Archive | Charter Schools

A new legal battle over Florida charter school capital funding rules

Another charter school is tangling with the Florida Department of Education, arguing its D letter grades shouldn’t cause it to lose state capital funding.

Kids Community College’s Orange County school received consecutive D’s from the state in both the 2015-6 and 2016-17 school years. New department rules, adopted last year, disqualify the school from state facilities funding.

Those rules did not take effect without controversy. Several small charter school operators challenged the proposed rules and forced the department to delay them. As a result, the new rules took effect for the 2017-18 school year.

However, the school argues its letter grades from previous years should not be used to disqualify it from funding this school year.

“DOE’s determination using the school grade for the 2016-2017 school year is a misapplication of the rule,” the school argues in a request to appear before the state Division of Administrative Hearings. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Rules for scholarships, special session and more

Scholarship rules: The Florida Department of education proposes rules for two new state scholarships. A one-page set of rules is proposed to determine eligibility for bullied students to receive state scholarships to attend new schools. The Hope Scholarship would be available for students who report being bullied or attacked. If they win approval, students could take the scholarship money and enroll in a private school or use it for transportation to another public school. A requirement that families substantiate the incident for which they are seeking a voucher has been removed. The other scholarship provides tutoring help for struggling elementary school readers. The Florida Board of Education has a public workshop June 6 to discuss the rules. Gradebook. Politico Florida.

Special session polling: Early polling results show a lack of support among legislators to call a special session to deal with education funding, according to Department of State officials. As of late Monday afternoon, 27 Florida House members supported a special session, while 36 opposed. Seven senators back the move, and six do not. Three-fifths of each chamber must support the request, made by two Democratic representatives, in order for a special session to be called. That means 70 yes votes in the House and 23 in the Senate. Polling ends Thursday at noon. News Service of Florida.

Virtual teachers out: Twelve out-of-state Florida Virtual School (FLVS) teachers and support staff were dismissed Friday. FLVS officials announced earlier this month that they intended to bring all jobs back into Florida, and gave 33 out-of-state employees a few days to decide if they would relocate. FLVS spokeswoman Tania Clow says some employees “decided to relocate, others retired and others took positions with FLVS Global.” WKMG. A technical glitch takes FLVS offline for hours on Monday. WKMG. Continue Reading →

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Florida school districts file appeal in HB 7069 lawsuit

The main lawsuit over last year’s landmark education law will continue.

The districts still fighting to stop 2017’s House bill 7069 filed papers last week to bring a Leon County Circuit judge’s ruling to the First District Court of Appeal.

The eventual outcome in the case could affect a half-dozen key issues — including House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s signature Schools of Hope initiative, school boards’ authority in charter school contract negotiations and millions of dollars in charter school facilities funding.

Three of the 13 districts, including Duval County Public Schools, voted to pull out of the case after Judge John Cooper rejected the multifaceted lawsuit on all counts. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Superintendent named, tests, 47 cents, appeal and more

New superintendent: Diana Greene is chosen as the new superintendent of the Duval County School System. Greene, who has been superintendent of the Manatee County district since 2015, was unanimously approved by the school board. She replaces Nikolai Vitti, who left last summer to take the top job in Detroit. Greene started her teaching career in Duval before moving into administration. At Manatee, she is credited with turning around a difficult financial situation while improving student achievement. In Duval, Greene will immediately have to contend with a $62 million budget deficit. Greene’s start date and salary have yet to be negotiated. Florida Times-Union. WJXTBradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Smooth testing season: Florida Standards Assessments testing ended last week, and Florida Department of Education officials say there were few reports of problems with the test. Students took 4.2 million computerized tests and another 1.2 million with paper and pencil, and the only issues reported were local Internet and power outages. Results are expected in June. Gradebook.

Ad rebuts 47-cent claim: Florida House Republican leaders are fighting back against the claim by educators that the Legislature’s funding for schools amounts to just 47 more cents for each student. Calling it the “47 cent myth,” the lawmakers contend in a 5-minute online ad that they bumped per-student spending by $101.50, an all-time high, and that they put requirements on some of the increases to stop districts from squandering the extra money. “That’s why we put this $100 increase in per student funding directly into the classroom, bypassing the bureaucracy,” the narrator of the ads says. “To them [bureaucrats], it’s not about kids. It’s about control.” Gradebook. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Effects of ending tenure, special session and more

Tenure and achievement: When Florida legislators eliminated teacher tenure in 2011, they argued that making it easier to get rid of bad teachers could lead to better student academic results. Seven years later, a study finds that achievement by students in vulnerable schools has improved only slightly, and that there’s no conclusive way to tell if the elimination of tenure played a role in that modest success. “The intent (of the statute) was to raise student achievement by improving the quality of instructional, administrative and supervisory services in the public schools,” write researchers Celeste Carruthers, David Figlio and Tim Sass. “Whether (the law) or policies like it succeed in attracting and retaining high quality teachers remains an open question.” Brookings Institution. Gradebook.

Special session request: Democrats in the Legislature resort to an obscure rule to force a poll of all lawmakers on the idea of calling a special session to deal with educational funding. Ordinarily, Senate and House leaders decide if a special session is needed. But when they resisted, 35 Democratic members filed petitions with the secretary of state to conduct the poll; 32 are required to force the polling. They don’t expect to be successful, but say it will put legislators on the record in an election year. Answers to the poll are due May 24. Gradebook.

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Is political trouble brewing in a charter-friendly district?

This week, while the school board in one generally charter-friendly Florida district was voting to reject a charter school application, another lamented the limits of its authority.

Speakers lined up to oppose a pair of charter school applications before the Hillsborough County School Board. Most dinged charter schools generally but concentrated their criticism on for-profit management companies.

In a sign of rising political tensions, some school officials talked about turning their attention toward Tallahassee.

In some ways, Hillsborough County seems like friendly territory for charter schools. Steady population growth, a well-regarded charter school office and a relatively collaborative climate have allowed the district to avoid some of the problems that cropped up elsewhere in the state.

However, the school district is under fiscal stress. New needs, like security officers, add to its expenses. Superintendent Jeff Eakins is reorganizing the administration to shed an unsustainable cost structure and talking about a local tax referendum to boost revenue.

Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association was one of several speakers who argued charter schools make the problems worse. The union is trying to negotiate a new contract. Its demands for raises have run headlong into a lack of available funding. With that backdrop, she asked the school board to reject two applications to open K-8 charter schools in the fast-growing Riverview area. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Tougher tests, Schools of Hope, top employee and more

Testing standards toughened: The Florida Board of Education adopts tougher standards for the state exams high school students must pass to graduate. The board also eliminated the Post Secondary Education Readiness Test, one of the alternatives for students who don’t pass the state exams. Alternatives to the state tests are now the SAT, ACT and just-added PSAT, though the board also boosted the scores needed on those tests to qualify for graduation. The new standards go into effect for students entering high school this fall. Educators protested the changes, saying they will significantly lower graduation rates. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida. WFTS. Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart announces that she’s retiring Jan. 8, the day Gov. Rick Scott leaves office, though she says she’s open to staying on if the next governor asks her to. Stewart has been in the job since 2013, when she replaced Tony Bennett after he resigned. Gradebook.

Schools of Hope: The Board of Education also approves two new Schools of Hope operators, bringing the state’s total to four. Schools of Hope qualify for special financing and grants to expand services and increase instructional time. Officials for KIPP New Jersey and Democracy Prep Public Schools say they look forward to working with school districts and the state to put schools in areas where traditional public schools have struggled. KIPP is helping create a new school in Miami in a partnership with the Miami-Dade district, while Democracy Prep wants to complement KIPP in Miami and is also looking into places like Polk and Hillsborough counties. redefinED.

Employee of the year: Stephanie Melton, an exceptional student education behavioral health assistant at W.E. Cherry Elementary School in Clay County, is selected by the Florida Department of Education as the 2018 school-related employee of the year. She wins $10,000. The other finalists — Sylvester Jones of Bay County; Jermaine Green of Miami-Dade County; Debra Canning of Pinellas County; and Sarah Woods of Sarasota County — each win $6,500. Florida Department of Education.

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New Schools of Hope organizations want to become ‘good neighbors’

Florida’s two newest “Schools of Hope” operators don’t just plan to open schools in academically struggling areas. They also want to work with districts — and the communities they serve — long before they open they get started.

The state Board of Education approved KIPP New Jersey and Democracy Prep Public Schools as Hope Operators today. The status allows them to qualify for special financing and state grants that help them expand student services and offer more instructional time.

The money will come out of a $140-million-a-year appropriation from the Legislature. As a result, Gabriella DiFillipo of KIPP New Jersey, which is helping to midwife a new school in Miami, said it “will only mean more funding for schools in low-income communities.”

DiFillipo said there’s no “secret sauce” behind the KIPP approach. There’s a lot of hard work and high expectations. Continue Reading →

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