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Parents can advance child that fails reading tests; graduate even if failing Algebra and English under new legislation

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A recent Florida bill, part of a broader trend in the state’s politics favoring “parental rights,” is raising concerns about its potential impact on educational standards. The bill, championed by Republican lawmakers and aligned with Governor Ron DeSantis’ push for parental rights, proposes significant changes in educational oversight.

The 52 page bill would allow children to advance from grades three to four even if they fail standards for reading skills. It allows the parents to decide if they feel like their child is ready to advance to the next grade instead. It also allows kids to graduate from high school even if they don’t pass Algebra and English.

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Governor DeSantis signing Parental Rights bill. Standing behind him is Rep. Jason Harding who is serving 4 months in federal prison for fraud, money laundering, and false statements, alongside Bridget Ziegler, Moms for Liberty cofounder caught up in a sex scandal where her husband, the Chair of the Florida GOP has been accused of raping a woman they both admitted to having a sexual relationship with and recording it.

This legislation has sparked pushback, with critics like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, known for his educational reforms, voicing strong opposition.

Bush argues that the bill undermines Florida’s longstanding accountability system in education, especially for struggling readers and basic graduation standards. His concern is that such deregulation might result in students reaching high school without essential reading skills, emphasizing the need for maintaining high standards throughout academic careers for early intervention and support.

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“For decades, Florida has had a strong accountability system in place, but state lawmakers are talking about rolling back some of those requirements, including retention in third grade for struggling readers and basic reading and math graduation requirements,” wrote Bush.

“If we want better outcomes for our students, we have to know how they’re doing as they move through school. It’s unhelpful to find out a high school student isn’t reading on grade level when they’re in high school. Holding students to a high standard throughout their academic careers ensures they get the support and intervention they need early on.”

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Supporters of the bill, like Senator Corey Simon, counter these criticisms. Simon argues that removing the third-grade retention requirement and graduation test mandates would not lower educational standards. Instead, he believes such changes would encourage teachers to address students’ reading needs earlier and allow upper-grade students to engage in a broader curriculum beyond reading remediation.

“’Nothing could be further from the truth’ than suggestions the bill sought to lower standards. He said removing the third grade retention requirement would encourage teachers to focus on children’s reading needs earlier. Deleting the graduation test requirements would allow juniors and seniors to take courses other than reading remediation, he said,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.

This debate reflects a significant shift in Florida’s educational policy, where the emphasis on parental rights is increasingly influencing decisions traditionally made by educational professionals. This trend aligns with broader political movements in Florida, where educational institutions and standards are undergoing significant transformation, often driven by ideological and political agendas.

With every legislative session, more tax dollars are being pulled from public education, and going to private and for profit schools that are not required to follow many of the laws or standards set by Florida law.

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