May 6, 2011

More Choices For Schoolchildren In Florida

New measures that would greatly expand the choices parents have when it comes to educating their children are headed to Florida Gov. Rick Scott for his signature.
The bills, recently passed by the Florida legislature, will make it easier for existing, high-performing charter schools to grow. The need is there. Last year, more than 37,000 children were turned away from charter schools due to a lack of space.
The legislation also would allow children in low-performing public schools to move to high-performing public ones in any school district within the state.
Parents of children with disabilities are hailing the legislation, as it also would expand the number of students with disabilities who can obtain funds to send their children to private schools. It's estimated up to thousands more students could become eligible for this benefit.
The measures now heading to Gov. Scott follow the enactment earlier this year of legislation that also will help improve Florida's schools. Those measures strengthened teacher evaluations, eliminated the policy of laying off teachers by seniority rather than by quality and put in place a performance-pay system that rewards excellent teaching. Principals also will have more say over which teachers to hire.
The previously approved legislation took important steps to boost transparency in Florida schools. It required districts to publish teacher ratings by school. Names won't be used, but the information will help parents make informed decisions about which school to send their children to. Parents also must be notified when their kids are placed in a class with a teacher who has received an ineffective rating.
With these key education reforms becoming a reality in Florida, policy makers across the country will be looking to the Sunshine State for lessons and guidance on how to improve schools nationally. We at StudentsFirst hope to help.

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