Archive | Catholic education

Florida schools roundup: State budget signed, safety in schools and more

Scott signs budget bill: Gov. Rick Scott signs the $88.7 billion state budget, dismissing pleas from Florida’s school superintendents for a special legislative session to increase funding for schools. The budget includes new money for K-12 schools, mostly for school security and mental health counseling for students, and a boost in the amount Bright Futures scholars receive. Associated Press. News Service of FloridaMiami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. GateHouseCapitolist. Gradebook. Politico Florida. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, says legislative leaders are considering allowing school districts that don’t want to arm school personnel to use any money left over from the marshals program to hire resource officers. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. The new funding formula takes $56 million in state money that in the past would have gone to larger school districts and is redirecting it to smaller ones. Miami-Dade, for example, will receive $7 million less. Tampa Bay Times. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, criticizes the state’s school superintendents for complaining about the state’s K-12 spending, saying those who are “grossly mismanaging their budgets” should resign. Bradenton Herald. Scott vetoed a $1 million item for Okaloosa County schools to buy buses that would help ease traffic congestion near Hurlburt Field, headquarters for the Air Force Special Operations Command. Here’s a full list of the $64 million in projects that Scott vetoed. Northwest Florida Daily News.

School shooting developments: Mental health records show that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School officials were worried about Nikolas Cruz’s fascination with guns, and banned him from practicing his shooting with the Junior RTOC or carrying a backpack on campus 18 months before the massacre that killed 17 at the school. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. The Coconut Creek police officer who arrested Cruz describes his search and his shock when he found the accused school shooter. Sun-Sentinel. More than $4 million has been raised for the victims of the Parkland shooting and their families, and the Broward Education Foundation has appointed a steering committee to determine how to distribute the money and who will receive it. Sun-Sentinel. Deputies at Stoneman Douglas High are carrying AR-15 rifles at the school, but concealing them in backpacks so as not to alarm students. Sun-Sentinel. A Lighthouse Point man becomes the first person in Florida to have his firearms and ammunition seized under the state’s new law addressing gun restrictions and school safety. Sun-Sentinel. The fiancee of a teacher killed in the shootings still struggles to comprehend what happened. Palm Beach Post. A sculptor is planning a 15-foot memorial to the shooting victims at the Parkland school. Sun-Sentinel. Five Stoneman Douglas High shooting survivors appear on 60 Minutes and give Florida lawmakers a C or C-minus grade for their response to the tragedy. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Three other survivors take their message for increasing gun regulation to the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press.

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Florida schools roundup: School safety, budget, new superintendent and more

School safety bill: After a second straight day of eight-hour debates, the Florida House approves the school safety bill by a 67-50 margin. The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Scott, who said he would review it line-by-line and talk to families of the Parkland shooting before deciding whether to sign it. The bill provides $67 million for a program to train and arm select school employees who volunteer for the duty, requires a three-day waiting period to purchase guns and hikes the legal age limit to buy rifles from 18 to 21. It also sets aside $300 million for mental health services and security programs in schools, and $26 million for tearing down the building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where the shooting took place, and building a memorial on the site. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. Tallahassee DemocratPolitico Florida. Palm Beach Post. GateHouse. Officials in 10 of the largest school districts in Florida say that even if Scott signs this bill, they are not likely to take part in the program to train and arm school personnel. Tampa Bay Times. A cursory review of state records shows at least 19 times that school workers who could be armed under this bill have threatened or hurt students or used firearms illegally. In 13 of those cases, the workers threatened to shoot students. Tampa Bay Times. The Haines City Police Department and Florida Highway Patrol will provide officers for every school in Haines City through the end of the school year. Lakeland Ledger.

Budget deal: The House and Senate reach an agreement on an $87 billion state budget that boosts spending for education and school safety. The last hurdle to the deal was the Senate agreeing to adopt the House’s formula to reimbursing hospitals for Medicaid expenses. The final vote on the budget is expected Sunday or Monday, since the law requires 72 hours between an agreement and a vote to give legislators a chance to read the bill. The Legislature had been scheduled to conclude Friday. News Service of FloridaSarasota Herald-Tribune. Miami Herald. Associated Press. The deal also adds $25 million to provide Gardiner scholarships to more children with special needs. There are about 1,300 children on the waiting list. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the program. redefinED. The state’s K-12 schools will get $120 million in construction money for charter schools and $50 million for district schools under the budget agreement. Politico Florida.

New superintendent: Donald Fennoy is named superintendent of the Palm Beach County School District. The school board chose Fennoy, 41, the district’s chief operating officer since May 2016, over two other candidates to succeed Robert Avossa, who is leaving in June to take a job with an educational materials publishing company. The district is the 11th largest in the country with 190,000 students, and has 25,000 employees. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel.

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Florida schools roundup: Charter funds, gay teacher fired, Baker Act and more

Charters get payments: Under protest, Broward and Orange school districts distribute about $15 million in local construction funding to charter schools after being ordered to do so by the Florida Department of Education. The districts wanted to hold the money in escrow until their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law requiring the payments is decided. DOE officials said the pending decision was not a basis to withhold payment. Both districts allege the state threatened to withhold regular school funding if the payments were not made, a charge the DOE denies. WLRN.

Gay teacher fired: A Miami Catholic school 1st-grade teacher says she was fired from her job after marrying her girlfriend. Jocelyn Morffi was apparently asked to resign after officials at Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic School found out about her marriage. When she refused, she was fired. Now her story is being turned into an issue in the Democratic primary for Florida’s 27th Congressional District, according to Politico Florida. Miami New Times. Miami Herald. Associated Press. WPLG.

Baker Act policy: A widely seen video of a 7-year-old boy being taken away from a school in handcuffs prompts a change in the way Miami-Dade County schools will handle children with behavior issues. School officials have been instructed to exhaust all options in dealing with a student before calling police and using the Baker Act for an involuntary psychiatric exam. When called, police officers also will need clearance from a high-ranking officer before transporting a child under the Baker Act. Miami Herald. Children under the age of 18 were taken for an involuntary psychiatric evaluation under the Baker Act about 32,000 times between the summers of 2015 and 2016, according to a report by the Florida Department of Children and Families. WLRN.

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Florida is celebrating this Catholic Schools Week. Will other states join in?

It is no secret that America’s Catholic schools are in crisis. Enrollment in 2017 is just over a third of what it was at its peak in 1965, when 5.2 million children – nearly half of all Catholic youth living in the United States – attended Catholic school.

But Catholic schools in Florida tell a different story.

So what makes the fate of Florida’s Catholic schools so different than the bleak reality of other states? It’s simple: school choice programs.

The majority of Florida’s Catholic schools have embraced a true choice mentality, both in their hires and their daily practices. By embracing school choice and the opportunities it affords, Florida’s Catholic schools have made themselves among the most accessible in the nation. Financial disadvantage and special needs are no longer the barriers to a Catholic education that they once were. And while there’s work left to be done, both school and parish leaders are working diligently to expand their accessibility, hosting lawmakers, marching in Tallahassee and even testifying before the Florida Legislature. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Schools of Hope rules, grade pressure and more

Schools of Hope rules: Rules have been proposed to implement the “Schools of Hope” part of the education bill passed in the Legislature earlier this year. The rules define what companies can be “hope operators,” who can then open a charter school within 5 miles of a persistently low-performing public school. The law outlined three criteria for becoming a “hope operators” – that student achievement exceeds district and state averages in the states in which they have schools; that college attendance rates have to exceed 80 percent; and that at least 7 in 10 students at their schools are eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch. But the proposed rules would allow the state to choose operators that meet just one of the criteria, at least for the time being. Politico Florida.

Performance pressure: The pressure is on at Hawthorne Middle/High School in Alachua County. When the school got a D grade from the state in the spring, state officials gave school official three choices if the school’s grade isn’t a C or better next spring – close, transition to a charter school, or find an outside provider to run the school. School officials chose to close, which is reflected in the #AllIn slogan plastered on the walls of the school. The school is the heart of this rural community, and residents have rallied around the improvement plan. WUFT.

Tax bill and education: The final version of the federal tax bill retains the $250 deduction teachers can take for spending their own money on supplies for their classrooms, allows 529 college savings plans to be used for up to $10,000 in annual K-12 expenses, including private school tuition, and ends qualified school construction bonds, among other things. It also limits to $10,000 what taxpayers can deduct in either a combination of property and income taxes, or property and sales taxes. Some educators say that could pressure local government officials to lower property taxes, which would potentially lower revenue for schools. Education Week.

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Fla. governor signs massive education bill

Gov. Rick Scott signs major education legislation during an Orlando ceremony, as state Reps. Manny Diaz, Richard Corcoran, Mike Bileca and Erin Grall look on.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Big changes are coming to Florida’s public education system.

Flanked by House Republican leaders and special needs children, Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation that equalizes funding for Florida’s charter schools, transforms the state’s system for turning around struggling public schools, and boosts funding for special needs scholarships — among dozens of other provisions.

HB 7069 was at the center of a heated public campaign by parents, educators and political activists. The News Service of Florida reported this week that the governor had received 23,440 messages supporting the bill, and 22,734 calling for a veto.

Scott acknowledged the avalanche of “input” he’d received but said he’s convinced the massive 274-page package will help students.

House Education leaders Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah and Mike Bileca, R-Miami confer with former Senate President Andy Gardiner of Orlando.

“It addresses lots of key issues in our education system, and paves the way for every Florida student to receive the world-class education that every student deserves,” he said.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and a host of lawmakers who worked on parts of the bill joined the governor at Morning Star Catholic School, which educates children with special needs.

Mike Bileca, R-Miami and chairman of the House Education Committee, said some of the biggest changes would come in areas where public schools have languished with low academic performance.

The new law speeds up the timetable for districts to turn around struggling schools. It also creates a new Schools of Hope grant program aimed at attracting high-performing charter schools to struggling areas. It could also fund traditional public schools that want to provide wraparound services or create charter-like, college-prep, academics-plus-character cultures.

“We’re going to see our communities in high-poverty areas flourish, and we’re fundamentally going to change the state of Florida for the better,” Bileca said.
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Tampa Catholic grad going from one scholarship to another

Cheyenne Daphney and mom DJ Ruhland celebrate after the graduation ceremony in downtown Tampa.

When she walked across the stage as a freshly minted graduate of Tampa Catholic High School a couple of weeks ago, Cheyenne Daphney looked out at the audience cheering in the downtown theater and thought about all the help she got along the way.

Her mom, DJ Ruhland; her basketball coach, Matt Rocha; her teammates; and the rest of her Tampa Catholic family – they were all there giving a standing ovation.

Cheyenne also thought about the tax credit scholarship that made private school possible, and how she will soon start a new scholarship this summer at St. Petersburg College. (Step Up For Students administers the scholarships and publishes this blog.)

“I’ve got butterflies,” she said after the ceremony. “I’m so grateful. Tampa Catholic turned me around. I really don’t feel I would have made it to college without Tampa Catholic or Step Up.”

In ninth grade at her neighborhood school, Cheyenne’s grades slipped so badly her mom told the basketball coach to bench her despite being the best player on the team.

The discipline didn’t work and Cheyenne’s grades continued to slide. She even earned an F in one class and had to take an online summer course to make up for it.

DJ decided to make a change.

She secured a Step Up scholarship, which helps low-income and working-class students pay for private school tuition. Then she enrolled Cheyenne at Tampa Catholic, something she had always dreamed of but never thought she could afford.

Results were immediate. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Reading test scores, achievement plan and more

Third-grade reading results: Eighty-one percent of the state’s third-graders posted passing scores on the Florida Standards Assessments reading exam this year, according to the Florida Department of Education. Fifty-eight percent of students scored at Level 3 or high, meaning they met grade-level expectations, which is an increase from 54 percent last year. The 19 percent who scored at Level 1 – about 43,300 students – face retention if they can’t pass an alternate test or demonstrate proficiency through a portfolio of classroom work. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-UnionSarasota Herald-Tribune. Space Coast Daily. Brevard Times. Bradenton Herald. Associated PressNews Service of Florida.

New achievement plan: An agreement is reached on a 10-year plan to eliminate or greatly narrow the achievement gap between white and black students in Pinellas County. The Concerned Organization for the Quality Education of Black Students had been suing the Pinellas County School District, alleging that it was shortchanging black students throughout the educational process. The agreement, reached Friday, addresses the lingering issues on graduation, student achievement, advanced coursework, student discipline, identification for special education and gifted programs and minority hiring. District officials have committed to providing quarterly progress reports and responding in a more timely manner with reliable information. Both sides are calling the agreement a “turning point” for the district. Tampa Bay Times.

From high school to med school: Four graduates of Florida Atlantic University High School have been admitted directly into the FAU College of Medicine. The four students will begin training as doctors in 2018 and be eligible for residency at age 22 or 23. It’s believed to be the only program of its kind in the United States. FAU High is a school where students can earn high school and college credits at the same time. Sun Sentinel. Continue Reading →