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Florida Senate unveils its version of 'schools of hope,' diverging from House

Simmons David@ByKristenMClark

A top Florida senator on Tuesday rolled out his version of a comprehensive plan to help students who attend perpetually failing public schools in Florida — proposing to offer additional resources to those traditional schools, rather than emphasizing incentives for new charter schools to come in and compete with them as the House wants to do.

Senate Pre-K-12 education budget chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, unveiled his alternative to the House’s “schools of hope” legislation by piggy-backing his proposal on to an unrelated education bill (SB 1552) that originally dealt only with expanding bonuses for top teachers and principals.

Simmons’ revised bill gives “schools of hope” a companion measure in the Senate two and a half weeks before session is scheduled to end. Doing that provides senators a way to formally discuss the proposal and vet their ideas for it ahead of budget negotiations. House and Senate leaders last week agreed to send “schools of hope” to conference committee, all-but ensuring some form of it will become law in 2017-18.

The House’s measure expedites turnaround strategies for failing schools but focuses mostly on creating a $200 million incentive plan to attract high-performing, specialized charter schools that would essentially compete with struggling neighborhood schools by offering students in those schools an alternative. The Senate doesn’t want to go that route right away.

Simmons’ legislation includes some of the “schools of hope” language but proposes first giving failing schools some extra help — something House Republicans have largely discounted, saying those schools have already had such opportunities and it hasn’t worked.

Full story here.

Photo credit: Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

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