Florida roundup: Diploma options, magnet schools, students with disabilities & more

Graduation requirements. Gov. Rick Scott signs into law the bill that creates additional diploma options that emphasize career education. Coverage from Tampa Bay TimesOrlando Sentinel, Associated Press, News Service of Florida, Northwest Florida Daily NewsTallahassee DemocratSarasota Herald TribuneStateImpact Florida, WFSU.

florida roundup logoMagnet schools. Parents are pushing the Palm Beach County school district to expand a popular arts magnet. Palm Beach Post.

IB. Largo High in Pinellas gets official certification for its IB program. Tampa Bay Times.

Students with disabilities. StateImpact Florida writes up the bill that would give parents more power over their child’s IEP. Some experts say the Hillsborough school district is unique in not allowing parents to make an audio recording of IEP meetings, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher pay. Palm Beach County teachers and district official remain skeptical about potential raises coming from the state, reports the Palm Beach Post. Gov. Scott says he’s going to the mat for his proposal for across-the-board raises, reports the Tampa Tribune.

Teacher evals. Hernando Teacher of the Year highlights flaws in the new system. Tampa Bay Times. Continue Reading →


Education profiteers? These folks?

These folks were among those that attended the school choice rally in Tally earlier this month.

These folks were among those who attended the school choice rally in Tally earlier this month.

It’s true: ALEC likes school choice. Walton likes school choice. Jeb Bush likes school choice. Some of the folks who like school choice even say bad things about traditional public schools and teachers unions.

But this is true too: President Barack Obama is a fan of charter schools. Former President Bill Clinton is ga-ga about KIPP. Liberal lions like Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Hubert Humphrey supported public funding for private options.

More importantly, this is true: Growing numbers of parents and politicians of all stripes like school choice. Many don’t bash public schools or teachers unions. Many could care less who the Koch Brothers are.

I know this is obvious to anybody who’s managed to take a peek beneath the surface of the choice debate. But at this time of year, with state legislatures in Florida and elsewhere in session, complexity is not a common commodity. Anything having to do with school choice is sealed into a boilerplate narrative about for-profit this and right-wing that. This year in Florida, the privatization label has even surfaced in stories about student data and IEPs for students with disabilities.

It’s different in the real world. Out here, parents are flocking to new learning options for the most personal of reasons: the success of their kids. Continue Reading →


Florida roundup: Florida Virtual School, parent trigger, Common Core & more

Parent trigger. Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, writes in this Orlando Sentinel op-ed that parents should have the choice to keep their child with a teacher with a bad eval. In this Tampa Bay Times letter to the editor, Carlos Alfonso with the Foundation for Florida’s Future dispels parent trigger myths furthered by Times columnist John Romano.

florida roundup logoOnline learning. Both the House and Senate agree on a new way of calculating per-student spending that will result in an $8 million cut to virtual education, reports The Buzz. Study funding for virtual courses rather than cut it for Florida Virtual School, editorializes the Orlando Sentinel. St. Petersburg College creates a MOOC for remedial math, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Nine Hillsborough schools are experimenting with BYOD, the Times also reports. The Helios Foundation and SRI International are working to create a Center for Digital Learning in St. Petersburg, the Times also reports.

Charter schools. Parents fight the closing of the struggling Bradenton Charter School. Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Dual enrollment. Community college leaders say they may have to restrict the increasingly popular program if lawmakers don’t better fund it. Orlando Sentinel.

Common Core. The Glenn Beck-fueled notion that Common Core is a leftist plot shows “we have officially arrived at Crazytown.” Beth Kassab.

School spending. After convincing voters that the Seminole school district was in a financial bind, district leaders now aren’t sure whether they need to collect the extra tax money. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →


redefinED roundup: North Carolina’s voucher bill, Tennessee’s virtual ed cap, Mississippi’s charters & more

Texas: The State Board of Education votes to urge lawmakers to reject school vouchers - or any other mechanisms that reduce funding to public schools (Texas Tribune). Orthodox Jews, Catholics and leaders of other religious groups joined forces with private school advocates to rally for tax credit scholarships(The Yeshiva World News).

California: L.A. mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel, who wants to be the “education-reform mayor,” supports parent trigger and other reform measures (Los Angeles Times). More from the Huffington Post.

MondayRoundUp_whiteColorado: The Senate approves a bill that adds $1 million for charter school construction (Associated Press).

Washington, D.C.: Former students and faculty of Sidwell Friends, the elite private school that has educated children of presidents and members of Congress, want to open a charter school - and have Sidwell’s support (The Washington Post). A report by the Walton Family Foundation shows the District’s charter schools received about $13,000 less in per-student funding in 2011-12 than traditional public schools (Washington Examiner).

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia is the latest city to rally for school choice with more than 200 parents, educators and other charter supporters demanding district officials allow the expansion of at least 20 charter schools (NewsWorks). Also, the city’s Mayor Michael Nutter asks the governor to approve more funding  for city schools, including reimbursing districts for dollars spent on charter schools (NewsWorks).

Florida: Facing a tuition crisis, Jewish day school educators and religious leaders lobby Tallahassee for expanded school choice (Lubavitch.com). Lawmakers are trying to give district schools some of the same flexibility as charters, but still within union agreements (redefinED). This charter school almost didn’t happen – and now it’s one of the leading science schools in the state (redefinED).

Louisiana: New Orleans school officials consider an enrollment plan that, eventually, will allow some charters to hold seats for students who fit the school’s mission – like a military academy. Opponents worry it will lead to cherry-picking high-achievers (The Lens). State Rep. Katrina Jackson has proposed a bill to allow public school students to recite the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance (KATC). Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice touts Gov. Bobby Jindal’s efforts to reform Louisiana’s schools (The Times-Picayune). Continue Reading →


Too soon to gauge sweep of Indiana school voucher ruling



In 2002, in the Zelman case, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Cleveland school voucher program against a claim that the plan violates the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment to our national constitution. Simply put, the closely divided court concluded the Cleveland plan is part of a broader school choice scheme that in a number of ways gives families opportunities to select the schooling they believe is right for their children. That was understood to be the purpose and effect of the legislation and the fact that most of the vouchers were used at religious schools was beside the point. This decision shows a carefully constructed school voucher plan can survive a federal constitutional challenge.

Yet, voucher plans are still potentially illegal under state constitutional provisions that may be read by state courts to be more restrictive than the national constitution. States have very different provisions in their constitutions that voucher opponents cite in hopes of getting their state supreme courts to invalidate voucher plans. It is not possible to say what is the nationwide law on this issue because each state has its own separate constitution and because state supreme courts have in the past interpreted similar (or even identical) provisions of state constitutions in different ways.

This means that in every state where a school voucher plan is adopted there is likely to be a legal fight over its validity – as teachers’ unions, “separationists” who oppose anything they see as government aiding religion, and others who don’t like the voucher idea will go to court to try to win what they lost in the state legislature.

In March 2013, the Indiana Supreme Court, in the case of Meredith v. Pence, unanimously upheld the Indiana statewide school voucher plan against legal attacks in which opponents of the plan cited three different provisions of the Indiana state constitution. This was a big legal victory for supporters of the Indiana voucher plan, which at the time of the decision was serving about 9,000 students. Continue Reading →


Florida roundup: charter schools, student data, teachers and guns & more

Charter schools. The Pinellas school board will again consider whether to sell a vacant middle school building to a proposed charter school, reports Gradebook. A new charter school in Immokalee that will use blended learning is now enrolling students , reports the Naples Daily News.

florida roundup logoData. The Bradenton Herald editorial board: The data access bill by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, won’t compromise student privacy.

School choice. Jewish educators and leaders lobby for expanded school choice in the Capitol. Lubavitch.com.

Teacher evals. State Impact Florida: “A new study says error rates for teacher evaluations based on student test scores is “quite high,” but that the evaluations may still be more accurate than traditional measures.”

Gays and lesbians. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen files legislation to better protect gay and lesbian students from bullying, reports the Miami Herald. In support of the bill, a Leesburg eighth-grader tells reporters about being harassed, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →


The faces of school choice

Rallies tend to be choreographed political endeavors, but the video above is worth your four minutes if for no other reason than the glimpses of the parents who participated.

This school choice rally was held at the Florida Capitol on April 3, and it represents something you don’t see every day. It brought more than 1,000 students, parents and activists together to celebrate the full spectrum of school choice – from magnet schools to career academies to charter schools to online courses to tax credit scholarships for low-income students and vouchers for students with learning disabilities.

Forget the attendance numbers, which incidentally were stronger than any of the PTA-type parent rallies in recent years, and look instead at the faces. They are remarkably diverse, racially and economically, and some of them traveled all night and missed work to be there. They brought with them their passion and their belief that the school they chose is working for their children. And they are hardly alone. In Florida last year, 1.5 million of the students in PreK-12 – or 43 percent – attended something other than their assigned neighborhood school, and this kind of event is a reminder that parents are choosing their schools in ways that also change the politics of public education.

No one should read too much into a political rally, but, at a time when the more traditional parent associations continue to fight many of the learning options these parents consider essential to their children’s future, there is something poignant here. Many of these parents have felt disenfranchised in the past, and their magnet choice or charter school or scholarship has given them a sense of educational ownership. To see them fight to keep these school choice options is uplifting, and not because it reflects one political ideology or another. It means they believe in their child’s education, and that has to accrue to their child’s benefit.


Florida roundup: parent power, Common Core, Rick Scott & more

Parent power. Florida gets high marks from the Center for Education Reform. Jacksonville Business Journal.

florida roundup logoCommon Core. Andy Ford’s take on Common Core. StateImpact Florida.

Teacher evaluations. Don’t shield the data from public scrutiny. Florida Times Union.

Rick Scott. Talks with superintendents about teacher pay, teacher evals, Common Core – and gets kind words from Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee. Coverage from The Buzz, News Service of Florida, Tallahassee Democrat.

School reform. Pinellas Superintendent Mike Grego is taking a more thoughtful approach to struggling schools than the state has, writes Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano.

Career education. It’s good the Legislature is expanding opportunities here, writes Tampa Tribune columnist Joe Henderson. Continue Reading →