(1) The Commissioner of Education is the chief educational officer of the state and the sole custodian of the educational data warehouse, and is responsible for giving full assistance to the State Board of Education in enforcing compliance with the mission and goals of the Early Learning-20 education system, except for the State University System.
(2) The commissioner’s office shall operate all statewide functions necessary to support the State Board of Education, including strategic planning and budget development, general administration, assessment, and accountability.
(3) To facilitate innovative practices and to allow local selection of educational methods, the State Board of Education may authorize the commissioner to waive, upon the request of a district school board, State Board of Education rules that relate to district school instruction and school operations, except those rules pertaining to civil rights, and student health, safety, and welfare. The Commissioner of Education is not authorized to grant waivers for any provisions in rule pertaining to the allocation and appropriation of state and local funds for public education; the election, compensation, and organization of school board members and superintendents; graduation and state accountability standards; financial reporting requirements; reporting of out-of-field teaching assignments under s. 1012.42; public meetings; public records; or due process hearings governed by chapter 120. No later than January 1 of each year, the commissioner shall report to the Legislature and the State Board of Education all approved waiver requests in the preceding year. (4) The Department of Education shall: (a) Provide technical assistance to school districts, charter schools, the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, and private schools that accept scholarship students who participate in a state scholarship program under chapter 1002 in the development of policies, procedures, and training related to employment practices and standards of ethical conduct for instructional personnel and school administrators, as defined in s. 1012.01. (b) Maintain a disqualification list that includes all of the following: 1. The identity of each person who has been permanently denied an educator certificate or whose educator certificate has been permanently revoked and has been placed on the list as directed by the Education Practices Commission pursuant to s. 1012.795(1) or s. 1012.796(7). 2. The identity of each person who has been permanently disqualified by the commissioner from owning or operating a private school that participates in state scholarship programs under s. 1002.421.
3. The identity of each person who has been terminated, or has resigned in lieu of termination, from employment as a result of sexual misconduct with a student.
4. The identity of each person who is ineligible for educator certification or employment pursuant to s. 1012.315. (c) The department may remove a person from the disqualification list if the person demonstrates that:
1. A completed law enforcement investigation resulted in an exoneration or no conviction or finding of guilt and a completed investigation and proceeding, as applicable, by the responsible education agency resulted in a finding that the person did not commit disqualifying conduct;
2. The person was not the subject of the report of disqualifying conduct and was included on the disqualification list in error or as a result of mistaken identity; or
3. The employer that submitted the person for inclusion on the disqualification list requests that the person be removed and submits documentation to support the request.
(d) The State Board of Education shall adopt rules to implement this subsection.
(5) The Department of Education shall provide authorized staff of school districts, charter schools, the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, and private schools that accept scholarship students who participate in a state scholarship program under chapter 1002 with access to electronic verification of information from the following employment screening tools:
(a) The Professional Practices’ Database of Disciplinary Actions Against Educators.
(b) The department’s Teacher Certification Database.
(c) The department’s disqualification list under paragraph (4)(b).
This subsection does not require the department to provide these staff with unlimited access to the databases. However, the department shall provide the staff with access to the data necessary for performing employment history checks of the persons included in the databases.
(6) Additionally, the commissioner has the following general powers and duties:
(a) To organize and name the structural units of the Department of Education and appoint staff necessary to carry out duties and functions of the department in a manner that meets legislative intent and promotes both efficiency and accountability.
(b) To advise and counsel with the State Board of Education on all matters pertaining to education; to recommend to the State Board of Education actions and policies as, in the commissioner’s opinion, should be acted upon or adopted; and to execute or provide for the execution of all acts and policies as are approved.
(c) To keep such records as are necessary to set forth clearly all acts and proceedings of the State Board of Education.
(d) To have a seal for his or her office with which, in connection with his or her own signature, the commissioner shall authenticate true copies of decisions, acts, or documents.
(e) To recommend to the State Board of Education policies and steps designed to protect and preserve the principal of the State School Fund; to provide an assured and stable income from the fund; to execute such policies and actions as are approved; and to administer the State School Fund.
(f) To take action on the release of mineral rights based upon the recommendations of the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund.
(g) To submit to the State Board of Education, on or before October 1 of each year, recommendations for a coordinated Early Learning-20 education budget that estimates the expenditures for the Board of Governors, the State Board of Education, including the Department of Education and the Commissioner of Education, and all of the boards, institutions, agencies, and services under the general supervision of the Board of Governors or the State Board of Education for the ensuing fiscal year. Any program recommended to the State Board of Education that will require increases in state funding for more than 1 year must be presented in a multiyear budget plan.
(h) To develop and implement policies for cooperating with other public agencies in carrying out those phases of the program in which such cooperation is required by law or is deemed by the commissioner to be desirable and to cooperate with public and nonpublic agencies in planning and bringing about improvements in the educational program.
(i) To prepare forms and procedures as are necessary to be used by district school boards and all other educational agencies to assure uniformity, accuracy, and efficiency in the keeping of records, the execution of contracts, the preparation of budgets, or the submission of reports; and to furnish at state expense, when deemed advisable by the commissioner, those forms that can more economically and efficiently be provided.
(j) To implement a program of school improvement and education accountability designed to provide all students the opportunity to make adequate learning gains in each year of school as provided by statute and State Board of Education rule based upon the achievement of the state education goals, recognizing the following:
1. The district school board is responsible for school and student performance.
2. The individual school is the unit for education accountability.
3. The Florida College System institution board of trustees is responsible for Florida College System institution performance and student performance.
(k) To prepare, publish, and disseminate user-friendly materials relating to the state’s education system, including the state’s K-12 scholarship programs, the school readiness program, and the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program.
(l) To prepare and publish annually reports giving statistics and other useful information pertaining to the state’s K-12 scholarship programs, the school readiness program, and the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program.
(m) To have printed or electronic copies of school laws, forms, instruments, instructions, and rules of the State Board of Education and provide for their distribution.
(n) To develop criteria for use by department instructional materials reviewers in evaluating materials submitted for adoption consideration. The criteria shall, as appropriate, be based on instructional expectations reflected in course descriptions and student performance standards. The criteria for each subject or course shall be made available to publishers and manufacturers of instructional materials pursuant to the requirements of chapter 1006.
(o) To prescribe procedures for evaluating instructional materials submitted by publishers and manufacturers in each adoption.
(p) To enter into agreement with Space Florida to develop innovative aerospace-related education programs that promote mathematics and science education for grades K-20.
(7) The commissioner, or the commissioner’s designee, may conduct a review or investigation of practices, procedures, or actions at any Florida College System institution which appear to be inconsistent with sound financial, management, or academic practice.
(8) In the event of an emergency situation, the commissioner may coordinate through the most appropriate means of communication with early learning coalitions, local school districts, Florida College System institutions, and satellite offices of the Division of Blind Services and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to assess the need for resources and assistance to enable each school, institution, or satellite office the ability to reopen as soon as possible after considering the health, safety, and welfare of students and clients.
(9) The commissioner shall review the report of the School Hardening and Harm Mitigation Workgroup regarding hardening and harm mitigation strategies and recommendations submitted by the Office of Safe Schools, pursuant to s. 1001.212(11). By September 1, 2020, the commissioner shall submit a summary of such recommendations to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.