Florida roundup: Charter schools, uniforms, taxes and more

florida-roundup-logoCharter schools. Charter school growth means fewer teachers are employed by the school district. Miami Herald.

Home education. Duval is one of the districts driving the growth of home schooling around the state. Florida Times-Union. Home schooling is on the rise in Collier County. Naples Daily News.

Private schools. A new Winter Haven academy aims to help students with emotional challenges. Winter Haven News-Chief.

Budgets. Broward school taxes are expected to decrease. Sun-Sentinel. Finances improve for the Santa Rosa school district. Pensacola News-Journal. Volusia schools are expected to propose their spending plan today. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Enrollment and property values rise in Manatee. Bradenton Herald.

Digital learning. Districts start to replace paper textbooks. TC Palm.

Labels. Black students are more likely to be labeled disruptive, or designated as having emotional or social issues. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Race. The NAACP continue to weigh legal action in a district where students faced harassment. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Superintendents. Palm Beach’s new superintendent says students and parents want more customization. Palm Beach Post. Brevard’s new leader plans community meetings. Florida Today. Collier’s chief says changes to the state’s accountability system are one of the biggest challenges facing her district, and more in an interview with the Fort Myers News-Press.

Boarding school. A Christian boarding school for troubled teens changes its approach to discipline, and looks to change its image. Panama City News Herald.

Uniforms. Many schools and districts aren’t eager to embrace school uniform policies. Tampa Bay Times.

CAPE. Monroe schools consider expanding a program that pays students who earn computer certifications. Keynoter.

Philanthropy. Foundations help meet needs in Central Florida’s school system. Orlando Sentinel.

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This week in school choice: A public purpose

Do private school choice programs serve a broader public good?

Opponents of a North Carolina school voucher program argued they do not – at least not as required by the state constitution.

But that was one of five constitutional claims rejected by the North Carolina Supreme Court this week, as justices voted 4-3 to uphold the program. In a key passage from the ruling, the majority outlined how private schools help serve a “public purpose.”

The promotion of education generally, and educational opportunity in particular, is of paramount public importance to our state. Indeed, borrowing language from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, our constitution preserves the ethic of educational opportunity, declaring that “[r]eligion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools, libraries, and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” … Although the scholarships at issue here are available only to families of modest means, and therefore inure to the benefit of the eligible students in the first instance, and to the designated nonpublic schools in the second, the ultimate beneficiary of providing these children additional educational opportunities is our collective citizenry… Accordingly, the appropriations made by the General Assembly for the Opportunity Scholarship Program were for a public purpose …

In other words, while private school choice programs might help individual students attend non-public schools, they also serve the societal goal of helping to educate the public. This is an idea at the center of the new definition of public education.

Meanwhile … Continue Reading →


Mr. Gibbons’ Report Card: Vouchers for the win in NC

Mr. Gibbons' Report CardNorth Carolina Supreme Court

Two separate groups filed suit to stop North Carolina’s voucher program, but the North Carolina Supreme court ruled 4-3 Thursday in both Hart v. North Carolina and Richardson v. North Carolina that the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program is constitutional.

The Court rejected all five of the plaintiffs’ claims, including a claim alleging that vouchers create an unconstitutional “non-uniform” system of education, an argument similar to the one that brought down a Florida voucher program nearly a decade ago.  The North Carolina court found the state school fund was created to “preserve and support the public school system, not to limit the State’s ability to spend on education generally.”

The program is limited to students in households earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level and provides vouchers worth $4,200 for students to attend private schools. More than 2,000 students had been in limbo waiting to hear news of whether they would be able to enroll in private schools using the scholarships. The wait is over, and just in time. School is about to start

Grade: Satisfactory

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More lessons from New Orleans

New Orleans’ pioneering approach to charter schools is interesting enough, but an underrated aspect of that city’s educational transformation is the culture that has taken hold around it. Many of the education reformers working there take well-founded criticisms to heart, look for ways they can do better, and think seriously about what the future holds.

It’s an approach to reform that doesn’t exist in every community, and it’s visible in a recent blog series on New Orleans, hosted by the Center on Reinventing Public Education. Here are a few highlights.

Sarah Newell Usdin identifies the system’s biggest weakness.

Right now, the demographics of people involved with public education aren’t diverse enough to be truly public in my mind. We need to have much more vested interest from all different types of people in the public school system. And so we’ve got to figure out how to do a better job of having all the public own public education, even if they don’t choose to send their child to a public school, even if they don’t have a kid to send to school. I do think there’s way more engagement now than there was in the past, but I don’t know if it’s broad enough or deep enough to be sustaining.

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Florida roundup: Growth, community schools, safety and more

florida-roundup-logoGrowth. Charter schools absorb much of the student enrollment growth in Palm Beach County. Palm Beach Post.

Community schools. Community schools can benefit children in poverty, Florida Education Association President Andy Ford writes in Context Florida.

Literacy. United Way backs efforts to get students reading on grade level. Bradenton Herald.

Teacher evaluations. The state Board of Education sets new rules. StateImpact. Gradebook. Leon County scales back the use of test scores. Tallahassee Democrat.

Budgets. Manatee’s district budget is expected to grow. Bradenton Herald.

Facilities. Leon County Schools begin construction projects. Tallahassee Democrat.

Safety. A mom reportedly threatened a fifth-grader with a knife after he got in a playground argument with her daughter. Sun-Sentinel.

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Throwback Thursday: Home schooling’s quest for acceptance

There’s a reason school district policies requiring home school parents to show proof of gaurdianship, or more details about their reading materials, or other information that isn’t required by state law can draw dozens of parents to school board meetings.

It’s worth recalling the history recounted in this 1997 article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, which looked back at what was then 12 years of home schooling in the state.

Not long ago, home schooling was practiced on the fringes of the educational world, in secret, in defiance. Until 1985, home schooling had no legal status in Florida. Those few parents who were determined to do it could operate a “private” school, or just keep quiet and hope their neighbors didn’t turn them in to the truant officer.

“It was drastic, I can tell you,” said Jeannie Hochstettler of West Palm Beach, one of Palm Beach County’s pioneer home-schoolers. “We were fearful of authority. You never knew who would call you in. We never let our children outside before 2 p.m. because people would say, “Why are your kids not in school?”’

Twelve years later, the article noted, home education was becoming more accepted.

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Florida roundup: Charter schools, turnarounds, discipline and more

florida-roundup-logoCharter schools. School Finance 101 zooms in on Florida while analyzing who runs charter schools around the country.

Summer. Pasco schools hand out meals and books to children in need. Tampa Bay Times.

Facilities. Palm Beach schools might pursue a tax referendum for needed revenue. Sun Sentinel.

Turnaround. Jacksonville school turnaround plans take time. Florida Times-Union.

Discipline. South Florida school leaders head to a White House summit. StateImpact. Continue Reading →


Home school parents fend off rule changes in Alachua County

Proposed home education rules in Alachua County caused a stir among local families and home school advocates around the state and beyond.

But district leaders withdrew the proposed policy changes after dozens of parents packed a school board meeting Tuesday night. Among other things, they argued the district did not have the authority to require them to submit documents beyond those required in state law.



After hearing from parents and other home school supporters for more than an hour, Owen Roberts, the district superintendent, pledged to rework the policy changes before bringing them to the board for a vote. As the Gainesville Sun reported this morning, he also apologized for district officials whose treatment of home-school parents drew complaints.

Local parents objected to the wording of the proposed rules, which used the word “request” to describe a parent’s notice of intent to start a home education program (which they said implied the district might deny one). The proposal would also have required new home-school parents to submit documents proving their residence and guardianship of their children, which state law does not require. Continue Reading →