TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Following a contentious two-hour debate that included references to Tiger Woods’ children, the House Education Quality Subcommittee passed school choice bill HB1 on Friday morning.
Sponsored by Rep. Tuck (R-Highlands County) and Rep. Valdes (D-Tampa), HB1 seeks to give parents the freedom to customize their children’s education by expanding scholarship eligibility to all Florida students and allowing them to choose from a variety of education options.
“At its very core, HB 1 will expand the eligibility for scholarship recipients to any student who is a Florida resident that is eligible to enroll in K-12, while still prioritizing low and middle-income families,” Rep. Tuck stated.
The House Quality Subcommittee was HB 1’s fourth committee stop, and similar to previous stops it was met with pushback from public school teachers and Democrat representatives. Rep. Gantt (D-Miami) expressed her opposition to the bill, stating that “85 percent of parents choose to send their children to public schools and we need to respect parents’ choices… this bill would essentially put that choice at risk.”
Rep. Casello (D-Palm Beach) argued that by passing this bill, far too many guidelines would be taken off of the school voucher program. “We’ve lost sight of what we were trying to accomplish when this program started. We have taken all restrictions, all bumper guides off of vouchers. People who are sending their children to private schools now – the elite – heck, Tiger Woods’ kids, could qualify for vouchers,” Costello added.
Rep. Beltran (R-Hillsborough, Manatee) fired back, saying that Tiger Woods’ children are entitled to the same choices as any other child who’s being educated in the state of Florida and that they could easily go to a public school. He emphasized the fact that this bill only gives students and parents more choices.
The final vote was split along party lines, with Democrat representatives voting no and Republican representatives voting yes. Despite the heavy debate, HB1 passed and is now headed to the House floor where we will hear more next week.
The following bills were also passed by the committee:
HB 633 – Class Size
Sponsored by Rep. Salzman (R-Escambia), this bill repeals the penalty for schools that exceed the class-size maximums as well as revises certain provisions relating to students whose parents are active duty military personnel.
HB 1035 – Teacher Training and Conduct
Sponsored by Rep. Gonzalez Pittman (R-Hillsborough), this bill is known as “The Teacher’s Bill of Rights.” It seeks to eliminate or reduce unnecessary or duplicate training requirements for teachers and increases the rights of teachers to control the classroom.
HB 7039 – Student Outcomes
Sponsored by Rep. Dana Trabulsy (R-St. Lucie), this bill will ensure students perform on grade level in both reading and mathematics, as it promotes phonics, implements teacher preparation programs and increases mathematics proficiency amongst our students.