Archive | Education and the courts

Florida schools roundup: Spending, bill for scholarships, bathrooms and more

School tax hike: The K-12 education budgets of both Gov. Rick Scott and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, count on an extra $400 million-plus that would be raised through rising property values on unchanging local property tax rates. Neither considers that a tax hike. But Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, does, and Wednesday he sent an emphatic message to Scott and Negron: “That’s a hell no. That’s a hell no. We’re not raising property taxes to fund government waste.” Gradebook.

More for scholarships: A bill filed in the House would raise the amount of money students would receive from the state’s tax credit scholarship program and widen eligibility for Gardiner scholarships for students with disabilities. H.B. 15, filed by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, would give low-income students a higher percentage of the current per-student funding to attend a private school. Right now the tax credit scholarship provides 82 percent of the state’s per-student rate. It would go up to 88 percent for elementary schools, 92 percent for middle schools and 96 percent for high schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer both scholarships. News Service of Florida. redefinED.

Bathroom access: The Trump Administration rescinds the federal directive allowing transgender students to use school bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The Obama Administration issued the directive last year. “This is an issue best solved at the state and local level,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said. “Schools, communities and families can find — and in many cases have found — solutions that protect all students.” New York Times. Associated Press.

Higher education: Senate and House committees hear pitches for ideas to include in the higher education budget. Among them: $2.8 million for the University of Central Florida to develop a community schools program to help turn around low-performing schools, $300,000 to fund a robotics competition at Florida Atlantic University for high schools students, an expansion of the amount students receive for Bright Futures scholarships and how they can be used, more vocational training programs and $375,000 for academic mentoring programs for black high school students in the Big Bend area. Senate President Joe Negron says he plans to combine the two main higher education bills into one. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Charter district, incentives, recess and more

Charter district: The Florida Board of Education approves a charter schools company taking over a public school district’s operations. Jefferson County, which had been struggling financially and with enrollment, will combine the elementary and middle/high schools on a single campus. The district hopes to have applications from charter schools companies by the first week in March. It’s the first time a Florida school district has ever ceded operations to a charter school company. redefinED. Tallahassee Democrat. Associated Press. WFSU. The Polk County School Board is considering closing struggling McLaughin Middle School and reopening it under the Bok Academy, an A-rated charter school. Lakeland Ledger.

Charter recruitment: Representatives from four national charter schools companies tell a Florida House committee that they’d like to expand into Florida. BASIS, IDEA, Achievement First and the SEED Foundation all express interest, if the state can set up equitable funding to public districts. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, has suggested such changes are being considered. redefinED.

Teacher incentives: Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, the Senate’s pre-K-12 education budget chairman, wants the Legislature to consider bumping the amount of money available for teacher incentives to at least $200 million. Gov. Rick Scott has recommended $58 million for teacher incentives. “I’m not concerned that we’re talking about $200-250 million,” said Simmons. “It’s an investment; it’s not an expenditure, and I think we can find it in an $83 billion budget.” Miami Herald. The statewide teachers union, the Florida Education Association, says the incentive programs are gimmicks, and that it wants better pay for all teachers. Miami Herald.

Recess doubts: Two members of the Senate PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee want lawmakers to consider the whole picture of education and the financial implications before approving a bill that would require 20 minutes of recess every day in Florida elementary schools. “This is an important issue, recess, but I think we need to look at it in a more holistic way,” said Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee. Gradebook. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Testing, charters, student ID cards and more

Testing reform: Three legislators say they will file a bill today that would cut back on state-required assessment testing. The “Fewer, Better Tests” bill’s goals are to cut down on and improve state tests, move the exams to later in the school year, get the test results to teachers sooner, and provide better student score reports. Filing the bill are Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami; Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah; and Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor. Sunshine State NewsGradebook. The Manatee County School Board tables a discussion on a proposal to limit district-required testing. Bradenton Herald.

Charter school takeovers: Members of the House education committee who are discussing district methods of turning around underperforming schools say districts should consider allowing charter school companies to take over operations at those schools. This week, the Florida Board of Education will consider a plan to make the Jefferson County School District a charter district. Politico Florida.

Student ID cards: The Duval County School District will issue new student IDs that are linked to data such as grades, academic progress, attendance and discipline. Students would have to swipe the cards when they get on and off school buses and when they go to classes. The setup cost is $1.1 million, with a $123,500 annual fee. Florida Times-Union.

School recess: The 2016 bill that would have required daily recess at all Florida elementary schools also would have prohibited teachers from withholding recess for misbehaving students. This year that provision has been stripped out of the recess bills, at the insistence of two powerful legislators who say they don’t want to take away teachers’ flexibility. Miami Herald. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Merit pay, education funding, club policy and more

Merit pay study: A study nationally and in Orange County concludes that tying teacher pay to students’ performance on standardized testing has not produced the results expected. The study, shared with the Central Florida Public School Boards Coalition, indicates there has been no “significant or stable improvements” in student achievement since Florida adopted a merit pay law in 2006. Orange County School Board members say they will share the study with Florida legislators. Orlando Sentinel.

Education funding: Two influential Democratic state representatives say they are encouraged by House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s weekend pledge to boost education spending for the 2017-2018 school year. State Reps. Larry Lee Jr., D-Port St. Lucie, and Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, said in a statement: “Now that the speaker has made this commitment, we are hopeful that our committees will move away from looking at ways to cut education funding and instead begin to focus on giving our hardworking teachers a raise, and increasing per-pupil funding to actually historic levels that take into account inflation.” Sunshine State News. Florida Politics.

Club policy: The Lake County School Board will consider a proposed policy change that would allow a Gay-Straight Alliance at Carver Middle School in Leesburg. The district proposed the change after a federal appeals court ruled that denying the group’s application for the club was a violation of the Equal Access Act. Several school board members say they support the change, as long as students get parental consent. Daily Commercial. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Charter district plan, testing, recess and more

Charter district: The Jefferson County School District could become the state’s first all-charter schools district, if the Florida Board of Education agrees Thursday with the district’s school board vote to make the change. Jefferson has just two schools – elementary and middle/high school – with about 700 students. It’s struggled academically and financially in recent years, and the state board recently ordered it to either close the schools or turn them over to private operators. “(The school board) didn’t feel any other options would be approved by the state board, and I wasn’t willing to take the risk of going to the state board and walking away with it turned down. That just wasn’t what I thought was in our best interest,” says Jefferson Superintendent Marianne Arbulu. redefinEDWFSU.

School testing: State Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, files a bill requiring the state education commissioner to review the ACT and SAT national college entrance tests to see if they cover the content taught in Florida high school language arts and math classes. If the answer is yes, it could lead to the scrapping of the Florida Standards Assessments testing in favor of the national tests. Orlando Sentinel. Manatee County School Board members will vote Tuesday on a proposal to put a moratorium on all testing in county schools that is not required by the state. If it’s approved, Manatee would join Clay and Marion counties in eliminating or severely reducing the amount of district-administered tests. Bradenton Herald.

Recess fight: A mom’s group named Recess for All Florida Students is ratcheting up its lobbying for legislation that requires daily recess for all Florida elementary students. The proposals (S.B. 78 and H.B. 67) have wide support, but a key House member isn’t sure a statewide mandate is the proper way to get it done. Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami, the education policy chairman, says he’s reluctant to puts limits on teachers’ flexibility in the classroom. Miami Herald. The moms behind the drive have had success with a couple of districts, but continue to push for the statewide rule. “Of course, we started this because of our kids, but is it fair for those moms who have worked alongside us all these years, and their kids still don’t have recess?” asks Angela Browning of Orlando, whose district has adopted a daily recess policy. Miami Herald.
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Florida schools roundup: Budget-cutting exercise, charter schools and more

Cutting exercise: Members of the Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meet to brainstorm about what they might cut out of the education budget if state revenue falls as projected. Many agreed on killing a $14 million incentive plan for student uniforms. Other potential cuts included district-level administrative funds, money to reduce class sizes, public broadcasting support and even less testing. House Republicans say they will not support any increase in tax revenues. Gradebook.

Charter schools: The executive director of Jacksonville’s KIPP charter school says he’d like to see more of the schools in Florida, but the state’s method of funding for charter facilities is a powerful deterrent. Florida’s public schools receive about $1,500 per student for facilities, while charter schools get about $300. That director, Tom Majdanics, said the money KIPP Jacksonville receives from the state “barely covers the interest on our loans” for capital expenses. redefinED. Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, files a bill that would allow academically high-performing charter school organizations to apply to the state for a “high impact” status designation. The charter schools getting the designation would qualify immediately for state facilities funds, avoid the 5 percent management fee charters usually pay school districts, receive federal funding directly and get preference for federal charter school grants. redefinED.

Employee honored: Darreyl Williams, an exceptional student education program assistant at Lakeville Elementary in Apopka, is named the Orange County School District’s support employee of the year. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Bright Futures, capital funding, testing and more

Bright Futures: The proposed expansion of Bright Futures scholarships is moving in two directions within the Florida Senate. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, wants to expand the scholarships for high-achieving students to cover full tuition and fees, and to allow them to use the money for summer classes. S.B. 2, which incorporates those proposals and more, was passed Wednesday by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education. Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal would allow all students with Bright Futures scholarships to use the money for summer classes. It’s been endorsed by former Senate president Tom Lee, R-Brandon. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida. Florida Politics.

Capital funding: Public school superintendents and charter schools leaders share ideas with legislators on how to improve the way the state hands out capital funding. Both say more money is needed for infrastructure and repairs. Superintendents also are asking for more flexibility on how they use the available money, while charter leaders are lobbying for a more equitable and consistent share from the state. Politico Florida. redefinED.

Testing participation: The definition of testing participation could play a role in an appeal court’s decision on a lawsuit challenging the state’s retention policy for third-graders. The law on what constitutes student participation is not clearly spelled out, and those suing the state say that ambiguity is leading districts to formulate their own rules, resulting in unequal treatment of students across districts. Gradebook.

Testing questions: Members of the Florida House committee on school policy question whether the downside of frequent, standardized testing and giving schools grades outweigh the benefits of the testing. State Department of Education officials say stability in the testing and assessing school grades are crucial to accountability. “We can’t assess ourselves into greatness,” State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has said. “But we also won’t be great if we don’t know how our students are performing.” Sun-Sentinel. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Retention suit, DeVos, weapons, adoptions and more

Retention appeal: At least two judges on the three-member First District Court of Appeal seem skeptical of a Leon County judge’s decision against the state and several school districts over retention and promotion policies for third-graders, and of the actions of parents whose children opt out of testing. That judge, Karen Gievers, ruled that students could not be retained solely on the basis of standardized test scores and should have options for earning promotion, The state and districts appealed. Tampa Bay Times. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida.

DeVos confirmation: School choice advocate Betsy DeVos is confirmed as U.S. education secretary on a 51-50 vote. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says DeVos will transfer power from the federal government and teachers unions and give it to states and parents. redefinED. Tampa Bay TimesPolitico Florida. Sunshine State News.

Weapons at schools: The Duval County School District is setting up a dedicated hotline to report weapons or violence at schools. Officials will also increase random searches at schools, and talk more to students about guns and violence. There have been 10 incidents of weapons found at the district’s public and charter schools this school year. Florida Times-Union.

Adoption help: A bill is being drafted that would extend state adoption benefits to charter school employees. Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, is working on a bill that would amend the law and give the benefit – up to $10,000 for special needs children or those from a racially mixed family – to charter and virtual schools workers. Lakeland Ledger.

Marijuana meeting: South Florida law enforcement and school officials meet to discuss what kind of medical marijuana rules are needed to protect students and still give people the access they need to the drug. Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho wants no medical marijuana dispensaries within 2,500 feet of schools, and said packaging must not look like candy or soda. WTVJ.
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