Archive | Education and the courts

Florida schools roundup: New ESSA plan, report cards going digital and more

Revised ESSA plan: The Florida Department of Education submits its revised plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. The state is asking the U.S. Department of Education for a waiver to limit state testing to either math or science every year for middle school students, instead of both, and wants to offer state tests in a language other than English only when 5 percent or more of middle school students speaks that language. In Florida, the plan says, that would be only Spanish. The state also wants to change the way it deals with migrant and homeless children, how it handles out-of-field teachers, and details how it will use demographic subgroups to determine what schools need additional attention. Gradebook. Politico Florida.

Digital report cards: Report cards for Lake County School District students will no longer be mailed to homes, school officials say. Instead, parents and students will have to look up grades online through the already-in-place Skyward Family Access portal. The switch is expected to save the district $35,000 a year. Parents can still get a paper copy by going to their child’s school and asking for one to be printed. Orlando Sentinel. Daily Commercial.

School security: A 16-member commission reviewing the Parkland school shooting meets for the first time today in Coconut Creek. The panel will look into law enforcement’s response and confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz’s background, and make recommendations to prevent future attacks. News Service of Florida. Miami Herald. Manatee County is unlikely to contribute to pay for armed security at the county’s schools, county officials are telling the school board. The county has split the costs in the past. School board member Charlie Kennedy says he hopes the county’s decision is negotiable. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Clay County School Board members want to put a resource officer in every school, which will cost $5 million, and are asking the county for more financial help. Clay Sheriff Darryl Daniels is frustrated by the delays in making a decision, and warns that time is running out to hire and train officers for schools. WJAX. Polk County School Board members are expected to vote today on a plan to hire at least 85 armed safety officers for county schools. WFLA. The first of three town hall meetings about using the school marshal program in Brevard County schools is tonight. The school board says putting a resource officer in every school is too expensive, and wants to consider arming school personnel even though Superintendent Desmond Blackburn and Sheriff Wayne Ivey are recommending against it. Florida Today. At least 31 students have been killed and 53 wounded in school shootings this year in the United States. The 74.

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Judge breaks down decision upholding Florida ‘Schools of Hope’ law

By Jim Saunders

News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Rejecting arguments of school boards across the state, a Leon County circuit judge this week formally rejected a challenge to a controversial 2017 law that included a series of moves to boost charter schools.

Circuit Judge John Cooper, who had earlier indicated he would turn down the challenge, issued an 18-page ruling Tuesday siding with the Florida Department of Education and the State Board of Education, the defendants in the case.

The lawsuit centered on a measure, commonly known as HB 7069, that was a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, and became one of the most-controversial issues of the 2017 legislative session. Debate about the measure highlighted continuing tensions between local school districts and the state about oversight and expansion of charter schools, which are public schools but are often run by private operators. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: School security plans, budget blues and more

School security: The Sarasota County School Board approves a plan to create an internal school security department over the next two years. The plan, which would cost the district $3.1 million, calls for hiring 30 officers and placing them in elementary schools for the 2018-2019 school year, and adding 26 more the following year and putting them in middle and high schools. Superintendent Todd Bowden proposes negotiating with local law enforcement agencies to provide coverage in middle and high schools for 2018-2019, which could cost as much as another $2.5 million. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. YourObserver.com. Both the Duval and Pasco school districts are considering plans to place safety “assistants” in elementary schools as a less-costly alternative to using sworn school resource officers. These assistants would receive less training and be paid less than SROs, and work only when schools are in session. Florida Times-UnionWJCT. WJXT. Gradebook. The Volusia County School Board is asking the county council for $2 million to help put a resource officer in every school. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Putnam County School Board members delay a decision on arming school employees until May 1 to wait for a recommendation from a school advisory committee. WJXT. Students are among about 50 people protesting against Brevard County School Board members who want to consider arming school employees. Florida Today. Broward County school officials are hosting the first of several school safety forums tonight. WLRN.

Budget problems: The Duval County School Board is facing a $62 million deficit in its $1.7 billion budget for next year, districts officials say. Last year the district dipped into its reserves to cover a $23 million deficit. Interim Superintendent Patricia Willis says overspending, higher costs for security, transportation, raises and money to charter schools are contributing to the deficit, and she’s asking department heads to look for 5 percent savings in their budgets. Florida Times-Union. Broward County school officials say they’re facing a budget deficit of nearly $15 million for the next school year, and are considering asking voters for an additional half-mill in property taxes so teachers can get raises. If approved by the school board, the tax measure would go on the November ballot. Officials estimate it would raise $93 million a year over its four-year life. Sun-Sentinel. Lake County School Superintendent Diane Kornegay is proposing to trim $2.1 million from the district’s budget by eliminating non-teaching positions in administration and support services. Daily Commercial.

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Florida schools roundup: Education amendment, funding request and more

Education amendment: A proposed constitutional amendment that bundles three education issues will appear on the November ballot. The Constitution Revision Commission, in a 27-10 vote, approves Proposal 6003, which calls for eight-year term limits on school board members, gives the authority to approve charter schools to an entity other than local school boards, and requires civics to be taught in public schools. It was one of eight amendments approved on Monday. Another education proposal, which would have allowed “high-performing” public school districts to apply for an exemption from following some state laws and regulations, as charter schools can now, was rejected by the CRC. There will be 13 amendment proposals on the ballot. Each must be approved by 60 percent of voters to take effect. Miami Herald. News Service of FloridaGradebook. redefinED. Orlando SentinelAssociated Press. Politico Florida.

Education funding: The state’s school superintendents say that if legislators are going to be called for a special session on gambling, they should also reconsider funding for education. The Florida Association of District School Superintendents wants the Legislature to increase the base allocation by $152 per student, which would cost the state about $300 million. It also wants to be able to use money from the program that calls for arming school employees to instead hire school resource officers. A previous request by the group for a special session to take another look at education funding was denied. Gradebook. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: School removing teachers, amendments and more

All teachers to be removed: Every teacher at a struggling Hernando County elementary school will be removed at the end of the school year, school officials said at a meeting Friday. Administrators decided to give Moton Elementary School a “fresh start” after it has received D grades from the state the past two years. District spokesperson Karen Jordan says without the move, the state would have taken over the school. Veteran teachers will be transferred, while newer teachers will have to apply for other open jobs in the district. Tampa Bay Times.

Education amendments: The Constitution Revision Commission will consider 12 ballot proposals this week. Two of them address K-12 education. Proposal 6003 would place an eight-year term limit on school board members, allow an alternative process for approving public and charter schools, and require civics education in public schools. Proposal 6008 would allow “high-performing” school districts exemptions from following some laws that apply to districts. The commission must send its ballot proposals to the secretary of state by May 10. News Service of Florida. redefinED. The proposal to bundle three education proposals into a single amendment for voters to consider in November is drawing criticism from education leaders around the state. Gradebook.

Charter schools’ troubles: Even as the Eagle Arts Academy charter school missed making a payroll for its teachers, it continued to pay another company owned by school founder Gregory Blount for the use of the school name, logo, website and data-processing system, according to school records. The company has been paid at least $42,000 since last June by the Wellington school. Palm Beach Post. Eagle Arts Academy teachers got a full paycheck Friday, though they remain concerned about the checks they’re due at the end of the month. District officials say they’ll close the school within the next 90 days unless it can balance its budget and pay more than $700,000 in back rent. Palm Beach Post. The Brevard County School Board will decide Tuesday whether to close the Legacy Academy Charter School in Port St. John. District officials say the 200-student K-6 school is in a financial emergency, employs noncertified teachers and operates without basic instructional materials. Florida Today. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Florida aces nation’s report card, security and more

Nation’s report card: Florida is the only state that improved in the National Assessment of Educational Progress math exam, according the annual report from the National Center for Education Statistics. Florida is also just one of nine states showing improvement in the reading exam. Among the nation’s larger districts, Hillsborough County was first in 4th-grade reading and math, and 8th-graders tied for first in reading and were tied for second in math. NAEP exam results are called the “nation’s report card” because they are a common test that can compare student academic performance across the country. “Something very good is happening in Florida, obviously,” says Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of assessment at the NCES. “Florida needs to be commended.” Nationally, test results showed little or no gains. Orlando SentinelTampa Bay Times. Chalkbeat. Hechinger Report. U.S. News & World Report. For the first time, a majority of U.S. students took the tests on computer tablets. Some educators are concerned that the change makes year-to-year score comparisons unreliable. Chalkbeat.

School security: The Jefferson County School Board votes against allowing school employees to carry concealed weapons in schools. School Superintendent Marianne Arbulu and Sheriff Mac McNeill agree that only deputies and resource officers should be armed on campus. WTXL. Manatee County School Superintendent Diana Greene says the district will need to find $1.8 million to put a resource officer in every school in August. The state is contributing $3.4 million to the district for the officers, but the total cost will be $5.2 million, Greene says. She also provided details of how the district will spend money from the voter-approved increase in property taxes for schools. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Citrus County commissioners are considering using  law enforcement impact fees and the other drug seizure funds to pay for school resource officers. Citrus County Chronicle. Student leaders from Lake County high schools collaborate to create a survey on school safety for students. Daily Commercial. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Teacher protests, texting troubles and more

Teacher protests: The proliferation of teacher protests across the United States is a sign of a deepening dissatisfaction with the conditions of the educational system, such as low teacher pay, a sense of not being valued, violence in schools, budget cuts and funding inequalities, says Darleen Opfer, an education analyst at the Rand Corporation. “We’ve been seeing conditions in schools deteriorate, stagnate or increase school violence,” she says. “The conditions are widespread enough we’d consider schools being in crisis.” National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia agrees, saying, “We’ve never seen a brushfire like this.” Agence France-Presse.

Texting troubles: A series of text messages between Sarasota County School Board member Eric Robinson and Sheriff Tom Knight show a collaborative effort to force the school district to pay the full costs for having a school resource officer in every school. The often-profane messages from Robinson also deride Superintendent Todd Bowden and board member Shirley Brown. Robinson acknowledged the messages were “inappropriate” and reflected his frustration with the board’s unwillingness to consider cutting costs. Knight said the text messages were “bad judgment” and blamed Robinson for using him to criticize Bowden. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School security: Palm Beach County school officials say they are concerned that as the trauma of the school shooting in Parkland fades, so will the resolve of political leaders to protect schools. Palm Beach Post. Town hall meetings on gun violence and school safety are held Saturday around the state. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach PostTampa Bay Times. WJXT. Citrus County sheriff’s officials are urging the school district to reject hiring private security guards to provide school security. The school board meets Tuesday to discuss how to meet the state mandate of having a qualified armed person at every school. Citrus County Chronicle. The Monroe County School Board meets Tuesday to discuss the ballot language of a plan to increase property taxes to pay for having a resource officer in every school. Key West Citizen. Continue Reading →

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Montana moms get their day in court

Shortly after Montana created its first tax credit scholarship, Mike Kadas, head of the state’s Department of Revenue, unilaterally declared that scholarships could not be used at religious private schools. Kadas argued the state’s Blaine Amendment, a 19th century relic of Catholic discrimination, barred “direct or indirect” appropriations to religious organizations.

School choice moms struck back with a lawsuit claiming religious discrimination.

“The rule also violates both the state and federal Constitutions because it allows scholarship recipients to attend any private school except religious ones,” Erica Smith, an attorney with the institute, said in a press release at the time. “That’s discrimination against religion.”

Now two years later these moms will have a chance to make their case before the Montana Supreme Court today.

The case may have national implications. To date, cases hinged on whether the use of school voucher programs violated so-called “separation of church and state” requirements in the U.S. and state constitutions. Sixteen years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris that vouchers did not violate the U.S. Constitution. Several other state supreme courts have ruled the same.

While choosing a religious school with vouchers, or tax credit scholarships, is constitutional, is it constitutional for states to prohibit parents from choosing religious options only? Continue Reading →

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