Author Archive | Livi Stanford

Bill expanding private school students’ sports options ready for floor vote


The Florida House Education Committee unanimously passed HB 1109, allowing students at private schools to participate in sports at a public school of their choice based on their school district’s open enrollment policy.

The bill would expand extracurricular options for private school students. It’s now ready for a vote on the House floor.

Existing laws allow students attending private middle or high schools that are not members of the Florida High School Athletics Association, and that have fewer than 125 students, to participate in interscholastic sports at their zoned public schools.

Bill sponsor Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, added an amendment that specifies a private school student can participate in sports at a school if the capacity for that school has not be reached as determined by the district school board.

Florida already has a “Tim Tebow” law that allows homeschool students — as well as students enrolled in charters or other schools of choice — to sign up for teams at their zoned public school, or other public schools they would otherwise attend. The goal of the law is to give students in educational choice programs access to extracurriculars that might not otherwise be available.

This year’s legislation is the latest in a series of efforts to adapt high school athletics and extracurricular activities to the growth of school choice programs.



State board approves pilot program giving principals more autonomy

The State Board of Education today approved plans to give principals at public schools in Broward, Palm Beach and Pinellas Counties greater control over their budgets and hiring.

Last year, lawmakers created the Principal Autonomy Pilot Program Initiative. It allows school districts to offer select principals a charter-like exchange. They get more flexibility, as well as exemptions from certain state and local rules. In return, they would have to meet academic performance goals.

Before signing off on the plans, Michael Olenick, a member of the state board, wanted to know how giving principals greater operational freedom would affect students.

“As a former principal, I had an opportunity to make decisions without receiving permission from the district office,” said Hershel Lyons, chancellor for the state’s K-12 public schools. “It is an opportunity for the principal to make a decision that impacts that individual student immediately and take into account other things that prepare all students along with that.”

In their applications, the districts each picked three schools that would participate, and set targets to raise student achievement. In general, the schools serve large proportions of low-income students of color, and have histories of academic struggles.  Continue Reading →


How a Florida principal helps open access to more AP courses

Julie Lueallen, principal at East Ridge High School

Growing up in a single-parent, low-income household in the late 1970s, Julie Lueallen had fewer opportunities to excel in education.

Now, she’s the principal of East Ridge High School, one of the highest-performing schools in south Lake County, Fla.

Growing up, she said, she was an average student who had potential. Her teachers did not steer her into honor courses, which at the time were the only classes available for students to receive more rigorous coursework that would prepare them for college.

“It was all in your grades,” she said. “Nobody even talked about opening that world to me. They counseled kids, but not the kind of kid like me.”

Lueallen, a product of nearby Tavares High School, said she had some excellent teachers. But she might never have gotten onto a college-preparatory track without an advocate who knew the school system well and argued on her behalf: her mother.

“If my mom was not pushing I wouldn’t have gotten into honors courses,” she said. “Having a parent that is savvy in a high school curriculum. That is important.”

Now, as a principal, she advocates for all students to take advantage of the opportunities she and her mother had to fight for. Her school has emerged as a leader in Florida’s effort to push more into Advanced Placement courses and toward college credits.

According to a new report from the College Board, the nonprofit that administers the AP program, Florida ranks fourth in the nation in the percentage of graduating seniors who have passed at least one AP exam, which can lead to credit for an entry-level college course. Over the past decade, low-income children of color have driven most of the state’s improvements.

Beginning in the 1990s, Florida leaders decided to open AP courses to more low-income, black and Hispanic students. The College Board, which administers AP exams, has adopted an equity and access policy, which states: Continue Reading →


President’s budget proposes $1.4 billion to expand school choice

President budget coverPresident Donald Trump is proposing to spend more than $1.4 billion to expand public and private school choice.

The president today released a broad outline of his spending plan. The $59 billion education budget would boost funding for the federal Charter Schools Program, set aside $250 million for an unspecified private school choice initiative, and increase federal funding to support low-income students while pushing districts to use it in a choice-friendly way.

The plan received a mixed reaction among education reformers. They generally praised Trump’s support for school choice. But some criticized proposed cuts to other programs, and others expressed skepticism about the federal role in education.

The charter school program supports startup schools, as well as state initiatives designed to improve charter school quality. Florida received more than $58 million of its most recent installment, the largest share of any state. Trump has proposed increasing the $333 million program by $168 million, or roughly 50 percent.

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President Nina Rees issued a statement of appreciation for additional charter school funding.

“In the current school year, more than 200,000 new students are attending charter public schools, bringing nationwide enrollment to more than 3 million students,” she said. “Still, there could be at least another 2 million students whose parents would enroll them in charter schools if they could. Increased funding for the CSP is essential to expanding charter school capacity and reducing the wait for these families.”

Other supporters of charter school grants, like the National Association of Charter School authorizers, said they were “deeply concerned” about cuts elsewhere in the president’s plan. Continue Reading →


Bill would give Fla. private school students more choice in sports

The Florida House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee unanimously passed HB 1109, allowing students at private schools to participate in sports at a public school of their choice based on their school district’s open enrollment policy.

The bill would expand extracurricular options for private school students.

Existing laws allow students attending private middle or high schools that are not members of the Florida High School Athletics Association, and that have fewer than 125 students, to participate in interscholastic sports at their zoned public schools. Continue Reading →


Fla. House panel approves bill funding security at Jewish day schools

Rep. Randy Fine

Citing a rash of anti-semitic threats, the Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved a measure setting aside $1.5 million to enhance security at all Jewish day schools in Florida.

Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, said since the beginning of the year there has been a dramatic rise in anti-Semitism. He said there had been 154 bomb threats reported at Jewish schools around the country, and 17 reported in Florida.

Appropriations documents show the measure, HB 3653, would benefit students in preschool through high school. Florida has 35 Jewish day schools in nine counties.

Fine mentioned there were no such schools in his district, but he felt the issue had statewide importance.

“We have a situation that Jewish students are very afraid and beginning to drop out of the schools,” Fine said. “It would put in security precautions so students and parents will feel safe having students attend these schools.”

Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, asked what security measures would be put in place with the funding. Continue Reading →


Drexel Fund awards Cristo Rey Tampa $300,000

A venture philanthropy fund that aims to expand private schools that serve low-income and working-class students, has begun making investments in Florida.

One early grant will provide $300,000 over three years to help Cristo Rey Tampa — a Catholic college-preparatory high school — to support its four-year school build-out.

The Tampa school opened its doors to ninth graders earlier this year, and will add one higher grade level per year as it grows to fill a remodeled boarding school that had previously stood vacant.

Initially targeting the states of Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Louisiana, Wisconsin and Indiana, the Drexel Fund has set a long-term goal of raising $85 million to support the creation of 50,000 new spaces for low- and middle-income students in high-quality private schools over eight years. Continue Reading →


Fla. House panel backs bill allowing more students access to online courses

The Florida House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee passed HB 833, allowing all students to have access to online courses.

Under existing laws, students in second through fifth grades can’t enroll in virtual courses part-time. Children in middle and high school can only take certain part-time courses if they were enrolled in public schools the previous year.

This diagram from House staff breaks down the current eligibility gaps for virtual courses.

Those restrictions mean Florida Virtual School, its district-run franchises and their private competitors have to turn some students away. The statewide public virtual school — which serves students in Florida and beyond in grades K – 12 online — has been expanding its elementary school offerings after a state law authorized them in 2011, but students typically can’t enroll in those courses unless they sign up for virtual school full-time or they attended a public school the previous year. Continue Reading →