Lawmakers will debate creating vo-tech courses, revamping Bright Futures scholarship requirements and requiring study of 9-11. But the real sparks will fly over these issues:
Charter schools: Last year, several charter schools, including Orange County's NorthStar High, endured widely publicized flameouts. Their scholastic failures and wild spending finally persuaded some lawmakers that charter schools require at least a skosh more oversight.
One House bill, for example, would wisely void the balance of charter school employees' contracts should the school close.
Charter schools are a valuable addition to Florida's educational toolbox — when used with caution. This bill and other measures are a prudent start toward enhanced accountability.
Then again, we don't see the need to siphon off another $64 million in state construction money for charter schools — while again cutting off traditional public schools as if they were spendthrift heirs. Tax dollars shouldn't be diverted to defray costs for private operators on facilities that taxpayers will never own.
School choice: Last year, lawmakers took aim at expanding school choice by introducing a so-called "parent trigger" bill. Under the measure, a majority of parents at schools with a three-year record of dismal grades could choose a turnaround plan — including converting to a charter school or hiring a private management company.
Fortunately, the measure misfired. But it's likely to be reprised this session. We hope lawmakers see straight and shoot down this cynical assault on the judgment of local school boards, a naked play on parental emotions.
Teacher evaluations: In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott signed the "Student Success Act," coupling teacher pay and pupil performance. Still, the battle rages on. State evaluations released in December that showed nearly 97 percent of Florida teachers were rated "effective" or "highly effective" rallied opposition ranks and stirred a powerful ally.
Senate President Don Gaetz recently conceded "there's a danger of all this imploding... ." Even new Education Commissioner Tony Bennett hints the system may need, well, tweaking.
We're solidly behind teacher accountability and rewarding performance. However, if Florida is tying teacher's purse strings to the state's test-based evaluation system, then lawmakers had better ensure the procedure is fair, consistent and coherent.