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Proposals for more virtual schools, fewer class size penalties

School officials from Miami-Dade, Hillsborough and Duval counties lined up to encourage a House subcommittee to approve a proposal to  relaxes Class Size Amendment penalties. But they needn’t have worried; the House’s Choice and Innovation Subcommittee passed HB 189 with near unanimous support.

The bill tweaks the formula used to penalize school districts for failing to meet requirements of the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2002. Instead of calculating the penalty based on the number of students assigned to individual classrooms, HB 189 uses school-wide averages . Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, was the lone “no” vote.

Saunders also voted against two proposed committee bills that were also on the agenda. The first, presently known as CIS2, would stiffen school grading requirements and also increases access to student education data for research and analysis. Several Democrats expressed privacy concerns and voted “no,” but the bill still passed.

There was more widespread support for CIS3, a proposed committee bill that would increase virtual education. The bill would allow more providers and online K-12 education in Florida, including a pilot program that would allow districts to launch schools that feature virtual education.

Saunders and Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, voted against the bill. But other Democrats, including Rep. Kionne McGhee of Miami and Rep. Shevrin Jones of West Park said they supported the virtual education expansion.

Both the Florida Chamber of Commerce and former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future said they supported the bill. Although The Buzz is hearing that public school advocates are describing the proposal as another power grab by for-profit education companies, opposition was muted during today’s meeting.