Florida schools roundup: teacher pay, charter schools, school spending & more

Teacher pay. Gov. Rick Scott embarks on his Teacher Pay Raise Pep Rally Tour. Coverage from the South Florida Sun SentinelPalm Beach PostFlorida Times UnionAssociated PressStateImpact Florida. Teachers are “fed up with being used as political pawns,” says Pinellas teachers union president Kim Black in this Steve Bousquet piece.

florida roundup logoCharter schools. Gradebook pulls up some stats before today’s discussion about charter schools at the Pasco County School Board. An amendment to the charter school bill makes it easier for charter schools to fire teachers, Gradebook also reports.

School security. The elementary school principals in Hillsborough who have armed guards in their schools like them. Tampa Bay Times.

School discipline. Hillsborough needs to follow up on conversations to address high suspension rates for black males. Tampa Bay Times.

School spending. Freeze in financially troubled Manatee. Bradenton Herald. Continue Reading →

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Florida private schools on verge of getting safety alerts like public schools

Florida private schools will get safety alerts just like their public school counterparts, under a bill passed by the Legislature last week and expected to be signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

Passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, the bill requires police departments and other emergency response agencies to notify private schools about major incidents like bomb threats and SWAT team raids, as long as the schools opt into a notification program. The Florida Catholic Conference led the charge for the legislation, which, though non-controversial, had fallen short of passage in recent years.

“The bill’s passage was a banner day for us,” James Herzog, the conference’s associate director for education, wrote in an email. “We had advocated for it during the past three sessions and even made it our spotlight education bill during the past two ‘Catholic Days at the Capitol.’ It was an example of how even a good and simple idea requires careful advocacy and perseverance by supporters to make it to the ‘finish line’ … ”

This year’s bill was buoyed by a focus on school safety in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Conn.  It was sponsored by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, and Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud.

There are more than 2,000 private schools in Florida, with total enrollment last year of 316,745. More background on the bill here.

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Democrats should be leading charge for school choice

Rep. Morgan

Rep. Morgan

Say school choice and some Democrats say profits, privatization, Republican plot.

Democrat Alisha Thomas Morgan says equal opportunity.

“We’ve got to put policies in place to ensure that how much my parents make or the neighborhood I live in does not determine the quality of education,” Morgan, a state representative in Georgia, says in the redefinED podcast attached below. “And so I think in terms of leveling the playing field, in terms of equal access, in terms of equality. To me, these are very much Democratic values and why I support school choice.”podcastED logo

Morgan is among a new breed of Democrats, many of them younger, many of them minority, who are embracing school choice despite the strains it can put on their relationships with fellow Dems and longtime allies. First elected in 2002 – at the age of 23 – Morgan, a Miami native, said she underwent her own evolution on school choice in part because conversations with parents led her to recognize “a lot of my opposition was really political.”

Now she’s a rising national star in school choice and ed reform circles, a Democrat who hasn’t been afraid to step out front on charter schools and tax credit scholarships in her home state and politely encourage other Democrats to live up to their core principles. “Education is not a Democrat or Republican issue; it’s a kids’ issue,” she said. “But I do think that Democrats should provide leadership here, and not be sort of dragged along as these reforms happen across the country.”

That’s not to say Morgan doesn’t empathize. It can be lonely as a pro-school-choice Democrat, she said. And it can be tough convincing other Democrats when their positions are at odds with Republicans on so many other issues. “What I’ve learned to do is to separate that we agree on this set of issues and these things we can work together; the other things, I’m going to fight you, just like the other Democrats do,” she said. “But I don’t think some of my friends on the Democratic side have been able to make that separation.”

In the interview, Morgan also said:

The privatization argument doesn’t make a lot of sense. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: turnarounds, teacher conduct, legislative wrap-ups & more

School turnarounds. Tampa Bay Times education editor Tom Tobin offers his take on what it takes: “a long, slow slog that requires principals and teachers to keep on task, stay inspired and fight through times when things don’t seem to be working.” The Times also offers a statistical snapshot of the five Pinellas schools on the turnaround list.florida roundup logo

Legislature. Fund Education Now co-founder Christine Bramuchi offers her take on what happened in this year’s session in a Q&A with the Orlando Sentinel. John Romano does here. The Palm Beach Post does here. Orlando Sentinel rundown here. Tallahassee Democrat here. Times/Herald here.

Florida’s progress. Accountability through school grades has made a positive difference, writes Matt Ladner at Jay P. Greene Blog.

Teachers unions. The Florida Education Association has been operating without its tax-exempt status since January. Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

Teacher pay. The Broward County School Board agrees to give extra money to high-performing teachers at low-performing schools. Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel.

Teacher conduct.  A Broward County band teacher is accused of marijuana-fueled, sexual trysts with a student, reports the South Florida Sun Sentinel. In another teacher conduct case, the Palm Beach Post has the latest on a former private school teacher accused of giving students candy in return for sex acts.

Parent trigger. StateImpact Florida does a Storify on the post-trigger battle over #parentempowerment. Margo Pope from Florida Voices: “Parents already have options in state law that empower them. They don’t need another law. They need to know how to use what is already on the books.” Continue Reading →

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redefinED roundup: Parent trigger in Florida, vouchers in Louisiana and Wisconsin, charter schools in D.C. and more

Florida: Parent trigger fails again in the Senate with a 20-20 vote (Orlando Sentinel). Insiders say Gov. Rick Scott influenced some legislators to vote down the parent trigger bill (Sunshine State News). More from The Buzz. Florida Virtual School leaders say a funding shift that takes affect this summer already is having a negative impact on the program (redefinED). U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio visits Tampa and shares his plan for federal tax credit scholarships (redefinED). As private school enrollment declines, some operators are going charter (redefinED).

MondayRoundUp_yellaLouisiana: The state’s voucher program will grow by at least 3,000 more students next school year, bringing the total enrollment to nearly 8,000 (The Times-Picayune).

Connecticut: Gov. Dannel Malloy leads a rally of about 150 students, parents and teachers to protect education budget cuts (The Day). A House bill allows low-performing school districts with charter schools to count their test scores in exchange for support (The CT Mirror).

Washington, D.C.: About 22,000 students are on a wait list for public charter schools (Washington Examiner). Charter advocates ask district officials for uniform per-student funding (The Washington Post).

Arizona: The state is one of the nation’s leaders for school choice, ranking sixth in a report by the Center for Education Reform (The Arizona Republic).

Texas: The House approved a measure that will allow 10 new charter school operators in two years, with 10 additional charters each year up to a maximum of 275 (The Dallas Morning News). Continue Reading →

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Florida charter schools set to receive $91 million for construction

It’s not everything they asked for, but charter school advocates anticipate getting $91 million in state funding next fiscal year for construction and maintenance projects.

House and Senate leaders agreed to the one-time allocation earlier this week and are expected to pass the measure before they vote on the new state budget by Friday – the final day of the legislative session.

The move marks a $36 million increase in funding for charter schools and comes close to the $100 million proposed earlier this year by the Florida House and Gov. Rick Scott, who still has to sign off on the budget.

Ralph Arza

Ralph Arza

“This funding is driven by the demand of the consumer,” said Ralph Arza, a former state legislator who lobbies for the Florida Charter School Alliance.

With more than 203,000 students enrolled in 579 Florida charter schools, parents are making their choice – and that’s creating a need for more charter funding, Arza said. But it’s not a one-time need.

“It’s an every-year need,’’ said Arza, who, along with other charter advocates in Florida, will continue to push for recurring funding in the state budget to help charters with capital outlay projects.

Charter schools are public schools that receive state money, but they operate independently from the districts. That means charters have separate school boards, and can pick their curriculum and teachers. But they can’t levy taxes, like their traditional counterparts, to pay for buildings and facility needs.

Arza called lawmakers “bold and courageous’’ for recognizing the need for more charter school dollars.

Robert Haag, president of the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools, also praised the move. “We are proud of our Legislators believing in us,’’ he said.

The construction funding follows more good news: charter school teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, principals and other administrators are among the Florida public school workers eligible for the $480 million in raises called for in the 2013-14 budget.

The extra dollars mean at least $2,000 for teachers and other school personnel and as much as $3,500 for instructors rated “highly-effective.’’

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Let’s try a little less finger pointing

finger pointingHaving spent the better part of a quarter-century writing editorials and commentaries for a major metropolitan newspaper, I have wagged my finger with the best of them and spied more than my share of blood on the hands of shameless lawmakers. So I read New York Times columnist David Brooks routinely not only as a form of therapy but inspiration. His column on Tuesday, “Engaged or Detached,” is a wonderfully calibrated look at why the finger pointers teach us far too little.

“The detached writer wants to be a few steps away from the partisans,” Brooks writes. “She is progressive but not Democratic, conservative but not Republican. She fears the team mentality will blinker her views. She wants to remain mentally independent because she sees politics as a competition between partial truths, and she wants the liberty to find the proper balance between them, issue by issue. The detached writer believes that writing is more like teaching than activism. … She sometimes gets passionate about her views, but she distrusts her passions. She takes notes with emotion, but aims to write with a regulated sobriety.”

There is a role for “engaged” writers who fire up the troops, but Brooks’ “detached” writer is the model that should motivate those of us who want to make a difference in the educational arena. Neither I nor this blog, redefinED, always measure up to that intellectual test. But it is something to which we aspire, and I can only hope that my former colleagues in journalism would as well.

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