Florida House passes bill to make high schoolers declare a major

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida House passed a bill Thursday that would make Florida the first state to require high school students to declare a major, just as college students must do.
The Republican-sponsored bill, backed by Gov. Jeb Bush, passed 85-35 on a straight party-line vote. It faces an uncertain future in the Senate.
Bush and others say that requiring high school students to declare a major and concentrate on a particular field could prepare them better for college and the working world and reduce the dropout rate by making school more interesting.
"It was one of those ideas after I heard about it about four months ago, I said 'Why didn't I think of that?'" Bush said.
A state high school task force recommended it. A few Florida high schools already let students pick majors.
Opponents say it would put too much pressure on students about their future, but supporters hope the state's dropout rate will fall and classroom achievement will rise if students can concentrate on subjects they enjoy. They could include such basics as English and math or vocational fields like carpentry and auto repair.
Democrats complained that Republicans were trying to micromanage schools from Tallahassee.
The bill would also give the governor authority to oversee districts with poorly performing schools and pay teachers bonuses based on such factors as job performance and how many minorities and poor people their schools have.
Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Wilton Manors, called the oversight provision a "power grab" by the governor and argued it would be unconstitutional. He said the Florida Constitution gives the state board of education and local school boards, not the governor, authority to run the public schools.

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