State’s new academic standards, a district’s investments, school funding formula and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

New academic standards: The state’s new K-12 academic standards will change the way students learn about math, will cut back the number of tests students will be required to take, and emphasize civics and history, financial literacy for high school students, classic literature, reading full books instead of portions of them. Gov. Ron DeSantis made the announcement Friday and released a summary of the changes, which will be posted in full this week on the Florida Department of Education website. A year ago, DeSantis ordered the DOE to replace the Common Core standards with new academic standards. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said the results will produce “excellent thinkers” and will cut down on the different ways core courses are taught around the state. News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics. WFTX. Naples Daily News. Charlotte Sun. WTSP. DeSantis’ wife Casey had an announcement of her own Friday: a pilot program in which four school districts will receive free apps from the education technology company Age of Learning to help pre-K through 2nd-grade students read on their own and learn basic math skills. Florida Politics. Florida Department of Education.

A district’s investments: The Brevard County School District has invested millions of dollars in banks that have been involved in criminal activities such as money laundering for drug cartels and helping businesses that have ties to terrorists, according to a review of the district’s holdings. There’s no indication that the district had any knowledge of the banks’ past activities, and officials are talking with PFM Asset Management LLC about divesting from the banks and updating the district’s investment policies. Board vice chair Matt Susin called the investments “deplorable” and said the district must do a better job of knowing more about its investments. Florida Today.

School funding formula: The Florida House is planning to propose changes in the state’s school funding formula that could result in a significant shift in the way money is distributed to districts. State Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, who chairs the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, wouldn’t comment on on how the formula would be changed. “We continue to work on it, and it’s something that we’re taking a look at,” Latvala said. A consultant’s proposal presented to the subcommittee Friday detailed one option, a comparable wage index that would create a formula that measures comparable and overall wages in counties to the state average. The index has been adopted in Virginia, Missouri, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, according to the consultant, Valerie Seidel from the Balmoral Group of Orlando. Politico Florida. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School choice support: Sixty-nine percent of likely U.S. voters support educational choice, according to a poll by the American Federation for Children. Republicans and Latinos were the strongest supporters, with 82 percent favoring the use of tax dollars to send children to the school that best fit their educational needs. Seventy-one percent of millennials and 68 percent of African-Americans also backed choice. redefinED. The 74. Nearly 50 percent of Florida students now attend a school of choice, according to state data compiled by Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog and helps administer several scholarship programs for the state. The 1,684,878 students using choice represent 48.2 percent of preK-12 enrollment in the state, up from 47.5 percent last year. Charter school attendance is up 6.1 percent, to 309,730, open enrollment is at 273,377 students, and district choice and magnet programs enroll 248,199. Private school enrollment is 237,290, up 5.4 percent, and 91,596 are home-schooled. redefinED.

Educators honored: Vincent Miller, a Winter Haven High School math teacher and girls basketball coach, has been named the Polk County School District’s teacher of the year. Kay Llewellyn, the principal’s secretary at Dixieland Elementary in Lakeland, was named the district’s employee of the year. Lakeland Ledger. Euan Hunter, an International Baccalaureate chemistry teacher at Vanguard High School in Ocala, has been named the Marion County School District’s teacher of the year. Ocala Star-Banner. Jessica Price, an International Baccalaureate Spanish teacher and coordinator for the honor society at Lecanto High School, has been named the Citrus County School District’s teacher of the year. Althea Council, the food service manager at Citrus Springs Middle School, was named the district’s school-related employee of the year. Citrus County Chronicle. Kasey Norris from Alachua Elementary School, Kirk Tapley from Howard Bishop Middle and Josh Forgione from Gainesville High are the nominees for the Alachua County School District’s teacher of the year award. The winner will be announced Thursday. Gainesville Sun.

Schools may be combined: The Broward County School Board is being asked to create two combination elementary-middle schools as the district looks for ways to stop an ongoing exodus of students to charter schools. Under the plan, Hollywood Central Elementary would add 300 students in grades 6-8, and Driftwood Elementary would merge with Driftwood Middle. The recommendations were made by a school boundary committee. District elementary schools have lost about 20,000 students in the past 15 years, and middle schools about 10,000. Most of Broward’s most popular charter schools are K-8. Sun Sentinel.

Bonuses for pre-K teachers: Lake County school officials say they will give $1,000 bonuses to pre-kindergarten teachers who have been ineligible for the state’s Best and Brightest educator bonuses program. To be eligible, the pre-K teachers will have to be rated highly effective or effective, and they must have been working for the district since Jan. 22. District officials also will consider bonuses for pre-K teacher assistants. Daily Commercial.

Safely getting to school: Pensacola residents and their legislators are trying to revise the guidelines for defining hazardous walking condition for the state’s schoolchildren. “The current statute is not reasonable … therefore, it doesn’t safeguard kids,” said Rob Doss, a former transportation director for the Escambia County School District. Many students don’t qualify for transportation because they live too close to schools, but still have dangerous paths to schools. Doss and others want the criteria for eligibility to be modified with “good sense and reasonableness,” and back a bill sponsored by Reps. Mike Beltran and Jackie Toledo, both Republicans from Hillsborough County. Pensacola News Journal.

School board term limits: State Rep. Melony Bell, R-Fort Meade, has denied that she was referring to Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend when she suggested in a House meeting last week that “we have a school board member in Polk County — and I’ll go on the record — that most likely needs to be removed” for disrupting the district. Bell was speaking in support of a bill that would puts a constitutional amendment limiting school board terms on the November ballot. It was widely believed Bell was speaking about Townsend, who has been a vocal critic of state education policies and supportive of higher pay for better working conditions for teachers. Lakeland Ledger.

Personnel moves: A Florida school district administrator has been hired as superintendent of the Providence (R.I.) Public Schools. Harrison Peters, the chief of staff for the Hillsborough County School District, is expected to be officially introduced today. Peters was among the finalists for the Hillsborough superintendent’s job, which went to Addison Davis last week. WPRI. Providence Journal. Gradebook. Associated Press.

Florida’s mediocre ranking: Florida is the 27th most-educated state, according to rankings by the performance website WalletHub. The website compared data on educational attainment, school quality and achievement gaps between genders and races to make the rankings. Florida ranked first in its breadth of voucher programs and for having the lowest gender gap in educational attainment. But it ranked just 45th in the number of Blue Ribbon schools recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. TCPalm.

School gets money after closing: Five weeks after the Marion Military Academy charter school in Ocala closed its doors because of financial problems, it received $32,000 from the state for earning a C in 2019 after years of getting D grades. A district official said because the school is closed, its only option for the money is probably to give bonuses to the teachers and staff who were working there when it closed. Ocala Star-Banner.

School employee survey: A survey of Manatee County School District employees shows that 62 percent felt valued at work and 61 percent would recommend the district as a place to work, said the district’s director of strategic planning, Kevin Chapman. But 73 percent also responded that they felt underpaid, and 63 percent were critical of the way the district communicates with the staff and the general public. Bradenton Herald.

Ex-teacher sentenced: Matthew James Minton, a 27-year-old former middle school teacher at Island Village Montessori in Venice, has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexually abusing an underage student in 2016 and 2017. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School resource officer fired: A Sarasota County School District police officer who accused administrators of covering up sexual misconduct at Brookside Middle School has been fired. Kimberly Whyley said reports from students claiming that principal Maxwell Guss had groped them and made inappropriate comments were not taken seriously. Whyley then was investigated for her use of force in breaking up a fight, and fired for lying about her actions. “Obviously I’ve been terminated because of the Maxwell Guss situation,” Whyley said. “Even a 1st-grader can see that it is retaliation.” . Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Opinions on schools: Under Gov. DeSantis’ proposal to raise starting teacher pay to $47,500, about about half of Brevard County teachers would not see a pay hike. Isadora Rangel, Florida Today. New Indian River County school Superintendent David Moore wants every school in the county to receive an A grade from the state by 2025, but warns that the changes he wants to make could be uncomfortable for some. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm. Montana’s tax credit scholarship program fulfills a public purpose in providing K-12 education to students. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. There is no excuse for scaling back on nutritious meals for students. Kathy Silverberg, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The school lunch fight is about making sure kids, particularly kids from economically disadvantaged homes across the country, get exposed to more healthy foods so they can perform in the classroom and develop healthy habits. Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel. School choice is not about private school, but the right school. Danielle Brun, Orlando Sentinel. National School Choice Week exists to help empower parents and provide information about all of their options, while encouraging schools and learning environments to raise awareness of the positive impact they have on their local communities. Andrew Campanella, Palm Beach Post. Could a closely watched U.S. Supreme Court case clear the way for charter schools run by churches and other religious organizations? Evie Blad, Education Week.

Student enrichment: Palm Beach County students are lobbying the school board to switch from Styrofoam school lunch trays to something biodegradable, such as plant or paper fiber carriers. The additional annual cost to the district could be $328,000. Palm Beach Post. Eight Lee County students got to sit in the gallery Thursday during the Senate’s impeachment trial of President Trump. Fort Myers News-Press. Pineview Elementary School has joined three other Leon County schools in creating food pantries for needy students and their families. WCTV. More than $300,000 worth of school supplies has been donated to Broward County teachers by Publix and the United Way of Broward County. WSVN.

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