Home News Proposal by Sen. Corey Simon seeks to level playing field between public, private schools

Proposal by Sen. Corey Simon seeks to level playing field between public, private schools

Proposal by Sen. Corey Simon seeks to level playing field between public, private schools

Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee speaks on the basketball court outside the FAMU Hansel Tookes Student Recreation Center on Dec. 2, 2022.

Freshman Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee, took the House’s school choice proposal and upped the ante.

Both proposals to make most Florida families eligible for private school vouchers are comprehensive packages, but Simon’s includes a provision designed to provide public school superintendents and teachers something they have long asked for – a level playing field – a request that public school advocates have longed asked be done. 

Simon’s SB 202, like HB 1, would expand the family empowerment and tax credit scholarship programs, but Simon seeks to make the vouchers universal, while the House attaches some minor requirements.

The measure also requires the State Board of Education to review Florida education statutes with an eye toward reducing regulations on public schools so they can better compete with private schools that accept vouchers. 

Simon said his proposal makes it clear that state money for education is intended for the student and that the parent has a right to guide their child’s education. 

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“We support the vital and irreplaceable role of a parent to decide what academic experience best fits the needs of their child. At the same time, we take important steps to allow our legacy, neighborhood public schools to thrive in the communities they serve,” said Simon. 

The proposal requires the Board to provide recommendations to the governor and legislative leaders on where to cut regulations by Nov. 1. 

Republican leaders have resisted efforts to standardize the rules and requirements for traditional public schools with those for private schools since former Gov. Jeb Bush first introduced a school grading system in 1999. 

Bush vetoed a bill in 2000 to align the public high school grading scale with the one used by private schools. Bush viewed the measure as a lowering of standards for public education. Public protest forced him to back down and he signed a similar bill the next year. 

Last session, a proposal by Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, to require charter and private schools to participate in standardized testing, meet state-imposed academic standards, and for faculty to meet the same certification requirements as public-school teachers, was never heard in committee. 

SB 202 gets its first hearing Tuesday in the Pre-K 12 Committee. Simon is the chair.  

Here’s what to know: 

House Speaker Paul Renner last month showcased a proposal to make most Florida families eligible for private school vouchers. Renner had the bill filed by Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R- Lake Placid, numbered 1, signifying it is a top priority. 

The Senate countered with Simon’s SB 202, which not only doubles down on the voucher expansion by making it universal, but also includes a broad and vague provision that Simon has said is designed for a fairer competition for students between private and public schools. The proposal is backed by Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. 

What SB 202 does: 

  1. Provides Education Savings Account for every K-12 student 
  2. Extends the time from three years to five years for teachers to complete certification 
  3. Allows flexibility in how school districts distribute raises for teachers 
  4. Streamlines transportation regulations to allow for vehicles other than buses 
  5. Requires State Board of Education to review all Florida education statutes and issue recommendations to reduce regulations on public schools 
  6. Mandates the Board of Education to “consider input” from teachers, school boards, post-secondary institutions, home educators and others when writing recommendations to reduce regulations. 

What they are saying:

“Universal choice means that every school has a chance to compete for students, and their parents can decide the best fit. Additionally, by reducing red tape that burdens our traditional public schools, these institutions, which have served our communities for generations, will have a meaningful chance to compete right alongside other school options,” Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. 

“We want our schools to be the first choice for parents, not the default choice, and to do that we need to reduce some of the outdated, unnecessary, and quite frankly, burdensome regulations that public schools have to abide by,” former Sen. Bill Montford, chief executive officer of the Florida Association of District Schools. 

“Two can play their game. Let them/GOP defend giving taxpayer dollars to unregulated private schools,” Rosemarie Jensen said in a post on Simon’s Facebook page.


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