Author Archive | redefinED staff

Florida schools roundup: Testing, tax credit scholarships, Satanists & more

Charter schools. The Plato Academy charter schools in Pinellas are academically knocking it out of the park. Tampa Tribune.

florida-roundup-logoTax credit scholarships. Senate President Don Gaetz, who pushed for stronger accountability and transparency in the program, says in an op-ed that as a former school board member he is “ashamed” of the Florida School Boards Association suit against tax credit scholarships. Northwest Florida Daily News. “An end-run around the will of the people,” writes Walt Gardner in Edweek. Howard Fuller’s call for the fight in Florida to go national gets some ink on Gradebook. Whitney Tilson says its sad to see Charlie Crist sell out Florida kids.

Common Core. Jeb Bush directs criticism to President Obama. Washington Post.

Satanists. They’ll be handing out material in Orange County public schools this year. Orlando Sentinel.

Testing. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart drops a requirement for FAIR testing for students in K-2 after an Alachua County kindergarten teacher refuses to administer it. Tampa Bay Times. Miami HeraldGainesville Sun. Florida TodayAnswer Sheet. Continue Reading →


Don Gaetz: I’m ashamed of FSBA for filing anti-school choice suit

Sen. Don Gaetz

Sen. Don Gaetz

Add Florida Senate President Don Gaetz to the list of legislative leaders who are stepping up criticism of the Florida School Boards Association for filing suit against the state’s tax credit scholarship program, and potentially forcing 60,000-plus low-income students back into public schools.

During last spring’s legislative session, Gaetz was among the program’s toughest critics, initially pushing for scholarship students to take the same standardized tests as their public school peers and insisting on more oversight for scholarship funding organizations like Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog.

But in an op-ed over the weekend for the Northwest Florida Daily News, his hometown newspaper, Gaetz takes even stronger aim at the FSBA for attacking a “a national model  of voluntary school choice” that “gives lower-income children what we all want for our children – a chance to learn and succeed.”

“This is what angers the plaintiffs in this lawsuit the most,” he wrote, “that families are in charge of their own children, that caring parents willing to make sacrifices can choose their children’s schools and, most troublesome of all, that resources follow not the needs of educrats but the interests of children.”

Florida’s 13-year-old tax credit scholarship program is the largest private school choice program in the country, with more than 67,000 students enrolled this fall, nearly 70 percent black or Hispanic. The FSBA, Florida Education Association, Florida PTA and other groups filed suit against it on Aug. 28, sparking fear among scholarship parents and outrage from school choice supporters throughout Florida and beyond.

In his op-ed, Gaetz noted the oversight changes made to the program in SB 850, which the Legislature passed last spring, and the financial repercussions if scholarship students are “forced back into traditional public schools at twice the cost to taxpayers.” He also noted that, “As a former school board member, I’m ashamed of the Florida School Boards Association.” Read his full op-ed here.


FL roundup: Charter schools, Common Core, Crist v. Scott & more

Charter schools. The Naples Daily News takes a closer look at the 269 charter schools that have closed since Florida opened the door to charters in 1996. The Associated Press picks up the story.

florida-roundup-logoMagnet schools. It’s time for action on poor-performing charter schools in the Broward County School District. South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Career academies. The Lee County School District will beef up its career education programs under a partnership with Ford Motor Company’s Next Generation Learning program. Fort Myers News Press.

School choice. Pinellas public school enrollment increases for the first time in a decade, as charter schools gain more ground and the district, after adding new choice programs, mitigates its losses. Tampa Bay Times. (Enrollment is up in the Leon County School District too. Tallahassee Democrat.)

Crist v. Scott. The Wall Street Journal rips into Charlie Crist for not denouncing the suit to kill the tax credit scholarships. By not denouncing the suit, Charlie Crist may have alienated black voters and cost himself the election. Tampa Tribune. Both pro- and anti- school choice forces are making big contributions. Sarasota Herald Tribune.

More school choice politics? The state NAACP moves to shut down the St. Petersburg branch, headed by Rev. Manuel Sykes, who happens to be at odds with the state chapter over school choice. Tampa Bay Times.

Standardized testing. Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano says there’s too much of it. So do some teachers and parents in Brevard. Florida Today. Despite testing angst, the Lee County School District continues to roll out the new state standards. Fort Myers News Press.

Common Core. A look at how it is changing kindergarten. Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Parents. The Alachua County School District wants to see more dads involved in their kids’ education. Gainesville Sun. Continue Reading →


FL schools roundup: Charter schools, Charlie Crist, FL’s progress & more

Tax credit scholarships. Creative Loafing gives Charlie Crist’s “evolution” on tax credit scholarships some ink after the Miami Herald story about his refusal to denounce the FSBA/FEA suit to kill them.

florida-roundup-logoSchool choice. Private schools still serve the public good, writes William Mattox of the James Madison Institute, in an op-ed for Hernando Today. notes that Fund Education Now’s Kathleen Oropeza filed a motion to have the judge in the adequacy/funding/choice suit recuse herself because of Catholic ties, but doesn’t note the judge granted the request.

Charter schools. The state Board of Education is moving ahead with creation of standard contracts for charter schools. Gradebook. Things are quiet in the simmering dispute between the Hillsborough County School District and Charter Schools USA. Gradebook. Duval County School Board members raise concerns about the performance of schools serving at-risk students, including several charter schools. WJCT.

Florida’s progress. Florida gets A’s in 3 of 11 categories in a new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – in parental options, data quality and academic achievement for low-income and minority students.

School spending. StateImpact Florida writes up concerns that black-owned businesses aren’t getting their fair share of contracts from the Miami-Dade County School District.

Testing. The Alachua County superintendent offers qualified support for the kindergarten teacher who refuses to administer a standardized test for diagnostic purposes. Gainesville Sun.

Teachers. Tension continues between the Pasco district and teachers union over planning time. Tampa Bay Times.

9/11. Middle school students in Manatee learn about victim advocate dogs. Bradenton Herald.


Florida roundup: Testing, Charlie Crist, tax credit scholarships & more

Tax credit scholarships. Charlie Crist, a staunch supporter of tax credit scholarships in the past, won’t denounce the lawsuit filed by the FSBA and FEA to end the program. Miami Herald. The head of the Florida Association of School Administrators explains his support for the suit. Crestview News Bulletin (Hat tip: Gradebook).

florida-roundup-logoSchool choice. A ‘bumper crop of litigation’ threatens school choice in Florida.

Charter schools. The West Palm Beach mayor and Palm Beach County superintendent will meet to discuss a proposed city-run charter school. Palm Beach Post.

Magnet schools. The Pasco County School District will open its first in 2015, in part to ease overcrowding concerns at other schools. Gradebook.

Virtual school. Florida Virtual School snags an area superintendent from the Orange County School District to be its COO. SchoolZone.

Single-gender classrooms. Ones in the Broward County School District are among those targeted in an ACLU complaint. South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Parents. Dads march in Daytona to show support for their children’s education. Daytona Beach News Journal.

Testing. The Palm Beach County School Board opts not to opt out. South Florida Sun Sentinel. Support grows for an Alachua County kindergarten teacher who refuses to administer a standardized test used for diagnostic purposes. Gainesville Sun.

School boards. A new report looks at how much board members are paid, county by county. Gradebook. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Testing, magnet schools, big budgets & more

School choice. Add Voices for Choices to the list of school choice groups in Florida. redefinED. Duval County School District leaders propose a “Public Education Strong” marketing campaign to lure students back from charter and private schools. Florida Times Union. Sunshine State News’s Nancy Smith says women are waiting to hear what Charlie Crist’s position is on vouchers.

florida-roundup-logoMagnet schools. The Broward County School District looks for ways to improve five F-rated magnet schools. South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Charter schools. The Palm Beach County Commission approves a $20 million financing deal for a new charter school. South Florida Sun Sentinel. The St. Johns County School Board considers a couple of applications. St. Augustine Record.

Teachers unions. More about new NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, who visited South Florida last week. StateImpact Florida. Charlie Crist gets big money from the NEA. The Buzz.’

Technology. Low-income kids in the Pinellas County School District who were given laptops to take home last year outscore their peers without them. Gradebook.

Lawsuits. Members of the Bay County School Board, concerned about unfunded mandates, say they are considering joining the education funding/adequacy suit filed in 2009 by Fund Education Now and others. WJHG.

School spending. A school board member in the Manatee County School District raises concerns about the district’s request for proposal regarding the hiring of security guards for elementary schools. Bradenton Herald. (Follow-up story here.) The Pinellas County School Board approves a $1.3 billion budget. Tampa Bay Times. The Hillsborough County School Board approves a $2.9 billion budget. Tampa Bay Times. The Marion County School Board approves a $475 million budget. Ocala Star Banner. The Leon County School Board approves a $530 million budget. Tallahassee Democrat. Guest columnists ask voters in Palm Beach County to reauthorize a property tax hike for education. Palm Beach Post.

Standardized testing. Complaints about a “toxic culture of testing” surface at a Brevard County School Board meeting. Florida Today. The Lee County School Board considers searching for ways to mitigate what it says is too much high-stakes testing. Fort Myers News Press. An Alachua County kindergarten teacher refuses to give her students standardized tests that are used for diagnostic purposes, putting her job at risk. Gainesville Sun.


Ed reform, divided Dems & paths to common ground

The recent ruling in Vergara v. State of California once again highlighted growing tensions in the Democratic Party between two key constituencies: Teachers unions on the one hand; low-income, black and Hispanic families on the other.

DONKEY1aIs there a path to reconciliation? We asked folks who have thought about that a lot. Next week, we’ll run their responses.

Here’s the prompt:

In the Vergara decision, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu took a clear-eyed view of teacher employment policies that too often saddle low-income students with the least effective teachers. “The evidence is compelling,” he wrote. “Indeed, it shocks the conscience.” Yet those policies have long enjoyed full-throated support from teacher unions and their Democratic allies.

A similar rift exists over educational choice. Blacks and Hispanics are embracing charter schools, vouchers, and tax credit scholarships, which parental choice supporters see as expanding opportunity and empowerment of low-income families. But teacher unions, facing loss of market share and political power, are fighting every step of the way.

Democratic lawmakers are increasingly caught in the middle, and increasingly torn. Straddling the divide is becoming more and more difficult as more and more black and Hispanic parents benefit from charters and vouchers – and publicly raise their voices in support.

So, what’s the solution? Can Democrats continue to stiff-arm minority constituencies on ed policy without repercussion? Is there real risk in black and Hispanic voters turning to the more reform-friendly confines of the Republican Party? How long before something gives?

Should/can Democrats write off the teacher unions? Should the ed reform community more actively recruit reform-friendly Democrats for primary challenges? Or should they more aggressively push unions to modify their organizing model to better align with a public education system that is becoming more customized and decentralized?


Read the Dem Divide series below

Gloria Romero: Money leads Democrats to put teachers unions over poor kids
Ben Austin: Democratic leaders will follow parents on ed reform, eventually
Richard Whitmire: Houston & D.C. offer paths for ed reform Democrats
Joe Williams: Suburbs hold key to resolving Dem tensions over school choice
Myles Mendoza: Rahm Emanuel offers lesson for Democrats on ed reform
Rep. Marcus Brandon: African-Americans must blaze own path on school choice, ed reform
Doug Tuthill: New type of teacher union is key to relieving Democratic tensions