A Review of the Arizona and Florida 2014 Legislative Sessions

Author: Charles Hokanson, Senior Vice President and Chief Policy Officer

July 22, 2014

The regular legislative sessions in both Arizona and Florida have come to a close. Here are some legislative highlights from both states:


In both states, per-student funding will increase in FY15. The Florida per-student funding level will increase by $176 to $6,937, although this level falls short of pre-recession funding from 2007-08. In Arizona, the per-student base-level funding will increase by 1.4 percent, while direct additional assistance remains the same. Charter school additional assistance will also increase by 1.4 percent for both elementary and secondary levels in Arizona.


All legislation that would have stopped or interfered with implementation of the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards and the Florida Standards failed to pass.

In Arizona, Governor Brewer vetoed one bill that would have largely symbolically set prohibitions on adoption of federal educational standards, curricula, or instructional approaches, citing several potential adverse impacts on the state’s education system based on the specific language of the bill. The legislature funded $8M for new tests aligned with the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards; it is expected that the State Board of Education will find the remaining $5.5M in additional funds estimated to be needed for this assessment development over the next fiscal year.

Florida’s legislature provided for a one-year transition period (2014-15) to the new statewide, standardized assessments that are to be developed by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), during which schools will not be penalized for their grades. The one-year transition period was a compromise between those who wanted no transition period and school district superintendents and others who pushed for a three-year transition period. The legislation signed by Governor Scott also simplified the A-F school-grading formula by clarifying definitions and removing some components of the old formula. Additionally, Florida passed a statute removing all statutory references to the Common Core, substituting the term “Florida Standards,” which include the adopted Common Core Standards, plus some additional standards and minor tweaks approved by the State Board of Education earlier this year after public input.


Education legislation this session covered a range of hot topics in the Copper State:

  • In FY15, Arizona will be experimenting with the concept of K-12 student success (performance-based) funding, having allotted $21.5M for distribution through a new formula based on a district’s or charter school’s achievement profile, improvement category and high school graduation number.
  • Arizona is limiting the expansion of district-sponsored charter schools, with no new such schools to be authorized to begin operations after June 30, 2014.
  • While rejecting efforts for a large-scale expansion of the state’s existing corporate tax credit scholarship and empowerment scholarship account programs, the Arizona legislature did pass several pieces of legislation expanding eligibility to a limited degree for each program.
  • Governor Brewer signed into law a bill that prohibits students from being retained for failing to read at a third-grade level if data regarding the pupil’s performance on the current AIMS test, or a successor assessment, is not available before the start of the following academic year, in essence providing for a one-year pause in the existing third-grade retention law as the state transitions to new assessments.
  • Arizona also created a 15-person joint committee to study broadband expansion and education technology, an important issue in a largely rural state outside the Phoenix metropolitan area.
  • After the state legislature failed to reform the state’s child welfare agency during regular session, Governor Brewer called a special session, resulting in bipartisan legislation that was signed into law. SB 1001 creates the Department of Child Safety as a stand-alone agency to protect children and strengthen families. That statute creates a framework for responding promptly and effectively to reports of abuse and neglect with both social work and law enforcement tools. SB 1002 appropriates the new agency’s budget, including $23 million to address the backlog of 14,000 inactive cases and $11 million to hire additional child safety staff, and lifts an enrollment freeze for child-case assistance.

In the Sunshine State, Governor Scott signed into law bills on a wide range of K-12 education topics.

  • SB 850 expands the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program by creating partial scholarships for children from higher-income families (increases the income cap from 230 percent of the federal poverty level to 260 percent with first priority given to students below 185 percent, and removing some barriers to participation). While a major push by the Senate President to require scholarship students to take the statewide standardized exam did not make it into the bill, new oversight measures for the organization that administers the scholarships (Step Up for Students) will be put in place. The bill also establishes "personal learning scholarship accounts”, which can be used to reimburse the parents of special-needs students for education expenses.
  • The same statute also expands collegiate high schools, which allow students to complete up to a year’s worth of college credits through dual enrollment, and require state colleges to offer a collegiate high school program through each school district in their service area, as well as require public schools to identify middle school students at risk of dropping out and expand anti-hazing provisions to the middle grades.
  • HB 5101 overhauls the way the state plans and pays for school technology. It requires school districts and the state to come up with five-year technology plans, which will be tied to student performance and used to guide their spending of a new $40 million “digital classrooms allocation.”
  • Governor Scott signed into law a bill requiring annual notice to K-12 students and parents of rights relating to education records and placing limitations on the collection of information and the disclosure of confidential and exempt student records.
  • In postsecondary education, Florida enacted legislation allowing undocumented students who attended high school in Florida to pay in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities, and providing $200 million in university performance funding, to be distributed according to the Board of Governors’ current model (a new framework for performance funding did not pass).

Category: Education Issues

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