State Rep. helps students choose a path to a better future

Students from Allapattah Flats K-8 in St. Lucie attend the capital to meet with their representative, Rep. Larry Lee, D-Port St. Lucie, and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

Michael Ferreira gravitated toward Rep. Larry Lee’s story.

The fact that Lee failed the first grade and overcome obstacles to go on to college, the NFL, the insurance business and the Florida House intrigued him.

“I was not always the model student,” Lee, D-Port St. Lucie, recalled. “I never had any serious disciplinary problems, but I did have academic challenges.”

Lee asked students at Allapattah Flats K-8, including Michael, to participate in a program he created called Journey to Success. The goal: Help them overcome the barriers that trauma and poverty had placed in their paths.

Michael jumped at the chance. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Arming teachers, school cop’s failure and more

Arming teachers: Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, says he supports the idea of arming teachers. His endorsement likely means it will be included in the package of proposed gun-related bills being announced today by the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott. Tampa Bay Times. Sun-Sentinel. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. News Service of Florida. The idea of teachers with guns has some support among politicians, but most educators don’t like it. Tampa Bay Times. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-Union. Associated Press. WEAR. The National Association of School Resource Officers also opposes the idea of arming teachers, noting in a statement that it “strongly recommends that no firearms be on a school campus except those carried by carefully selected, specially trained school resource officers.” Gradebook. President Donald Trump, who likes the idea of arming select teachers and school staff, slams Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart for suggesting more active shooter drills should be considered. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. New York Times.

School cop resigns: The school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School never entered the building last week to confront the shooter, says Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. The officer, Scot Peterson, rushed to the building when he heard the gunfire but waited outside for four minutes. Israel says Peterson should have “went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.” Peterson, 54, resigned Thursday after he was suspended without pay. Four years ago, Peterson was named school resource officer of the year in Parkland. Sun-SentinelMiami Herald. USA Today. Associated Press. Law enforcement officials were warned repeatedly that alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz was dangerous and a possible school shooter. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, says a special investigative committee will look into the botched response to the shooting, and it could be chaired by a parent of one of the slain students. Politico Florida.

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Special needs scholarships would take priority in revised Fla. House tax plan


A proposal to boost funding for two Florida private school choice programs is ready for the state House floor after winning approval from the Appropriations Committee.

Changes approved today would make special needs scholarships a priority.

Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, is sponsoring HB 7087. The wide-ranging tax plan would offer up to $154 million to support the Florida Tax Credit and Gardiner Scholarship programs.

In a setup similar to Enterprise Zone job credits, businesses could contribute to scholarship funding organizations, including Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog. In return, they would receive a full credit for sales taxes they collect.

Renner revised the bill to require scholarship organizations to first use proceeds from the new program to fund Gardiner Scholarships, which provide education savings accounts to children with special needs.

This school year, the Gardiner Scholarship program exhausted all of its available funding. There are now approximately 1,300 students on Step Up For Students’ wait list for the program. Another 3,700 parents have expressed interest.

The program is funded through a line item in the state budget. Right now, the House and Senate spending plans for next year would keep funding at this year’s levels, with just over $100 million for scholarships, more than $60 million below the projected need. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Marches, meetings, walkouts, a return and more

Students march: Survivors of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Valentine’s Day lead a march of thousands to the state Capitol, then meet with state lawmakers to call for a ban on assault-style weapons. They say the response from legislators was discouraging, but they vow to continue to fight. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. Miami Herald. Palm Beach PostPolitico Florida. Gatehouse Media. Tallahassee Democrat. News Service of Florida. The 74. More than 40 survivors of the Parkland, Columbine and Sandy Hook school shootings and parents plead with President Donald Trump to make students safe during a meeting Wednesday. “How many children have to get shot?” asked Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed in Parkland. Trump vowed to bolster background checks and mental health screenings, and supported the idea of allowing teachers and staff to carry guns at schools. Associated Press. New York Times. Education WeekPolitico Florida. Why arming teachers is highly unlikely to happen. Politico Florida. Parkland students have raised $3.5 million to finance a national gun-control movement. Miami Herald. Sun-Sentinel. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is jeered at a town hall meeting held by CNN. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. High school students around Florida walk out of classes and take part in marches Wednesday as a show of support for Douglas High students. Sun-SentinelSun-SentinelMiami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach PostGradebook. WFTV. Fort Myers News-Press. WFTX. WESH. Florida Today. TCPalm. Naples Daily News. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Key West Citizen. Associated Press.

Returning to Douglas: Broward County school officials detail the plan to reintroduce students to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Counselors and an added police presence will greet the students when they return Tuesday for a half-day of classes. Sunday, the school will hold a “voluntary campus orientation” with a variety of support services available. Miami Herald.

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Florida House approves home education legislation

Rep. Jennifer Sullivan

The House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation Thursday that would limit requirements school districts place on homeschoolers.

Rep. Jennifer Sullivan’s bill,  HB 731 , would also increase homeschoolers’ access to dual enrollment and career education courses.

In an amendment filed this week, Florida would no longer require homeschool students to provide their own textbooks when they take college courses through dual enrollment. The bill would also prevent colleges from charging private schools for each dual enrollment course their students take.

The bill comes in response to concerns among parents that districts add hurdles for homeschool registration. That contributed to a decline in homeschooling numbers in some school districts, even though statistics show its popularity is growing statewide.

Florida law requires homeschoolers to register with their local school districts. They have to send a signed notice of intent to the school district office with the students’ names, birthdates and addresses. The bill would bar districts from requiring other information from parents. It would also clarify that a home education program is not a school district program.

In previous years the Legislature considered similar bills. But they have stalled in the Senate, where Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, filed a measure this year. Baxley’s bill awaits a hearing by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The dual enrollment provisions have also gotten a bigger push this year. A separate bill by Baxley, also awaiting a hearing in Senate Appropriations, would address them.


Florida (still) an Advanced Placement course leader

Florida ranks no. 4 in the country for its percentage of high school students who have scored 3 or higher on at least one AP exam. Source: College Board.

Florida remains a leader in pushing high school students toward college credit.

The Sunshine State keeps its no. 4 ranking in the latest report on Advanced Placement courses from the College Board. Only Maryland, Connecticut and Massachusetts had a larger percentage of students pass at least one AP course. And only Massachusetts has made faster improvements over the last 10 years.  Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Education bill, gun politics, school safety and more

Education bill: The Senate Education Committee unanimously approves a major rewrite of the House’s omnibus education bill, H.B. 7055. The Senate version would put armed law enforcement officers at every school in the state, make state scholarships available to bullied students with substantiated claims, boost oversight of private school choice programs, require charter schools to return facilities to districts if they close, and create a comprehensive mental health program for schools, among other things. It also removes the provision that would decertify teachers unions if membership falls below half of the members represented. The revised bill now moves on to the Senate Appropriations Committee. redefinED. Associated Press. Gradebook. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida.

Parkland and politics: The Florida House overwhelmingly rejects a proposal to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines as about 100 students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School look on. The vote was 71-36 against H.B. 219, Students say the shootings have changed them, and vow to continue fighting for school safety. Miami Herald. Sun-SentinelPalm Beach Post. Politico Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. After meetings with superintendents and law enforcement officials, Gov. Rick Scott says he will have a plan of action in response to the shootings in Parkland to take to legislators by Friday. “We have two weeks left in session at that point, and my goal is to get something accomplished,” says Scott. Politico Florida. WKMG. News Service of FloridaFlorida Politics. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A Senate hearing on a bill that would allow designated people to carry concealed weapons at schools is postponed Tuesday. Miami Herald. President Donald Trump calls on the Justice Department to ban all devices like bump stocks, an attachment that can turn a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic one. Associated Press. New York Times. The Broward County Charter Review Commission says it will consider giving voters the chance to decide what guns should be permitted in the county. Sun-Sentinel. Pinellas County School Board member Linda Lerner wants the board to officially support a ban on assault weapons. Gradebook. Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna is criticized by the chairman of the county’s Republican Party for giving excused absences to students who wanted to join a rally at the Capitol. Tallahassee Democrat.

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Fla. Senate panel approves major education rewrite

After some convoluted procedural maneuvers, a Florida Senate panel approved its version of the biggest education measure of this year’s legislative session.

But the debate over House bill 7055, and efforts to revise it, is far from over.

The Senate Education Committee unanimously backed a rewrite of the legislation proposed by Chairwoman Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange.

The committee also approved new changes, including, most consequentially, amendments by Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, to remove contentious collective-bargaining changes vehemently opposed by teachers unions and beef up school security in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in Broward County. Continue Reading →