RPB Ed Board Updated On State Legislative Changes

The Royal Palm Beach Education Advisory Board thanks RPBHS Student Council President Javier Rivas for his service this year. Photo courtesy the Village of Royal Palm Beach

The Royal Palm Beach Education Advisory Board’s final meeting for the current school year, held on Monday, May 8, featured a presentation by Palm Beach County School District Chief of Staff Jay Boggess and lobbyist Rita Solnet on the results of Florida’s 2023 legislative session and how it will impact Palm Beach County schools.

“The legislative session closed on Friday [May 5], so here we are 48 hours later — the ink hasn’t even dried,” Boggess said. “Anything that I say today could be changed, amended by the governor or vetoed by the governor within the budget. There are some bills that are pretty lock solid.”

One of the biggest impacts from the session is the passing of HB 1 — a universal voucher concept that goes into effect July 1. The bill pulls overall funding for students and provides them to private, charter, parochial and home schools.

“I believe this changes the education landscape moving forward. We are now, as a state, the leader in this concept of the voucher system. Arizona was the leader, and this further expands those opportunities, passing Arizona,” Boggess said. “Every Florida student is eligible for state-backed vouchers that could be used for private school tuition.”

Depending on the source, the impact can range from $180 million to $400 million annually for the entire state.

“I’m here today not to paint the doom and gloom around this bill,” Boggess said. “You see that this is an A-rated system of schools with a 92.8 percent graduation rate. We have the most credentialed teachers; we have the best leadership. We have tax referendum dollars. We have all the things that make us who we are. That’s not changing. When we say we are your best choice, we believe that. Is this going to have a financial impact? Yes, but this doesn’t mean we are going to go out and close our doors.”

Parents interested in utilizing vouchers should contact the school where they plan to have their children attend, and that facility should be able to walk them through the process, Boggess said while answering questions from board members. Vouchers for home school would be paid out quarterly and will amount to between $7,750 and $8,300 per school year.

Other school related bills included:

• HB 1259 on Charter School Capital Outlay Funding. “To put it succinctly, capital outlay is the infrastructure aspects that help provide maintenance and upgrades,” Boggess said. “Charter schools, since 1996 when they were developed, have not had access to these dollars. This legislative change now makes that available. It is a phased-in approach over the next 10 years. We are looking at a cost impact of nearly $468 million over the next 10 years. There is heavy fiscal implication that comes with this bill that will again transfer dollars that were coming to 67 school districts and now being allotted to the multiple charters that are throughout the state.”

• HB 1069 is the Expanded Parent Bill of Rights, which gained speed over the last year. It gives parents broader access to school materials and allows for objections.

• HB 733/SB 1112 will change the school start times for both middle and high school, with full implementation required by July 1, 2026. Middle schools will not be allowed to start before 8 a.m. and high school must start instruction after 8:30 a.m. This will impact the school district and require alterations to the current transportation structure.

• HJR 31, Partisan Elections for District School Board Members, was approved by the legislature but requires referendum approval. It will be on the ballot for all Florida voters in 2024 as an amendment to Florida’s constitution and must get 60 percent support to become law.

In other business:

• Board Chair Jennifer Sullivan provided an update on the village’s scholarship process. “We interviewed the 13 applicants, and it was a great experience,” she said. “All of them are very deserving, and we got to choose 10.”

The winners were notified by mail and were formally presented with their awards at the Royal Palm Beach Village Council meeting on Thursday, May 18.

• Royal Palm Beach High School Student Council President Javier Rivas introduced his successor, RPBHS Student Council President-Elect Jennifer Larson.

“I’ve been a member of student council since my freshman year, starting as a representative and working my way to student body historian,” Larson said. “I just absolutely cannot wait to take this opportunity to bring new ideas and perspectives to the position and continue the great example that Javier showed.”

Rivas, who was honored with a certificate of appreciation for his service over the past year, is excited to see what Larson can do.

“The historian, in my opinion, does the most amount of work on the executive board. She’s making all the project books for all our competitions. She is the main reason we won project scrapbook at the local competition,” he said. “Jenna, I’m really excited for you, and I know the student council is in really great hands.

• Dolores Robinson, who has joined the Education Advisory Board as an alternate, was also introduced at the meeting. She worked with the school district for more than 30 years in various capacities.

• School Board Member Marcia Andrews offered her greetings and invited the board to attend the upcoming RPBHS graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 24. She also announced that the mental health and safety teams for the district plan to attend the board’s next meeting in August. “We want to start the year out and let you know about all the things coming next school year,” she said. “It has been a tough year with the legislature, but we are going to be fine. We are Palm Beach County. We are your best choice, and I can’t wait for another school year.”