that earn the lowest grades on the state assessments, scoring a D or a F, must create a turnaround plan. Currently, a school wouldn’t have to do that unless it received two consecutive D’s or one F and has two years to raise test scores. His bill would give the schools the rest of the school year plus an additional year to turn things around or they would face closure, conversion into a charter school or relinquishing control of operations to an outside entity. 

“I really believe that it’s time to hit the gas,” Baxley said. “How long are we going to send (kids) to a place to fail?” 

The bill is tied to a more comprehensive piece of legislation (CS/HB 7079) that revamps the statewide accountability system to align with the new Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (BEST) Standards, which is replacing Common Core

Baxley noted that the majority of schools that have entered the turnaround system successfully exited with a “C” grade or higher. He said his bill is aimed at addressing the more than 60 schools that exited and then got another low performing score.

Ingrid Hanley is a fifth-grader who says she goes to a school that would suffer or even close if Baxley’s bill became law. She said its score has fluctuated between a “C” and a “D” over the past few years. But that doesn’t explain what’s great about her school. 

“My school [has] done a lot for me personally,” she said. “My school has helped me grow as a student and as a person.” 

Opponents of parts of the legislation say schools with large populations of low-income students face challenges that make the strict time frame problematic, such as children entering kindergarten already behind, absenteeism and tardiness.

Sen. David Simmons said he was troubled by the tight timeframe and hoped Baxley would introduce an amendment before the next committee stop so it didn’t “unreasonably and inappropriately” penalize those schools.

Baxley’s bill now heads to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

The House Education Committee is set to hear HB 7079 Tuesday afternoon.

Sarah Mueller

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to [email protected].


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704