every child. one voice.


2019 Florida Legislative Session

Florida’s legislative session begins on March 5, 2019.  Your voice is your most powerful tool!  PTA encourages you to call or write your elected officials and let them know how you feel about legislation and policies that impact your child’s education.

Sign up for Florida PTA’s Take Action Network to learn more about legislative issues affecting families, schools, and communities and to stay informed on the latest updates from Tallahassee.

Duval County Public Schools Legislative Platform for 2019

Florida PTA’s Legislative Priorities for 2019

Find your elected officials

Legislative Update: Action Needed!

At the end of the 2018 Legislative Session, the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program was created with the passage of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. Currently, there is $58 million left in the Guardian Program fund that will go unused if it is not reallocated. Governor Scott has asked each member of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission to shift these unused funds to ensure Florida schools can get the funding they need to protect our kids this year.
The members of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission are scheduled to meet this Friday, September 14, however the shifting of the $58 million is not on the agenda. In fact, legislative leaders are refusing to agenda this item! If the members of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission let these funds go unused, it will have a negative impact to 71 of our 75 school districts. Please click here to see how it will impact your district.
Please call the members of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission TODAY, (see the members below), and tell them you support the Governor’s request to shift the unused Guardian Program funds to our school districts for school safety under the direction of the Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools. Tell them that money will help to ensure that all Florida schools will receive the funding they need to protect our kids this school year.

Members of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission:

Rep. Jose Oliva

Rep. Jason Brodeur

Rep. Janet Cruz

Rep. Manny Diaz Jr.

Rep. Bill Hager

Rep. Clay Ingram

Rep. Jared Moskowitz

Sen. Rob Bradley

Sen. Lizabeth Benaquisto

Sen. Oscar Braynon

Sen. Anitere Flores

Sen. Bill Galvano

Sen. Bobby Powell

Sen. Wilton Simpson

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Legislative Alert: February 20th

Legislative Udate:
Now that HB7055, commonly known as the “bullying bill,” has passed the House, it has moved to the Senate, where it will be heard in the Education Committee this Tuesday, February 20th at 11:00am. Under a “strike-all” amendment that Senator Hukill filed, the content of the bill has changed to eliminate some House provisions and to reflect Senate positions on a number of issues. Still included in the bill, however, is the Hope Scholarship, which will allow children who have been subjected to a classmate’s verbal or physical abuse to attend a different public or private school at state expense.
The Hope Scholarship has two major flaws. First, it does nothing to address the behavior of offenders, thus leaving them in place to victimize other students. Second, it diverts the tax dollars we pay when we buy a new or used car from the state treasury to private schools, without taking into account the ability of the victim’s parents to finance a private education on their own, the academic performance of the private school, or its policies regarding incidents of physical or verbal abuse.
Florida PTA opposes the expansion of school choice without full accountability, and the diversion of tax dollars away from general revenues, where they can be used to address the needs of all Floridians. At a time when we have been made newly aware of gaps in our ability to protect our students and our schools, and of our obligations towards teachers and other school personnel, three of whom have just laid down their lives, we must insist that our precious dollars be spent where it counts the most.
Please email your legislator today and tell them to provide real, common-sense solutions to the problems of bullying and other abusive behavior. Tell them as well to exercise sound fiscal judgment, and to allocate our tax dollars in support of all of our students, their teachers, and their schools. To do otherwise would mean that the lessons we have learned these past few days have been wasted on us.​
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Legislative Alert Feb 12, 2018


Here we go again!

Last Thursday, the House voted 66 yeas to 43 nays to pass HB 7055.  Once again, legislative leadership rolled good and bad policy into one massive conforming bill, hoping that rank-and-file House members and the general public would believe that the good in the bill outweighs the bad. (Spoiler alert, it doesn’t.)

What is HB 7055? Just like last year’s infamous HB 7069, it is an omnibus megabill that that runs to 198 pages, is as hard to understand as a Shakespeare play, and is almost as tragic.  Included in this train bill is HB1, the Hope Scholarship, which would allow students to transfer to another school—public or private, secular or religious—if bullied, harassed, robbed, or assaulted.  The bill provides no guarantee that the victim will be safer at a new school. It never addresses what happens to the culprit, who—apparently—can remain on site to target additional victims. Instead, it simply creates a whole new voucher program that will funnel an estimated $40 million of our tax dollars into private schools. It sets a new precedent by offering subsidies even to those who can well afford to spend their own funds on private school education. Bottom Line: The Hope Scholarship expands taxpayer-subsidized private school choice without offering sustainable solutions or increasing private school accountability.

Also included in HB 7055 are a vast range of additional, unrelated provisions.  One would allow principals to manage more than 1 school. Another would offer students in grades 3-5 who earn a 1 or 2 on the FSA ELA exam a small subsidy to use for private sector reading interventions.  Still another would make it more difficult for districts to shut down unsuccessful charter schools. Others would allow for paper and pencil administration of statewide assessments through 8th grade, an increase in Title 1 funding for high schools, and expansion of the Principal Autonomy Program.  Most egregious is a provision that is not even in HB 7055, but rather in the House budget bill: it links K-12 appropriations to passage of HB 7055, thereby presenting lawmakers with an ultimatum—“pass HB 7055, or we won’t fund schools.”

With the effects of HB 7069 still unknown, why is legislative leadership pushing through another bill that is hard to read and tied to the 8-billion-dollar education budget?

Please stayed tuned…as HB 7055 moves to the Senate for consideration, we will be sending out action alerts. We are going to need our collective voices to stop this train in its tracks.

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Legislative Alert Feb 1, 2018


Thank you for your continuing interest in Legislative session 2018!

This past week, the House has been pushing through HB 7055, which is a train bill similar to HB 7069. This legislation is steamrolling several bills into one, each of which should be heard on its own merit.

HB 311 and HB 427 are two good pieces of legislation that have yet to be heard in committee. This new legislation, respectively, provides alternative pathways to a standard high school diploma and will eliminate unneeded testing by allowing school districts to set teacher salary schedules removing the merit pay requirement currently in law.

The Florida PTA urges you to call your House Representative and urge them to support or co-sponsor HB 311 and HB 427.

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K-12 Education: A Look Ahead to the 2018 Legislative Session 

Education Works Virtual Forum

K-12 Education: A Look Ahead to the 2018 Legislative Session 

Tuesday, December 12th | 3:00 – 4:00 pm EST

Learn about the education priorities of key statewide organizations and policymakers, the budget outlook and the latest education priorities from Tallahassee in this no-cost, one-hour webinar open to those interested in Florida education issues.  

Click HERE to register and receive login information.

Take Action National PTA Take Action

Trump Administration Proposes $9.2 Billion Cut to Public Education.


Take Action Today- Florida PTA Opposes Conformation Of Bill 7069

Late Friday afternoon a massive education bill was introduced through the budget process.  This bill was negotiated behind closed doors, bypassing the democratic process of public input and the option for amendments.  While testing reform, daily recess, and other good education policies have been placed inside this bill, it has a devastating impact on the education budget that will leave our most vulnerable children behind.

Now is the time to act!  Please CALL today and tell your Senator to vote NO on Conforming Bill 7069. Our children are worth more than this.

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As the largest child advocacy association in the state, the Florida PTA’s mission has always been to serve and support EVERY child.  Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that the Florida PTA must oppose conforming bill 7069.




May 7, 2017

Contact Information:

Cindy Gerhardt, President



FAX 407-240-9577


Late Friday afternoon, a massive education package was introduced through the budgeting process.  While there are many valuable elements in this bill like sensible testing reform, parent friendly testing reports, daily recess, and important early learning initiatives, conforming bill 7069 will leave too many of our most vulnerable children behind.  The Title I provision takes away our school districts’ ability to effectively support our at-risk students.  The required sharing of local tax dollars intended for school construction and repair diverts resources away from traditional public schools in all neighborhoods.  Other provisions of this bill were never vetted in committee, thereby excluding essential input from parents and other community members.
As the largest child advocacy association in the state, the Florida PTA’s mission has always been to serve and support EVERY child.  Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that the Florida PTA must oppose conforming bill 7069.
Florida PTA comprises hundreds of thousands of families, students, teachers, administrators and business and community leaders devoted to improving the lives of children/youth in our state. PTA is the oldest and largest child advocacy association in the state of Florida, as well as the nation. PTA is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children. More information is available by contacting Florida PTA (407/855-7604 or executive.director@floridapta.org).
For more information visit our website www.floridapta.org and/or our Facebook page for programs available in your community. 


PTA Members Take Action Now! April 27

Vitti Email Do Not Accept House Bill (HB) 5105

Here is an email from Superintendent Nikolai Vitti to the Florida House.  You can use some of these points when you contact your legislators.  Here is the link to Contact Your Legislators

———- Original Message ———-
From: “Vitti, Nikolai P.” <vittin@duvalschools.org>
To: “Vitti, Nikolai P.” <vittin@duvalschools.org>
Date: April 17, 2017 at 1:49 AM
Subject: Reject HB 5105

April 17, 2017

Florida State Senators,

I implore you to not accept House Bill (HB) 5105 during budget conference negotiations. The bill seemingly attempts to address the authentic need to improve educational outcomes in schools serving students facing higher concentration of poverty but does so without a research-based, data driven, realistic, or sustainable solution. Although this bill has created a visceral reaction among those of us who have dedicated our lives to improving the outcomes in the most struggling of schools through traditional public education, this letter avoids emotionalism and rests on logic and facts to persuade you to reject HB 5105.

This is not a letter written by a supporter of the status quo or a protectionist for lower standards, expectations, or failing schools. This is not a political critique. Please do not deflect the arguments below with rhetoric or accusations. I write and send this letter as someone who has done the real work of improving urban schools, someone who has the scars of reform as a teacher, principal, state administrator, principal supervisor, and superintendent. The work has not only been done—but it has been successful and recognized across the state and country.

Below are the several flaws to the premise that HB 5105 will improve outcomes for students in struggling schools:

Supply and Demand

Through the identification of low performance defined by a single “F” or “D” and the acceleration of the process to demonstrate improvement or closure-like options, Florida will witness a proliferation of failing schools whose children will need to be served in other educational settings outside of traditional public education.  Demand will be enormous. So called “turnaround” charters will not be able to fill this demand consistently with supply.

Turnaround charters have not, and will not, be interested in coming to Florida for three main reasons. One, per pupil funding in Florida is too low. Two, the risk of failure due to Florida’s more rigorous accountability system as compared to other states’ brings too much risk (failure) for the reward (revenue or profit through per pupil funding). Failure hurts the turnaround brand of the operator or network and prevents the opportunity to scale in other states throughout the country. Third, the very few and limited national turnaround charter operators or networks with a track record of success are not interested in “turnaround” work as defined in HB 5105 because their model relies on years of slowly establishing schools one grade level at a time. 

The disequilibrium between supply and demand will create chaos in the lives of our most fragile children and their communities. Closed schools will be concentrated in zip codes where options will be limited, thus forcing students to travel long distances to access other schools. This will mean students will be unable to access schools in their own neighborhoods. The bill will decimate the already fragile state of historic neighborhood schools in urban cores throughout Florida with no real alternative. This will accelerate the depopulation of urban core neighborhoods, lower property values, business disinvestment, unemployment, and crime. To attempt to improve lower performing schools under the weight and stress of the proposed HB 5105 accountability system, scarce resources will be shifted and concentrated in the lowest performing schools, which will divert resources from other fragile schools serving working class families outside of the urban core that will be the next set of schools facing closure but cannot be supported at the level required to avoid declines in performance.

Current Title I Charter Schools do not Outperform Traditional Title I Public Schools

This bill attempts to scale a model that is not outperforming the current model. There is a greater percentage of “D” and “F” Title I charter schools in Jacksonville and across the state than there are for traditional Title I public schools in Jacksonville, even though many in the Legislature commonly point to lower performing schools in the district. In most large urban school districts throughout Florida this is also the case—charter Title I schools do not outperform traditional public school Title I schools. Even “Schools of Hope” such as Jacksonville’s KIPP have faced “D” and “F” school grades. More importantly, KIPP is not outperforming the district’s Title I average for reading and math proficiency. 

There is no evidence that scaling charter schools as turnaround options will lead to greater academic success for lower performing students. In fact, we have enough evidence now to conclude that such a strategy will reduce overall performance considering that Title I charter schools have not been more successful than traditional Title I charter schools at scale. Even the few isolated Title I charter schools have not successfully scaled success. Any district with “D” and “F” schools have improved individual and small groups of “D” and “F” schools. The challenge is scaling and sustaining that improvement. Charters face the same challenge and typically fail at higher rates because they lack the pool of talented principals and teachers to replicate success that is isolated to one or two of their schools. The fact is that districts are more likely to scale improvement and provide sustainability than charter schools in urban areas. Hence, investment should be in districts, not charters.

 Ignoring Previous Mistakes and Usurping Local Control

As is common for new leaders who are interested in creating a legacy, history is often ignored, dismissed, disrespected, or simply not reviewed. The previous Differentiated Accountability (DA) statute called for four Intervene turnaround models for the lowest performing schools: district managed turnaround, closure, operation through a private management company, or conversion to a charter school. In 2011-12, the Legislature expanded these options with the recommendation of the Florida Department of Education and State Board of Education to include two additional strategies: partnering with an outside educational expert and a hybrid option, which combined two of the other options. This was done because as schools did not reach the exit criterion of a “C” letter grade under the previous DA model, it was clear that the original four options were insufficient.

Local school boards, superintendents, and especially communities were not interested in closing schools, and private management companies and charter schools were also not interested in the turnaround work in Florida. This scenario will simply repeat itself as schools do not reach the “C” grade in three years despite improvement. Ultimately, only local school boards have the authority to open and close schools, not the Legislature. This will inevitably lead to distracting but necessary legal battles across local school districts with the State. Threats of withholding funding will be made for non-compliance, thus limiting resources to those students who need it most. Courts will be the new arena where it will be demonstrated that Title I charters are not keeping pace with Title I traditional public schools and for every one of the few and isolated successful Title I charter schools, we will provide dozens of successful traditional Title I public schools.

Choice Already Exists

Students are not stuck in lower performing schools as is popularly stated by supporters of HB 5105. The state of Florida has one of the most robust choice systems in the country from Opportunity Scholarships, charter schools, McKay Scholarships, and controlled open enrollment. In addition, most districts allow students to internally transfer among schools. In fact, once Florida started to issue school grades to schools and initiated the Opportunity Scholarship process, which requires districts and schools to allow students to transfer to “C” or higher performing schools with transportation, parents who are unsatisfied with their child’s school have already left for other schools.

Real Solutions for Lower Performing Schools

So what is the solution then if we recognize that we cannot accept lower performing schools? To answer that question let us rely on actual research, data, and practitioners to properly see a return on investment for a $200 million dollar initiative. For starters, the Legislature must recognize that per pupil funding needs to be weighted to address poverty. Poverty should never be an excuse for low expectations but it is a real and legitimate obstacle to academic success. Obstacles can be overcome with the implementation of the proper wraparound systems, such as access to full service schools, early learning, quality afterschool services or extended learning opportunities, the arts, athletics, and mental health and wellness support.

 More importantly, poverty can be overcome through education if students have access to the best principals and leaders. This is, again, the challenge of scale. The Legislature must invest in the development of current and future leaders and teachers, namely in high poverty areas. The investment is obviously associated with the need to increase current teacher salaries and sustainable incentives for leaders and teachers to stay or relocate in struggling schools. Just as important is support for universities to recruit, incentivize, and develop the strongest undergraduates to enter the teaching profession and be properly trained how to teach through residency programs where future teachers are under the tutelage of master teachers in actual classrooms. Leaders need to be instructionally sound so they can develop safe, trusting, and collaborative cultures in schools to support and hold teachers accountable to the highest levels of instruction and student engagement.

At the same time, the Legislature needs to hold districts and schools accountable to improving lower performing schools. No credible board member, superintendent, principal, or teacher dismisses that challenge. However, it is questionable when the accountability system changes over forty times in a short span of time so performance cannot be fairly measured and declines are not actually linked to performance but changes to how performance is calculated. These changes always tend to have the greatest impact on schools serving students in the highest concentrations of poverty. What frustrates practitioners is when the criteria associated with state sanctions changes after schools demonstrate improvement, as is the case with HB 5105, and adjust the rules to favor the competitor, in this case charter schools. In other words, do not change the rules of the game at halftime in order to favor the opponent! This is demonstrated with a longer timeline for lower performance for turnaround charter schools or less stringent criteria that does not tie charter school enrollment to actual neighborhood boundaries, as is the case for many of the lowest performing schools in Florida.

In the end, the current accountability system for Priority schools is fair. The change in 2011-12 was supported by superintendents whose districts have always worked through challenging environments. It accurately identified the lowest performing schools and provides a reasonable criteria and timeframe for improvement. Districts, such as ours in Duval County, have taken ownership of our lower performing schools. This administration assumed responsibility for a large number of fragile schools that weakened due to changes in the accountability system and faulty districtwide systems for school improvement.  We have made hard decisions regarding personnel, curriculum, programs, and even converted historically lower performing schools to new school models. The district has negotiated MOUs with the teacher’s union to overcome challenges within the collective bargaining agreement and locally raised millions of dollars to incentivize our best leaders and teachers to stay or relocate to our most struggling schools. Although there are some schools that still require a final push to exit the lowest performing criteria, we have led districts statewide in the percentage of the lowest performing schools improving their letter grade and exiting the lowest performing category.

In conclusion, HB 5105 is ideological and myopic. Please review the history of Detroit Public Schools. It provides a case study of what Legislatures and Governors should avoid when attempting to improve lower performance in urban districts. The story is one of local resistance to state usurpation on decisions that should rest with local communities and school boards. It is a story of a political and blinded policy that distrusts traditional public education for private-like solutions that have no track record of success at scale.

 Please reflect on the fact that this bill once used the term “Schools of Success” and not “Schools of Hope.” This is telling and indicative of why it needs to be rejected. The term success could not be used because the suggested turnaround charter schools do not have a record of success—at scale—anywhere. This is a multi-million dollar strategy of marketed hope. When did “hope” become a strategy? This is not even about hope, though. We have no research or data to be hopeful that this strategy will work—it will not. The research and data already tell us this.

 Please use logic and reject HB 5105.


Nikolai P. Vitti, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

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