Florida Lawmakers Approve Open-Enrollment Bill

Published March 23, 2016

Florida lawmakers approved a bill that would allow parents to enroll their children in any government school they wish, regardless of where they live.

House Bill 669 was approved in February by the Florida House of Representatives, but it was not taken up by the state Senate’s education committee before the legislature’s session ended on March 11. However, the bill was included in an omnibus education bill, House Bill 7029, which was signed into law in late March.

The cosponsor of HB 669, state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. (R-Hialeah Gardens), says the bill helps children in low-quality government schools get a better education, by allowing them to transfer across district boundaries.

“We have a lot of higher-performing schools, or ‘A’ schools, that are under-enrolled, and we have ‘D’ and ‘F’ schools that are over capacity,” Diaz said. “With this bill, we are finding another place where we can give an opportunity to parents to meet their children’s needs. We are continuing to provide more choices. This creates more uniformity across the state and continues to provide opportunities for these seats.”

‘Clear, Consistent Procedure’

Diaz says the bill establishes a reliable process for parents to transfer their students.

“You have to have a clear, consistent procedure present, so if a parent comes in and has a request there has to be something constant, not an arbitrary rubric,” Diaz said. “It puts that procedure in place, and it’s clear to the parents so they know what they’re doing.”

Shan Goff, a policy director with the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), says Florida parents are fortunate to have lawmakers supportive of choice in both government and private schools.

“We’ve been incredibly fortunate and lucky [to have] wonderful legislators sponsoring this on both the House and Senate sides,” Goff said. “This really is public school choice.”

Tearing Down Those Walls

FEE Communications Director Allison Aubuchon says the primary goal of Diaz’s bill is to take down barriers to better education for children.

“We know already that so many families are doing everything they can to get into a school that’s perfect for them,” Aubuchon said. “They are either moving or bending over backwards to get into a school. Maybe there’s a program that’s only offered at a certain school. This bill will impact every single child. Barriers are coming down.”

Aubuchon says the bill is a practical reform of the state’s government school system.

“This is a very logical, common-sense thing to do, to have these options for families,” Aubuchon said.

Ashley Bateman ([email protected]) writes from Alexandria, Virginia.