A pair of sweeping education measures that would reshape high schools and higher education were overwhelmingly approved by the Senate as budget conforming bills Wednesday, setting the stage for a wide-ranging debate on the future of education.
Both bills passed on 33-7 votes.
The more sweeping of the measures (SB 1076), weighing in at 144 pages, would overhaul high school and higher education. It would create two "designations" for high school degrees, each with different requirements, with one aimed at encouraging students to work toward industry certification.
"What this bill does is it recognizes that the jobs and the job skills of Florida today are different than they were in the past, and that we need to prepare our students for those jobs," said Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz.
The bill would also set out standards for universities to be recognized as "preeminent universities," with one of those schools being tabbed to operate an online institute in an effort to encourage Internet-based education.
The other measure (SB 1720) would essentially do away with non-credit remedial classes offered by the Florida College System. Critics said that bill would harm older students and perhaps veterans by pushing them to adult education centers.
"And to say to that population, now you have to go to adult ed, I think, is a major problem," said Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando. "And because we've not addressed the issue of the open door, I won't be supporting the bill at this time."
But the bill's sponsor said the remedial courses don't help students very well.
"The reality is in the state of Florida is that what may seem like an open door just ends up trapping people in the vestibule," said Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.