Charlotte County school officials this week began the process of narrowing down their legislative priorities for 2020.
The district has until July 26 to submit its wish list to the local legislative delegation prior to meeting with them in September or October.
Charlotte County School Board members met Tuesday and narrowed their priorities to seven topics.
“We’re trying to look at what we’re for, rather than what we’re against,” said Kim Amontree, board member and the district’s legislative liaison.
Lobbyist Vern Crawford said the district did see some movement in what they prioritized to the delegation last year.
So what’s on their latest list?
1 Career/technical education: Fund workforce education programs and support career/technical programs, specifically, funding for the Air Frame Power Plant Mechanic Program. For the 2019 legislative session, the district partnered with the county and asked lawmakers to support the county’s request for $1,750,000 in matching dollars for the Charlotte Technical College Airframe Power Plant Mechanic program to support the rapidly growing aviation industry in the state.
2 Mental Health: Continue funding for the Charlotte County’s Community Action Team (CAT). CAT provides community based services to children ages 11 to 21 with significant mental health or substance abuse diagnoses. Services can include psychiatric evaluation, therapy, case management, and crisis intervention. This was also a priority for the district during the 2019 legislative session.
“My opinion is that is the biggest part of security,” said chairman of the board Bob Segur.
3 Unnecessary testing: Amontree suggested looking at grade four ELA and math, geometry and biology end of course assessments at the high school level, taking away the Florida Standards Assessment writing as a separate assessment and adding a component to the ELA, and testing only one grade in middle school. Though she said they need to look at what our legislatures are willing to consider.
“Whatever we recommend does need to be in line with federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA),” Crawford said, adding that the federal requirements do not currently address end of course exams.
The board acknowledged this is already something that is on Governor Ron DeSantis’ radar.
”Really what we’re talking about is test less, test smarter, where the results are more meaningful,” Crawford said.
4 Accountability for all publicly funded schools: ”We’re not trying to reduce accountability, we still want to hold the bar high,” said Amontree. “Accountability for all schools that are receiving taxpayer money: public, charter, and private.”
Crawford added that this doesn’t necessarily mean requiring private and charter schools to have to go through the same requirements as public school. Maybe it means finding a median somewhere in between to have a “common measurement.”
5 Flexibility: Provide districts with more opportunity to waive certain statutes, regardless of high performance grades. As Crawford stated, currently in Florida statute, any district that is A rated two years in a row receives “the same flexibility as charter schools.” He suggested the statute has some flexibility and to not limit it to districts that are just double A. He said the district has discussed this before, but every time they’re in Tallahassee, the first question lawmakers ask is to give examples.
6 Teacher shortage issues: Some of the possible solutions they brought up were loan forgiveness or full tuition. Amontree said the district could do something similar to what Lee County schools has proposed to do with Florida Gulf Coast University: prospective teachers can go to FGCU, then work for the school district, and their loans will be forgiven. There was also some discussion about alternative certifications and waiving or delaying the 300-hour ESOL training.
7 Language of early childhood education: Provide more access for early childhood education, wrap-around care. Amontree pointed out that some voluntary pre-K programs are from 8:30-11:30 a.m. “That doesn’t help a working parent,” she said.