Florida 2018 Legislation Affecting Education


 The Florida 2018 Legislative session has been quite active for education across the state. The Florida College Access Network released a 2018 Florida Legislative Recap, most notable are the several bills that were passed for education. Listed below is not an exhaustive list, but a summary of key K-12 educational changes.

Bright Futures: The legislature increased funding for several state scholarship and financial aid programs, most notably the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship. They will receive an additional $122.4 million ($519.7 million in total) to bring up the financed levels of the scholarships. For 2018-2019, the Florida Academic Scholars (FAS) will award 100% of tuition at state colleges/universities and the Florida Medallion Scholars (FMS) will award 75% of tuition at state colleges/ universities. The bill also included the cost of summer classes and textbooks ($300) for the first time.

Student Financial Assistance Programs: Legislation increased funding to four financial aid programs. The First Generation Matching Grant Program, Florida Farmworkers Student Scholarships, Florida Student Assistance Grant, and Effective Access to Student Education Grant (formerly the Florida Resident Access Grant Program) all received additional funding to increase award monies to students across the state.

Tuition: Tuition rates stayed the same for the Florida state universities and college for the fifth straight year, which bucks national trends of a 3.1% increase (Collegeboard).

School Public Safety: Over $400 million is being used to make Florida school’s safer after the Parkland, Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting. Legislation focused on two key areas: mental health counseling and school resource officers. School districts will be required to have a safe-school officer at each school in the state. As well, the bill provides for the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program where school personnel can complete 132 hours of comprehensive firearm safety and proficiency training to carry a gun on campus with approval. Also included is mandatory active shooter trainings. Schools may receive funding for specific school safety needs within each school district, such as metal detectors, bulletproof glass, steel doors, and upgraded locks. Lastly, over $100 million is dedicated for mental health counselors to provide direct counseling services to students in the school systems including counseling, crisis management, and other critical mental health services.

Excessive Credit Hour Surcharges: Currently, Florida students who exceed credits of 110% (132 credits of more) towards a baccalaureate degree program receive extra fees on their college tuition. The new HB 565 has colleges refunding the excessive credit charge if students enter as a first time students, maintain continuous enrollment, and who completed a baccalaureate degree program within 4 years after initial enrollment in a state university. The excess penalty, for University of Central Florida in 2015-2016, increased tuition for a student from $105.07 per credit hour, to $210.14 a credit- a 100% increase.

School Choice Programs: Legislation continues to support parents and student right to educational choice. HB 7055 provides tuition funding, called Hope Scholarship, for students who are victims of bullying and need private schooling options. The bill also provides for more funding of Gardiner Educational Program which allows students with services or products in order to design a customized educational program for the student, such as speech or occupational therapy, instructional materials, tuition at eligible private schools, and contributions to college prepaid accounts. Lastly, the bill removes language for homeschool and private schools to pay tuition for dual-enrollment courses, with homeschool families not incurring the cost of instructional materials.

High School Graduation Requirements: No changes were made to testing or academic course work for 2018-2019, yet they provided students to earn credit for registered apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship programs to satisfy certain high school graduation requirements for performing arts, speech and debate, practical arts or electives.