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Education bills - including charter schools, open enrollment measures - pass Florida House


An assortment of education measures — several with significant effects on Florida’s public education system — easily passed the state House on Thursday, mostly along party lines.

The approved bills, deemed priorities for the Florida House, include one that would allow parents to send their children to any public school in the state that has space available, and another that imposes more financial transparency requirements on charter schools in exchange for making it easier for “high performing” and “high impact” charter schools to set up shop and expand in Florida.

Those measures, in particular, drew considerable debate this week, as Democrats renewed arguments that Republicans neglect conventional public schools in favor of charter schools, which are run by private companies that receive taxpayer funding.

“Boy, they’re getting a lot of attention,” House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford, of West Palm Beach, said of the state’s 650 charter schools that serve about 250,000 children statewide. By comparison, about 2.4 million children go to 3,600 conventional public schools.

Republican lawmakers repeatedly emphasized their goal to “empower” parents and children with “choice” and “opportunity.” Several also chastised Democrats on Thursday for being stuck in the past and for not focusing on “the kids” in their arguments, which questioned the rationale, logistics and cost of Republicans’ policies.

“We have to break the chains of the prison guards of the past, who want to preserve what was,” Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said.