Archive | Charter Schools

Florida schools roundup: Schools of hope compromise, budget and more

Schools of hope: A compromise on the “schools of hope” bill is drawing support from previously opposed Democratic lawmakers. The $200 million measure was introduced by the House to offer incentives to highly regarded charter school companies to open schools in areas where traditional public schools are persistently low performing. While details of the compromise are not known, some Democrats involved in the process say it’s a mixture of the original House bill and a Senate suggestion that more money be made available to public schools before charters are recruited. “I think we’re 80 percent there” on a final compromise, says House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes. Miami HeraldPolitico FloridaWFSU. Teachers and education activists protest the legislation at a news conference in Tampa. “Diverting $200 million in our taxpayer money away from our children’s public schools to unaccountable private companies is a terrible plan,” said Michelle Prieto, coordinator for the group Mi Familia Vota. Florida Politics.

Budget agreement: Senate and House leaders announce a deal on an $83 billion budget that blends the educational priorities of both chambers. Details are being worked out in conference committee. Associated PressPolitico Florida. Public school leaders make a last-minute push for more K-12 funding. Politico Florida.

Virtual open enrollment: The House passes a bill allowing Florida students to attend any virtual charter school in the state that is authorized by a school district. Right now, students can only attend the virtual school in the district in which they live. Many consider the bill as the natural extension of the state’s new open enrollment law, which allows any student to attend any public school that has space available. redefinED. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Schools of hope, state budget, Title I and more

Education bills: House leaders are considering changing the so-called “schools of hope” legislation to allow school districts to compete with charter school companies for part of the $200 million fund created by the bill. Originally, the bill was conceived as a way to recruit highly regarded charter companies to open schools in areas with persistently low-performing traditional public schools. “What we’re arguing for is an equitable playing field, where we would have the ability to be able to compete for the dollars that are set aside,” said Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie, who helped pitch the plan to legislators. Politico Florida. A Senate committee spent just nine minutes to describe, amend and approve its version of the “schools of hope” bill. “These issues have been discussed around here, and we’re just putting them in the conference posture,” says Senate Appropriations chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. Miami Herald. School officials expect the “education train” bill to continue to morph in the final days of the legislative session, which could mean further changes to the state’s standardized testing. St. Augustine Record.

Budget discussions: Negotiations continue between Senate and House leaders on an $83 billion budget, and details are slowly emerging. The proposed deal allots $200 million for the “schools of hope” proposal and $200 million to expand the Best and Brightest teacher bonuses program, but won’t allow increases in property tax revenue for schools. Per-student spending would be increased only slightly. But, says Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, “It would be a mistake to only count in the education budget what comes directly through the FEFP (Florida Education Finance Program, the formula that determine per-student spending). I think there are other educational opportunities that we’ll give to our constituents, and I think that improves the overall quality of our system.” Florida Politics. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. The budget agreement comes only after extensive one-on-one talks between Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes. Tampa Bay Times.

Title I concerns: School officials and educational consultants have concerns about the way the Florida House education bill would distribute federal Title I funds, which are intended to help low-income students. The House bill calls for Title I funds to be spread more evenly among schools, including charters. Cheryl Sattler, a Tallahassee consultant on federal education funding, says the bill would mean fewer dollars for children in low-income schools and fewer resources for preschools. “Low-achieving schools couldn’t expect help,” she says, “so they will stay low-performing.” Gradebook.

Financial literacy: The Senate passes a bill requiring Florida students to take a financial literacy course to graduate from high school. Senators name it the “Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Education Act” to honor the Republican senator from Port Orange, who has missed the session as she has undergoes cancer treatment. “This has been a bill that Sen. Hukill’s worked on since the day she came to the Florida Senate. I can’t even count the number of conversations that I have had with her about this bill since she’s been here with us,” said Sen. Jack Latvala. Florida Politics. WFTV. News Service of Florida. Continue Reading →


Lawmaker joins Step Up For Students board

Sen. John Legg

A former state lawmaker who helped shape Florida education in policy for more than a decade will join the board of Step Up For Students, the nonprofit that helps administer two major private school choice programs.

State Sen. John Legg served in the Florida House from 2004 to 2012. He was elected to the state Senate in 2012, and served as chairman of the Education Committee for four years before leaving the Legislature in 2016.

Before he supported the school choice movement as a legislator, Legg supported it as an educator. In 2000, he helped found Dayspring Academy, a high-performing Pasco County charter school where he serves as an administrator. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Budget deal, schools of hope, bonuses and more

Budget deal: The Florida Senate and House reach agreement on an $83 billion state budget. The agreement includes $200 million to attract specialized charter schools to the state to compete with persistently low-performing schools – the so-called “schools of hope” plan – and increases for teacher bonuses and higher education. But the Senate agreed to the House’s demand not to allow higher property taxes to increase K-12 per-student spending. The budget must be completed by Tuesday for the session to end as scheduled May 5. Miami Herald. Naples Daily News. News Service of FloridaGradebook. redefinED. redefinED.

School and cancer: After a briefing about the suspicions of a cancer cluster at the old Bayshore High School property, Manatee County commissioners agree to meet with school board members within the next 30 days to discuss the community’s concerns. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Financial situation dire: The financial outlook for the Hillsborough County School District is bleak, school officials tell school board members. Only about a quarter of the needed cuts have been made, while costs and enrollment are rising and public funds are increasingly scarce. Chief business officer Gretchen Saunders said the district may not even be able to honor its 2013 agreement with the teachers union to raise pay. Tampa Bay Times. The district is deficient in keeping its technology updated, according to a critique from its consultants. The student information system, for example, uses a computer language invented in 1959 and outdated hardware that costs about $1.5 million a year to maintain. Replacing technology will take years, says Patti Simmons, the district’s supervisor of data analysis. Tampa Bay Times. The board approves new start times for the 2018-2019 school year. WFLA.

Smaller campuses: The Orange County Commission approves a plan to allow the school district to build schools on smaller sites. The new rules allow elementary schools to be built on 7 to 11 acres instead of 15; middle and K-8 schools on 12 to 16 acres instead of 25; and high schools on 40 to 50 acres instead of 65. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →


Fla. Senate advances its version of ‘Schools of Hope’

Sen. Aaron Bean

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved two bills today aimed at providing aid for struggling schools and attracting nationally recognized charters to their neighborhoods.

Together, the bills are similar to the House’s ‘Schools of Hope,’ a $200 million plan to move students from struggling public schools into new schools operated by nationally recognized charter school operators.

But at the same time, the Senate bills have key differences — including an uncertain price tag.

The committee approved SB 796, by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, which aims to attract “high-impact” charter schools to Florida.

The legislation requires charter  school organizations to prove to the state Board of Education they have a track record of achieving results with low-income students. Continue Reading →


‘Schools of Hope’ or ‘high-impact’ charters?

The Florida House and Senate may be poised to move closer together on their ambitious plans to bring more top charter school organizations into high-needs parts of Florida.

The Senate’s Appropriations Committee is set to consider a revision to legislation by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, aimed at attracting “high-impact” charter schools to Florida.

The revised proposal would look something like Schools of Hope by another name. Charter school organizations would have to demonstrate to the state Board of Education that they have a track record of getting results with low-income students.  Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Education bill, autonomy for schools and more

Education bill: The Florida House Education Committee passes H.B. 733, the nearly all-inclusive education bill that would cut standardized testing and make significant changes to the state’s K-12 education system. The bill does not include mandatory recess time for elementary students, which is in the Senate’s proposal. Miami Herald. Sunshine State News. Florida Politics. Included in a 76-page amendment to the bill are several provisions to help charter and virtual schools. redefinED. The feud between House and Senate leaders over the state budget continues, though several still think they can reach an agreement before the session is scheduled to end May 5. News Service of Florida. Sunshine State News.

Autonomy for schools: A bill passed by the House would broaden autonomy for principals from a pilot program in seven districts to the highest-performing 20 percent of all public schools. Under the pilot program, principals at low-performing schools have greater control over hiring and would be freed from some state regulations. redefinED.

Teacher contracts: Two special state magistrates have issued different interpretations to districts about whether they can negotiate contract renewal guarantees for teachers who are rated highly effective or effective. In both cases, the districts told the teachers unions a 2011 law did not allow guaranteed teacher contracts. Unions in St. Johns and Pasco counties wouldn’t agree to a contract without that guarantee. In St. Johns, a magistrate agreed with the teachers union. In Pasco, a magistrate sided with the district. Gradebook.

High school rankings: Pine View School in Osprey is rated the top high school in the state in the latest U.S. News & World Report’s rankings. Design and Architecture Senior High in Miami is second, International Studies Charter High School in Miami third, International Studies Preparatory Academy in Coral Gables fourth, and Westshore Junior/Senior High School in Melbourne fifth. U.S. News & World Report. Miami HeraldNaples Daily News. South Florida Business Journal. Continue Reading →


Revised house bill would expand options for charter and virtual schools

Rep. Manny Diaz

The Florida House Education Committee revised a testing bill today to include an amendment that would help charter and virtual schools.

Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, filed a 76-page amendment to HB 773, adding certain aspects of several education bills.

The amendment includes a portion HB 7101 by Rep. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs that would allow high-performing charters to replicate more than once per year if they open in an area served by a persistently low-performing school.

It also includes provisions from HB 833, by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, allowing all students to have access to online courses.

Sullivan’s bill — and the companion bill by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala — would give students in second through fifth grade who did not attend public school the ability to enroll in part-time virtual instruction.

Diaz also added terminology from HB 1111, which would give charter schools more freedom to train teachers and get them certified. The bill would create a new mentorship-based path to a Florida teaching certificate, and allow charter schools and charter school management companies to create their own teacher mentorship programs.

Rep. Larry Lee, D-Port St. Lucie, joined colleagues from both parties who approved the revised bill.

“I am going to be supporting this bill,” he said. “It needs a little bit of work. I am of the opinion that let’s not let perfect get in the way of good.”