Common sense high school education bills filed in Legislature

Common sense high school education bills filed in Legislature

Originally published in the Citrus County Chronicle on 02/05/2017

[updated with Senate bills on 3/22/2017]

FloridastatehouseFor years educators and parents have been searching and praying for a legislator that would listen to the needs of students, parents and educators, and then be brave enough to file legislation that would make positive lasting improvements for our students.  Citrus seems to have found this legislative unicorn with Representative Ralph Massullo, MD who is Citrus County’s Florida House of Representative, District 43.

39168-37Even before Rep. Massullo was elected, he reached out to those in public education.  It seemed clear from my first meeting with Rep. Massullo that his motivation was simple; he wanted to do what is best for students.  To that end Rep. Massullo worked with local educators to craft three important education bills for his first legislative session.  Rep. Massullo, a well-respected medical doctor, could have focused his work solely on health and medical issues but thankfully for us, has made a commitment to education.

Rep. Ralph Massullo filed HB407, “Alternative High School Graduation Requirements”, one of the most positive high school graduation bills I have seen in years. This necessary and commonsense educational bill would give students multiple options and pathways to earn a standard high school diploma. Currently, students must pass a state assessment test or receive a concordance score on the national ACT or SAT to graduate high school.  Because of Rep. Massullo’s bill, students could also meet the graduation requirements by attaining an industry vocational certification combined with an industry vocational competency test, or demonstrating mastery in academic standards in a personal educational portfolio, or by receiving a high enough concordance score on various national and standardized assessments.

These multiple pathways mean that students will not be forced into a one- size- fits- all graduation track.  Students can receive a high school diploma and career industry certifications which could lead to employment after high school.  Other students who excel in studies but struggle passing exams would be able to demonstrate their mastery of standards through providing evidence of learned skills and standards on multiple exams rather than a single state assessment test.  All of these options would result in doing what is best for students.

A similar bill was sponsored in the Senate following Rep. Massullo’s bill.  SB 584, sponsored by Florida Sen. Bill Montford, is very similar in that it too offers pathways to a diploma but only if students failed the 10th-grade English Language Arts Florida Standards Assessment or the Algebra I end-of-course exam. It would not allow students to automatically substitute state exams with a portfolio, industrial certification or alternate test. I have great respect for Sen. Montford, and I believe Rep. Massullo’s and Sen. Montford’s versions could be merged into an excellent bill that does what is best for students. I am encouraged that with the right support that is just what might happen.

Rep. Massullo also filed HB 6015, “High School Graduation Requirements” (Senate companion bill-SB 782 by Sen. Mayfield) which will provide more equitable options for interscholastic/varsity sport students by providing students who participate in varsity sports a physical education waiver so they would not have to take a P.E. course in addition to their other high school courses. This option is currently available to students that are in courses such as marching band, dance, and JORTC. If passed this wavier could enable students to participate in additional elective course options.

The third educational bill Rep. Massullo filed is HB 591, “Maximum Class Size” (Senate companion bill-SB 808 by Sen. Mayfield). This bill gives public schools the same allowances as charter schools in meeting the state’s classroom size amendment. If approved, this change would permit public schools and districts to meet the classroom sizes based on a school average.  This has been permitted all along for charter schools.  This would empower schools and teachers to better assign students based on their needs rather than to just maximum classrooms.  It would also bring common sense cost management by not requiring school and districts to fund an entire new classroom for increasing enrollment by a single student.

We are grateful that Rep. Massullo is passionate about education and is becoming informed on the issues that have impacted education in Citrus County and Florida.  Rep. Massullo is listening to stakeholders and taking action.  We all have a responsibility now to assist our Rep. Massullo to support and help him get these bills passed.  I encourage all our parents, teachers and students to communicate with their state legislators. Ask them to support these bills in their committees and pass these bills into law.

Thomas Kennedy is a School Board Member for Citrus County School District. Read his blog at

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