Education lawsuit dismissed: A nearly 10-year-old lawsuit alleging that the state has failed to live up to its constitutional duty to fund a “high quality” K-12 public education system has been dismissed by the Florida Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision. The court majority upheld a lower court ruling that the phrase “high quality education” is not defined in the constitution, and what it does mean is a political question, not a judicial one. The court “lacks the institutional competence — or the constitutional authority — to make the monumental funding and policy decisions that the petitioners (the plaintiffs) and the dissenters seek to shift to the judicial branch. And there is not a hint of any manageable judicial standards to apply in making those decisions,” wrote Chief Justice Charles Canady. The group Citizens for Strong Schools filed the suit in 2009 and lost at the circuit court and appeals court levels. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Phoenix. Politico Florida.
Choices for Florida BOE: Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow died in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, is one of two people appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the Florida Board of Education. The other is Thomas Grady, a Naples lawyer and former state representative. Both will serve until Dec. 31, 2022. They were among 76 appointments Scott made last week on his way out of office. Sun Sentinel. Associated Press. Gradebook. Politico Florida.
School shooting aftermath: Leon County school officials say they will not have teachers with guns in schools, despite the Parkland safety commission’s recommendation that districts consider arming some teachers. “It’s our firm belief that if you’re going to carry a weapon on our campus, you’re going to be a sworn officer of the law,” says Superintendent Rocky Hanna. Tallahassee Democrat. Therapists convene to start preparing students, teachers and parents for the anniversary of the Stoneman Douglas High shooting. Associated Press. Palm Beach Post. Another father of a student killed during the shooting criticizes sheriffs Bob Gualtieri and Grady Judd for going on NRA TV to promote the state safety panel’s recommendation to arm some teachers in schools. Miami Herald. References to mental health services for students are brief in the panel’s report, with members saying they will address those in another report next January. WLRN. Volusia County school resource officers will be replaced by guardians at some middle schools with little crime and low referral rates. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Education and Legislature: The Florida Legislature’s education committees meet in Tallahassee this week to discuss school safety, scholarship programs, early education and more. The 60-day legislative session begins March 5. Gradebook.
Grad rates vs. test scores: Test scores for Palm Beach County and Florida high school students have barely budged in the past four years, but high school graduation rates have soared. What explains the seeming discrepancy? Some educators point to the alternative ways students are provided to graduate if they can’t pass the required state tests. Palm Beach Post.
DOE layoffs: Twenty Florida Department of Education employees are being laid off at the end of the month because of budget cuts, according to DOE officials. All those affected worked in the Office of Student Financial Assistance, which guaranteed private student loans made through the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL.
Virtual school documents: The Florida Virtual School releases more than 300 pages of documents detailing how former school attorney Frank Kruppenbacher mixed school business with his role as chairman of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority and his personal life. The release came just before FLVS asked a court to determine what records should be released in the investigation of misconduct by Kruppenbacher. A newspaper is suing FLVS for records, and Kruppenbacher has threatened to sue FLVS if it releases records. Orlando Sentinel.
Superintendent decision delayed: The Manatee County School Board is delaying its decision on making Cynthia Saunders the district superintendent. Board member Scott Hopes will miss Tuesday’s meeting, so the planned discussion on Saunders’ status is being delayed at least until the Jan. 22 meeting. Saunders seemed to be a shoo-in for the promotion until the state Department of Education accused her last week of fraudulently inflating the district’s graduation rates when she was an assistant superintendent. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
A district’s obstacles: The Volusia County School District has ambitions to turn its B district grade into an A one to join seven other large districts at that level. But there are a lot of hurdles in the way. Volusia is poorer than nearly all those districts, has the lowest average teacher salary and experience, the highest rate of chronic absenteeism among students and is penalized by the state’s funding formula. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Unlike the seven top-rated large school districts in the state, Volusia County’s does not use reading or math textbooks in elementary schools, a decision made six years ago that many officials and teachers now regret. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Rezoning considered: Rezoning to alleviate overcrowding at some Marion County schools is under consideration by the school board, which has put off redoing school boundaries for about a decade in part because of the disruption to students and families. Ocala Star-Banner.
New school location: Collier County School Board members may decide as early as Tuesday on a location for a new high school in the northern part of the county. The school would provide relief for overcrowding at Gulf Coast High School, which is about 600 students over capacity and would be 900 over by the time the new school opens in 2023. Naples Daily News.
Special education focus: A decade ago, Lisa Miller was discouraged by the answers she got from Polk County school officials when she asked about services for special needs students like her son. Now Miller, 42, is a newly elected member of the school board and in a position to focus some attention on how the district educates special needs students. Lakeland Ledger.
District’s year of scandal: A scandal that started with a teacher abusing a child enveloped the Okaloosa County School District in 2018. Northwest Florida Daily News.
Graduation rates: More reports on 2018 high school graduation rates from school districts around the state. Florida’s rate hit a record high 86.1 percent, according to figures released in December by the state Department of Education. Suwannee Democrat.
School board sued: The mother of a 15-year-old Miami-Dade County student is suing the school board for negligence. The suit alleges that the board did nothing for 13 years while Wendell Nibbs, a physical education teacher at Brownsville Middle School in Miami, sexually assaulted and harassed at least six girls at the school. Nibbs was arrested in November 2017 and accused of raping the 15-year-old. Miami Herald.
Teacher arrested: A Miami-Dade County teacher is arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with a minor. Diego Carranza, a 30-year-old biology teacher at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High in Miami, was arrested at an Airbnb apartment with a 14-year-old girl. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel.
Custodian arrested: A custodian at Hosford Middle School in Liberty County is arrested and accused of soliciting a 14-year-old who is not a student at the school. John E. Grande Jr., 29, faces charges of lewd and lascivious conduct and online solicitation of a minor. Tallahassee Democrat. WCTV. Associated Press.
Ex-student arrested: A 20-year-old former student at Fernandina Beach High School is arrested and accused of making online threats to carry out a shooting at the school. Wesley Twiggs, 20, is charged with written threats to kill, do bodily harm or conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism. WJAX. WJXT.
School vandalized: Vandals cause at least $10,000 in damages at Pine Ridge High School in Deltona. Deputies say computer equipment was smashed, sinks were turned on and caused water damage, fire extinguishers were emptied and racially offensive graffiti was scrawled on walls and whiteboards. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Opinions on schools: Whether it’s expanding tax-credit scholarships, supporting charter schools or embracing other emerging solutions, we’re prepared to do what we must so that each and every student in our state receives a high-quality education. Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis, Tallahassee Democrat. The letter grade all Florida schools receive doesn’t take into account key factors that the federal government considers important in its education and civil rights law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis should move to correct this flaw and ensure that all children receive the education they are entitled to receive under the Florida Constitution. Tampa Bay Times. In its decision rejecting a lawsuit claiming the state has failed its constitutional duty to provide high-quality schools, the Florida Supreme Court is saying let the lawmakers make the laws, let the voters approve the constitutional amendments, and then let the administrators figure out how to best make it all work. Jim Ross, Ocala Star-Banner. As long as we accept inaction and neglect, more school shooting tragedies will occur. And then we can only blame ourselves. Sarah Leonardi, Sun Sentinel. Arming members of a school’s staff will not increase school safety, and is more likely to backfire. There must be better ways to protect our schools. Bruce Diamond, Florida News-Press. Teachers need to teach, not be armed for the next inevitable attack. But now a reasonable sheriff says this makes sense, another sign of the insanity of gun violence. Sue Carlton, Tampa Bay Times. The Manatee County School District, known for its mind-boggling blunders in the past, must be careful and not rush a decision on making Cynthia Saunders superintendent. Chris Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Student enrichment: Erick Zhao, a 4th-grader at Williams Elementary School in Gainesville, wins a silver medal in the Under 10 open division of the World Cadet Chess Championships in Spain. Gainesville Sun.