Archive | Education and the courts

Florida schools roundup: Teacher bonuses, H.B. 7069, eclipse and more

Teacher bonuses: Each Florida school district will be responsible for determining the eligibility of teachers for state bonuses under the “Best & Brightest” teacher bonuses program, the Department of Education says. The program was redefined as part of the new education bill, H.B. 7069, which also calls for $1,200 payments to teachers rated “highly effective,” up to $800 for those rated “effective,” plus bonuses for those teachers who scored in the top 20 percent on the SAT or ACT test. Teachers are expected to receive the bonuses April 1. Principals are also eligible for bonuses for the first time, but the state has yet to say how that program will work. Miami Herald.

H.B. 7069: Orange County School Board members informally say they are likely to join the lawsuit against the new state education law, H.B. 7069. All eight members support the suit, saying the law infringes on the authority of school boards and could hurt students. The board expects to take an official, binding vote next week. Orlando Sentinel. WMFE. Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has removed state Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, from his assignment as chairman of a Senate budget subcommittee for pre-K-12 education. Replacing him is first-term Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. Simmons angered many Republican leaders by voting against the House’s top priority, H.B. 7069. Negron denies the change was made as punishment. Gradebook. Naples Daily News. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida. Simmons says he plans to remain involved in education issues. Gradebook.

Eclipse schedules: School districts around the state are deciding if their students will be permitted to view the solar eclipse Monday, and if they will be, how they might do so safely. Sun-SentinelGradebook. WPLG. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton HeraldOcala Star-Banner. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. WFTV. Florida Today. WQAM. Panama City News Herald. Lakeland Ledger. WJAX. WFLA. WTSP.

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Florida schools roundup: School arrests, back to school, marijuana and more

School arrests: The Orange County School District and county law enforcement officials agree on a plan to move away from arresting students for minor crimes, and instead will issue them civil citations. They think that will keep more students in school and out of the criminal justice system, which improves students’ odds of graduating. The district had a 6.4 per 1,000 students arrest rate in the 2015-2016 school year, which was less than Pinellas and Hillsborough counties but more than Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Duval. Orlando Sentinel.

Back to school: More Florida districts head back to school this week. Florida Times-Union. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach PostTampa Bay Times. Miami Herald. TCPalm. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tallahassee Democrat. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Keynoter. Key West Citizen. Mold is found at Osceola Magnet School in Vero Beach and while the school opens as scheduled today, students will be moved around the avoid the rooms where the mold was found and will be released an hour and 40 minutes early every day while school officials await the results of air-quality tests. TCPalm. Martin County students who live within 2 miles of their school will be riding buses after all. Parents of 850 students had been notified that busing would end because of state rules. But the school board reversed that decision and the district will transport them when school opens Tuesday. School Board President Tina McSoley said busing will continue until the district can come up with a plan to help students who will be walking to arrive safely. TCPalm.

Medical marijuana: Florida school districts fear that they could be liable for helping students who are prescribed medical marijuana. Many are waiting for guidance from the state Department of Education. The Education Commission of the States, a group that studies education policy in the country, recently advised that schools could lose some federal funding if they help those students since the federal government enforces drug-free workplace policies. Sun-Sentinel.

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Florida schools roundup: Funding study, retention motion, charters and more

School funding: Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, approves a study of the school funding formula’s district cost differential (DCD). The request for the study came from Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, and Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, who contend that the DCD has cost school systems in their districts and around the state millions of dollars since it was adopted in 2004. The DCD directs extra money to districts with a higher cost of living. The study will be conducted by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability and the Office of Economic & Demographic Research. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Retention suit motion: The Florida Department of Education is asking a circuit court to dismiss a lawsuit that challenged the state’s third-grade retention law and how it was implemented by several school districts. The Florida Supreme Court recently refused to hear the case, saying the plaintiffs would have to file suits at the county level. Now the DOE says the plaintiffs didn’t exhaust their administrative options before filing the suit in Leon County, and that students who refuse to take the state’s standardized tests have no right to an option of a portfolio review. Gradebook.

Charter schools: A new state law requires local school districts to share local property taxes collected for capital improvements with charter schools. But there’s an exception that will leave a handful of charter schools without any public funds. The amount to be shared hinges on how much debt a district has. Charters in districts with a lot of debt may get no money at all, while charters in districts with little debt will. So districts with little debt and charters in districts with heavy debt are both asking for relief. Tampa Bay Times.

Cities buy their way in: Affluent cities in Miami-Dade County increasingly are starting their own charter school systems or buying seats for local students in magnet programs at other public schools. The practice can increase public school options, but some critics worry it will lead to racial and economic segregation. Steve Gallon, a member of the school board, says such proposals “could result in the creation of systems and structures that could impede such access to poor children and those of color to a world-class education based on their ZIP codes.” Miami Herald.

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Florida schools roundup: H.B. 7069, extended days, K-12 school and more

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: The Clay County School Board delays making a decision about joining other districts in suing the state over the new education law, H.B. 7069. Board members cite the expense and possible repercussions. Board member Betsy Condon said she worries about“biting the hand that feeds you,” and thinks there are more collaborative ways to deal with the law than suing. So far, five districts have announced their intent to sue the state. Florida Times-Union.

Extended school days: The Pasco County School District is eliminating extended-day programs for all schools that aren’t required by the state to have longer days due to low reading scores. The move will save the district about $600,000 and leave extended days in place for just four elementary schools that are among the 300 state schools with the lowest reading test scores. Gradebook. Eleven Martin County and four St. Lucie County elementary schools will start 10 minutes earlier this year to give the schools enough time to provide 20 minutes of recess daily or extra reading time to fulfill a state mandate. TCPalm.

K-12 school: The Hamilton County School Board is considering merging the county’s sole elementary school into Hamilton County High School to create a single K-12 school. Superintendent Rex Mitchell says it’s preferable to the options the state has given for the turnaround school by the state – closing the school and having a charter company take over, or sending the students to another school. If the state rejects the merger option, Mitchell says, the district will consider joining the lawsuit against the state over the new education bill, H.B. 7069. Suwannee Democrat.

Project overseer dismissed: The advisory committee chairman of the Miami-Dade School District’s $1.2 billion school improvement plan is dismissed a week after publicly questioning the goal of the project. Ronald Frazier questioned the district’s oversight in meeting requirements for the hiring of small and minority-owned businesses. He said his dismissal is “suspicious,” but district officials say Frazier’s contract had expired in March and was just discovered during a review. Miami Herald.

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Florida schools roundup: Teacher pay, funding formula, tax holiday and more

Teacher pay: Teachers at Memorial Middle School in Orlando will be paid $20,000 more this year as the Orange County School District tries to entice top teachers to turn around the persistently low-performing school. If a state grant can’t be obtained, the district will cover the extra costs. Officials say teachers at five other struggling schools also would get the extra pay if the district gets the grant. Only teachers rated effective or highly effective are eligible for the extra pay, and they’ll have to work an extra 30 minutes a day. Orlando Sentinel. Florida ranks 43rd among states and U.S. territories in average teacher pay at $47,256, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2016. The only states with lower pay than Florida are Arkansas, Idaho, West Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona, South Dakota, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Alaska is No. 1 at $74,122. Tallahassee Democrat.

Funding formula fight: Volusia County School Board chairwoman Melody Johnson makes a personal appeal to the Pasco County School Board to join the fight against the state’s district cost differential (DCD) portion of the school funding formula. She says 55 of the state’s 67 counties have lost money to the DCD, which gives urban districts more money to cover the higher costs of living. Johnson says Pasco has lost $53 million since 2003. Pasco board members asked Superintendent Kurt Browning to investigate and make a recommendation. Gradebook.

Back to school: The back-to-school sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 Friday and runs through 11:59 p.m. Sunday. The National Retail Federation says the average family with children in K-12 schools spends $687 on clothes and school supplies. News Service of Florida. Sunshine State NewsLakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. Keynoter. WFLA. WTSP. Florida schools open soon, and some new laws focused on school traffic are in effect. Palm Beach Post. Do school dress codes discriminate against girls? WFSU.

School branding: In an era of school choice, school branding is becoming increasingly important, say some school officials. Education Dive.

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Florida schools roundup: Tax holiday, budgets, recess, court order and more

School tax holiday: The state’s annual back-to-school sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday and ends at 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Computers and other technology equipment are back on the tax-free list after being off it last year. Sun Sentinel. Pensacola News Journal. Fort Myers News-Press. Palm Beach Post. Specifics on what is – and what isn’t – tax-free. WFLA. Florida Department of Revenue.

School budgets: The Clay County School District is considering a $386 million budget, which is about 1.8 percent higher than last year’s. The board’s final vote is Sept. 7. Florida Times-Union. School boards in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties will hold their first public hearings today on their proposed budgets. Tampa Bay Times. Brevard County might be able to pay for teacher raises with some tweaks in its $963 million budget. Meanwhile, Superintendent Desmond Blackburn says having a centralized banking account and hiring armored cars to deliver money to the bank are a “dire necessity” to fighting theft from schools. Florida Today. The Lake County School Board gives tentative approval to a $573.4 million budget, which is almost $24.5 million higher than last year’s. Daily Commercial.

School recess: So-called “recess moms” worry that the state law requiring 20 minutes of recess a day in elementary schools will be watered down by school administrators whom have been entrusted to implement the law. Specifically, they are concerned that principals will allow students to take recess indoors, and that students will continue to sit at their desks instead of playing outdoors. Gradebook.

Desegregation order: The Indian River County School District is asking a federal court to release it from parts of a 1967 desegregation order that set up plans for racially balanced schools taught by diverse staffs to create an equitable education system for minority students. The district thinks it’s made enough progress for the order to be partially lifted. But the local NAACP branch, which has criticized the board’s push to lift the order, did not join the request to the court. TCPalm.

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Florida schools roundup: Funding formula, H.B. 7069, charters and more

School funding formula: Two Republican state senators are calling for a study of the Florida K-12 school funding formula. Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, and Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast, say the current formula shortchanges smaller districts because larger districts get a bigger portion of state funding to help make up the difference for a higher cost of living. The senators want the study to see if the formula should be “kept, modified or eliminated.” Volusia County, Hukill’s home district, has been pressing for changes. School officials there say the formula has cost the district $140 million since 2004. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: School boards in Lee, Volusia and Bay counties vote to join the lawsuit against the state over the new education bill, H.B. 7069. They join Broward and St. Lucie counties in the challenge over the bill, which forces districts to share local property tax revenue with charter schools and provides financial incentives for charter companies to set up schools in areas with persistently low-performing traditional public schools. The bill also strips local officials from approving charter schools in their districts. Other districts are considering joining the suit, which has not yet been filed. Palm Beach County is expected to file suit individually. Fort Myers News-Press. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Panama City News Herald. Naples Herald. The Miami-Dade County School Board could decide as early as today if it will join other districts in suing the state over the education bill. The district has already spent almost $10,000 researching the constitutionality of the bill. Miami Herald. The Polk County School Board is considering joining the suit. Board attorney Wes Hodges believes the bill is vulnerable because it violates the state’s constitutional single subject requirement for bills, but there could be a political backlash for those districts that sue. Lakeland Ledger.

Charter schools: Charter schools are in line to receive about $146 million this year from state and local governments, or twice as much as they received last year. They get about $50 million from the state, and they expect to collect about $96 million from local schools property taxes thanks to the new education law. Todd Ziebarth of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says Florida’s law is one of two major advancements toward funding equity for charter schools in the United States. redefinED. The NAACP is expected to release a report today calling for a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools. The report, to be released at the group’s national convention, says charter schools lead to segregation and divert money from traditional public schools. The 74.

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Florida schools roundup: Audit call, budgets, schools of hope and more

District audit request: State Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, is calling on the state to audit the Duval County School District to find out how it spent $21 million more than it budgeted to last year. Fischer acknowledges that the call for an audit is motivated, at least in part, by the school board’s consideration of joining a lawsuit against the new state education law, H.B. 7069. “I’m deeply concerned that the school district is taking their eye off the ball by considering frivolous lawsuits against the state rather than getting their financial house in order,” Fischer wrote to Sen. Debbie Mayfield, chairman of the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee. Florida Times-Union. Florida Politics. The Lee County School Board will consider this week whether to join the lawsuit against H.B. 7069. Several districts say they will join Broward and St. Lucie school districts in bringing a suit, or are considering it. Fort Myers News-Press.

School budgets: The Marion County School Board votes today on a proposed $534.7 million budget that hikes spending by $12.7 million over last year. About $7.8 million of that comes from state and federal spending, and the rest will be taken from reserves to help offset increased health-insurance premiums for employees. Ocala Star Banner. Brevard school officials say the tight state budget for education has put raises for teachers in jeopardy. Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, says the state budget includes raises for teachers rated highly effective or effective, which are on top of potential payouts from the teachers bonuses program. “So teachers will make more money because of the budget that we passed,” Fine says. “Brevard Public Schools doesn’t need to give them a raise to make that happen.” Meanwhile, Superintendent Desmond Blackburn gets a raise of $10,500. Florida Today.

Schools of hope: Three schools in north Florida could be home to the first “schools of hope” under the new education law, but 37 other schools that have struggled for three or more years also could qualify in the 2018-2019 school year. Under the plan, the state can offer financial incentives to recruit charter school companies into areas that have persistently low-performing schools. redefinED. The Sarasota County School District is taking a closer look at the Suncoast School for Innovative Studies, the only Title I charter school in the county. It received a D grade from the state. “… Why did (Title 1 elementary school) Emma E. Booker get a B and you got a D when you’ve got the same demographics?” asks board member Eric Robinson. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Continue Reading →

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