State Politics

Florida House education panel approves changes to testing

A Florida House panel gave its unanimous support Monday to a bill that would reduce the amount of testing in public schools.

A similar proposal passed out of its first committee in the Senate last week -- albeit along party lines.

A few members of the public weighed in on the House proposal on Monday, including Florida Education Association President Andy Ford.

Ford expressed lingering concerns "about the total amount of time that testing consumes in a school year." He also referenced the problem-plagued roll out of the new Florida Standards Assessment. Districts across the state had to halt testing last week after students had problems accessing the online testing platform. On Monday, the state education department said cyber attacks were also to blame.

Ford urged lawmakers "to hit the pause button" until the problems were worked out.

Also debated: a provision in the bill that would allow school districts to start classes as early as Aug. 10. Under current law, school begins two weeks before Labor Day.

The proposed change met resistance from the tourism industry. Bill Lupfer, a lobbyist for the Florida Attractions Association, said his organization would prefer to see school start on the the third Monday in August.

"The summer season is a short season and every day is critical," Lupfer said.

Richard Turner, who represents the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, recommended an Aug. 15 start date.

"Aug. 10 does begin to negatively impact those Florida families that traditionally take a vacation to weeks prior to the start of schools," he said.

Lawmakers aid they would consider the feedback moving forward.