Florida schools roundup: Retention and H.B. 7069 suits, DeVos visit and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Retention lawsuit: Parents who launched a legal challenge against the state’s policies on 3rd-grade retention are now asking a court to dismiss the case. They had challenged the policy that required students to take the Florida Standards Assessments reading test to be eligible for promotion, regardless of their academic performance. But they lost that case, and an appeal for the Florida Supreme Court to consider it, largely on the question of venue. The state contended the suits should have been filed in local courts. Gradebook.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: Leon County school officials won’t ask the school board to join the lawsuit challenging the state’s new education law, H.B. 7069. The Florida Association of District School Superintendents also says it will not join the suit, saying those decisions are for local school boards. Eleven school boards have voted to join the suing coalition. They say the new law is unconstitutional because the bill covers more than one subject, and it forces districts to share tax money with charter schools while stripping those districts of authority over charters. WFSU.

DeVos visit: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tours a private religious school and a charter school during a stop in Tallahassee, and touted the schools as “examples of what schools should aspire to be.” Her trip extends into today, when she will visit another private religious school. News Service of Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. Miami HeraldUSA TodaySunshine State News. WFSU. Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna is critical of DeVos’ trip, saying “it’s insulting that she’s going to visit the capital of the state of Florida, to visit a charter school, a private school and a voucher school.” Tallahassee Democrat. DeVos gave no indication during her trip if the U.S. Department of Education would be receptive to Florida’s request for a waiver from requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Politico Florida.

District spending: An updated budget plan for the Hillsborough County School District calls for saving $130 million by phasing out 2,000 jobs over the next two years. The district has shed 1,500 jobs in the past year. Payroll accounts for 86 percent of the district’s budget, says Superintendent Jeff Eakins, while comparably-sized districts spend 76-80 percent of their budgets on salaries and benefits. Tampa Bay Times.

Class sizes: Pinellas County school officials will use schoolwide averages instead of class-by-class counts to meet the requirements of the state’s class-size amendment. The cap is 18 for pre-K through 3rd grade, 22 for 4th-8th and 25 for high schools. Gradebook.

After-school programs: The city of Jacksonville is now paying for after-school programs at three KIPP charter schools. The city is sending KIPP $1,600 per student to help pay for extended-day learning. Before this year, most funding for after-school programs went to traditional providers, such as Communities in Schools of Jacksonville, Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida and Wayman Community Development Corp. Florida Times-Union.

School closures: A Stanford University study of charter and traditional public school closures in Florida shows that about half the students who relocate land in better schools, but 10 to 20 percent move to schools that are even lower performing than the ones that were closed. And the academic performance of those students suffers significantly. “The report’s finding that closing a school leaves half of students worse off — only because they lack a quality option — should inspire us to do more to open good, new schools,” says Greg Richmond of the National Association of Charter School Organizers. redefinED. Chalkbeat.

Immigrant students: Broward County students are getting new lessons on culture, diversity and immigration as school officials while administrators assure parents of immigrant students that they will be safe and protected in schools. President Trump is expected to decide soon whether to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. “Regardless of whatever decision the government makes, we are committed to our students and the continuation of their education and we will work with every student and their family to make sure that happens,” says Dan Gohl, chief academic officer. Sun-Sentinel.

Name removed: The Alachua County School District removes the name of its administration building from its sign. The building was the Kirby Smith Center, named after Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. It is now called the Alachua County Public Schools District Office. Gainesville Sun.

Tax credit scholarships: Insurance companies have given $61.2 million this year to the state’s tax credit scholarship program. That’s enough to help about 9,380 low-income and working-class students attend private schools. Corporations that donate to the program receive dollar-for-dollar credits on their state tax bills. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarship program. Capitolist.

Teacher evaluations: Pasco County school officials and teachers reach an agreement on teacher evaluations. Two structured classroom observations will be replaced a series of less formal visits. That accounts for 65 percent of the evaluations. The other 35 percent is based on student performance. Gradebook.

School resource officers: When the state cut funds for school resource officers, the Calhoun County School Board searched for other ways to fund officers for two schools. The Blountstown City Council agreed to pick up the tab for one year for one school, and $45,000 will be taken from the school board member fund to place an officer in the second school. WJHG.

Death of a student: Zachary Sealey is identified as the student who died Monday between classes at DeLaura Middle School in Satellite Beach. There’s still no cause of death known for the 7th-grader. Psychologists are at the school to provide counseling. Florida Today.

Board member fined: Manatee County School Board member Dave Miner is fined $300 by the Florida Elections Commission for certifying a treasurer’s incorrect campaign financing report to the state. Bradenton Herald.

Ex-teacher sentenced: A former media teacher at Southwest Middle School in Bartow is sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl on campus in 2014. Michael Taveras, 31, apologized to the girl in court. Lakeland Ledger.

Recruiting violations: Former East Ridge High School football coach Ashour Peera violated state rules by recruiting, according to an investigation by the Lake County School District. Peera resigned Aug. 16 after allegations of improper contact and recruiting were revealed. Daily Commercial.

Opinions on schools: More districts, or perhaps the state, will have to start incentive programs to reverse the decline in the number of math teachers needed to prepare students for our technological economy. Paul Cottle, Tallahassee Democrat. Why should we penalize students who succeed in our schools, follow our rules, and exemplify American values, just because their parents chose to come to our country illegally? Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, Miami Herald. Tens of thousands of DREAMers are realizing they are political pawns to be used where they can have the most political benefit. Sun-Sentinel. Putting a statue of educator Mary McCleod Bethune in the U.S. Capitol would break a shameful barrier in a Capitol collection of mostly white men. Palm Beach Post. The Brevard County School District’s software deal with EDR was bad from the beginning, and it got worse after that. At times, the actions of district staff could only be described as bumbling. The lack of oversight by the school board was slipshod and irresponsible. Bob Gabordi, Florida Today.

Student enrichment: Collier County high school students pass the Cambridge Advanced International Certification Examination at a higher rate than Florida and U.S. students. Naples Daily News. Students in Jennifer Cloutier’s 2nd-grade class at Wellington Elementary School answer questions into a wireless, throwable microphone, then toss it to the next student. Palm Beach Post. Savannah Steele, a 15-year-old homeless student at the AMIKids Panama City Marine Institute, starts a food pantry at the school by raising $800 in 48 hours. Panama City News Herald. Eight Hillsborough County schools are starting food pantries. Gradebook.

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