Archive | Education and the courts

Florida schools roundup: Immigrants and GED review, security and more

Immigrants and GED: The Miami-Dade County School Board has ordered a review of the way the district educates immigrant students. The review was approved about a month after newspaper reports detailed how arriving teens with limited English skills were often pushed into adult education programs, where they then prepared to get a high school diploma through the GED program. Critics of that process say those students are steered away from regular high schools because school officials think they’ll have a negative impact on graduation rates. More than 1,000 of the 5,000 immigrant teens who arrived this year ended up in Spanish-language GED programs. Board members gave administrators until September to conduct the review and report back. Miami Herald. About 200 immigrant youths under the age of 19 who tried to enroll in Collier County schools were turned away and pushed toward a GED degree, online programs and workforce training sessions, according to a lawsuit filed on their behalf by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Here’s the story of one, 17-year-old Nehemy Antoine, a Haitian immigrant who became a U.S. citizen. Teacher Project, Naples Daily News.

School security: A Palm Beach grand jury’s suggestion that the school district dip into its reserves to pay for school resource officers is dismissed by school officials as a simplistic and unrealistic solution to a complicated problem. They say the reserve fund as a percentage of the annual budget is already lower than that of most Florida districts, and that reserves should not be used for everyday expenses like new employees and higher salaries. Palm Beach Post. While Sanibel, Fort Myers or Cape Coral city officials have agreed to contribute financially to place resource officers in schools in their cities, officials in Estero and Bonita Springs are still questioning whether it’s their responsibility. They think school protection ought to fall under what they already pay the county for the sheriff to police their cities. Naples Daily News. Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods drops the cost to supply resource officers for schools, and if the city of Ocala can’t do the same the school board is likely to contract with the sheriff. The board meets Monday to finalize its decision. Ocala Star-Banner. Officials from the St. Johns County School District and sheriff’s office talk about how the county will comply with the state’s school security mandate. St. Augustine Record. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Tax hikes, textbooks, charter schools and more

School tax hikes: Palm Beach County school leaders are considering giving charter schools a portion of the $150 million a year that would be generated if voters approve a property tax hike in November. Language that specifically excluded charter schools has been removed from the proposal, which the school board will consider today. The decision to cut charters in was made after legal action was threatened if they were excluded. Palm Beach Post. The Hillsborough County School Board agrees to ask voters to increase the sales tax to raise money for capital expenses. The request now goes to the state, which has to perform a financial audit. Superintendent Jeff Eakins also said he was looking into asking voters for a property tax hike, which could be used for teacher salaries and programs. Tampa Bay Times. Lake County commissioners approve a special school safety tax, which will be on the Aug. 28 ballot. Money generated would help pay for resource officers in all schools. Orlando Sentinel.

Science textbooks approved: The Collier County School Board approves the use of new science textbooks that were challenged by evolution and climate change skeptics. The vote was 3-2, with Erika Donalds and Kelly Lichter voting against using the recommended textbooks. Four people had lodged complaints against 220 items in 18 textbooks, alleging that they treat evolution and climate change as fact rather than theory. The new books will cost the district $1.7 million and will be handed out to students in August. Naples Daily News. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Tax hikes, testing results, school security and more

Tax vote scuttled: Brevard County School Board members don’t think voters will approve a property tax increase to pay for school security and employee pay raises, so they’ve decided not to ask. They say there’s not enough time to educate voters, and they worry that putting the referendum on the ballot will jeopardize the renewal of the half-cent sales tax surcharge. So now the board will be looking at layoffs and cutting expenses and programs. Pennie Zuercher, the district’s chief financial officer, estimated the budget deficit will be about $5.3 million. Florida Today.

FSA test results: More reports on how school districts around the state, and some struggling schools in particular, did in the Florida Standards Assessments testing for reading and math for grades 3-12, science for 5th- and 8th-graders and end-of-course exams in biology, civics and U.S. history. Testing results are part of the formula used to assign grades to individual schools and districts. Miami Herald. Florida Times-UnionWUSF. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando SentinelWJCT. WSNN. Bradenton Herald. Bradenton TimesSarasota Herald-Tribune. Island Reporter. WBBH. Naples Daily News. Flagler Live. Ocala Star-Banner. Northwest Florida Daily News. Vero News. WJHG. Lakeland Ledger. Charlotte Sun. Walton Sun. Highlands News-Sun. Marco Eagle. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Panama City News Herald. WLRN. Bridge to Tomorrow. WMBB.

School security: Miami-Dade school officials are asking city and county officials for help in putting school resource officers in schools that do not already have officers. The district has its own police force, and its officers cover all middle and high schools. But that leaves about 240 schools uncovered. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho plans to use $4 million from the state to hire 40 to 50 officers for the district force, and is offering $4 million to be distributed among the county and 34 municipalities. WLRNWFOR. Jupiter Police Chief Frank J. Kitzerow Jr. is chosen to become police chief of the Palm Beach County School District. Kitzerow, 61, has been chief in Jupiter since 2004. The school board is expected to approve the appointment at its Wednesday meeting. Palm Beach PostSun-Sentinel. The St. Johns County School Board authorizes Superintendent Tim Forson to negotiate and contract with law enforcement agencies to provide armed security at any district school not already covered by deputies from the sheriff’s office. St. Augustine Record. The Palm Beach and Martin county school districts have bought workplace violence insurance in case any of their schools are attacked by anyone with a weapon. WPTV. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: School crime reporting, scholarships, suit and more

School crime reporting: The Broward County School District has failed to report many students’ crimes to the state as required by state law, according to records from the Broward Sheriff’s Office. For example, the district reported 193 weapons were found in schools during the 2016-2017 school year, but officials acknowledge they no longer were counting such things as ammunition, small knives, throwing blades, nunchucks, BB guns and combustible materials. District spokeswoman Cathleen Brennan says the data sent to the state is meant only to capture “the most serious of incidents, while other incidents are recorded and addressed locally.” Lisa Maxwell, executive director of the Broward Principals and Assistants’ Association, adds, “The state statute is really kind of unclear and open to interpretation, so it leads to subjective decisions.” Sun-Sentinel.

Scholarship oversight: Several legislators say they want to standardize education curriculum for all state schools. Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, was among those calling for the change after a newspaper report detailing some of the materials used by some private schools that enroll students who get scholarships from the state. Among those lessons: people and dinosaurs lived on Earth at the same time, slaves who “knew Christ” were better off than free men who did not, and God intervened to prevent Catholics from controlling North America. The state doesn’t track curriculum used by private schools with scholarship students, and bars the Florida Education Department from regulating academics at those schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer two scholarship programs students use to attend private schools. Orlando Sentinel.

One lawsuit on hold: Leon County Circuit Court Judge James Shelfer rules that the Palm Beach County School Board’s challenge of the Legislature’s 2017 education law, H.B. 7069, is on hold until an appeal on a broader lawsuit against the law is settled. Palm Beach is challenging only the part of the law that requires the district to share local property tax revenue with charter schools it authorizes. The other lawsuit, brought by several districts, claims the law is unconstitutional because it has “encroached on the authority vested by the Florida Constitution in locally elected district school boards to operate, control, and supervise the local public schools located in their respective jurisdictions.” redefinED. Continue Reading →


Judge puts Palm Beach HB 7069 funding lawsuit on hold

A South Florida school district’s bid to recoup facilities funding it shared with charter schools under a 2017 law has to wait for courts to sort out a broader case, a Leon County judge has ruled.

The Palm Beach County School Board was first out of the gate to challenge HB 7069 when it passed last year. Its lawsuit is narrow, targeting only the portion of the law requiring it to share local property tax revenue with charter schools it authorizes.

More than a dozen other districts subsequently backed a broader lawsuit taking aim at multiple parts of the law, including the Schools of Hope program. Earlier this year, a different Leon County judge upheld the law on all counts. Last month, the school districts appealed.

Late last week, Judge James Shelfer ruled the Palm Beach case should be put on hold while the appeal in the other lawsuit gets resolved.

While these lawsuits unfolded, the Legislature passed a new law, HB 7055, that relieves school districts of their obligation to share property tax revenue with charter schools — at least for now. But the Palm Beach district still hopes to “claw back” $9.3 million it shared during the just-finished school year. And it argued that even under the current law, it could still have to share local facilities revenue sometime in the future.

What’s more, the district noted the broader lawsuit over HB 7069 could get resolved without answering the one question in its lawsuit, which deals solely with facilities funding.


Florida schools roundup: Education lawsuit, commissions, security and more

Education lawsuit: The group suing the state over its funding of public education is asking the Florida Supreme Court to send the case back to lower courts for another review. Both a trial court and an appeals court have rejected the arguments made by the plaintiffs in the Citizens for Strong Schools v. Florida State Board of Education case, ruling that the language used in the constitutional standard for funding a high quality public education is not measurable. The plaintiffs disagree, saying the court’s traditional duty has been to interpret constitutional terms and decide if the other branches of the government have acted constitutionally. Gradebook. redefinED.

School safety commissions: The federal school safety commission set up after the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will not consider the role of guns in school violence, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tells a Senate subcommittee. “That is not part of the commission’s charge per se,” DeVos said. “We are actually studying school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school.” Associated PressNBC News. Politico. Washington Post. Meanwhile, the chairman of the state commission looking into the shootings at Parkland acknowledges that its investigation and recommendations won’t stop school shootings in Florida. “Nobody should be mistaken about this: It’s not a question of if this is going to happen again,” says Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “The question is when and where, and most importantly, what has been done to put things in place to mitigate the impact.” TCPalm. Continue Reading →


Groups seek to prolong Fla. education lawsuit, revive school choice claims

The groups behind a wide-ranging lawsuit that argues Florida has violated its constitutional mandate to provide a high-quality education want to hit the reset button on the case.

In court papers filed Monday with the state Supreme Court, attorneys with Southern Legal Counsel argue a trial court erred when it dismissed their lawsuit on all counts. They also argued an appeals court erred when it ruled that declaring wide swaths of education funding and policy unconstitutional would encroach on the powers of other branches of government.

As a result, they argue, the high court should send the case back to the trial court for a new round of deliberations under different legal standards.

The plaintiffs in the adequacy lawsuit argue a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1998 created legal standards that allowed citizens to sue the state if they felt it was under-funding or otherwise mismanaging its public education system. Several former members of the Constitution Revision Commission that crafted that amendment have asked to weigh in with the court in support of that argument. The state has pushed back. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Task force findings, cop talks, term limits and more

Security task force: Almost four months after 17 people were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a Broward County school safety task force recommends 100 ways to improve security for schools. Among them: installing portable metal detectors at Stoneman Douglas this fall and considering them for all schools, putting coverings over windows in doors, keeping classroom doors locked at all times, increasing the height of all outdoor fences, requiring ID badges for all students and staff, and reviewing the Promise program, which was created in 2013 as a way to offer alternatives to arresting students. The committee members also joined local officials in calling on the Legislature to boost funding for school safety. Sun-Sentinel. Miami HeraldWSVN. Politico Florida. WLRN.

A cop reflects: Scot Peterson, a Stoneman Douglas resource officer who did not enter the building where confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz was killing 17 people on Feb. 14, is haunted by that day, at times justifying his decisions (“How can they keep saying I did nothing?”) and at times questioning them (“Why didn’t I know to go in?”). He has considered changing his name or moving out of state, but knows there’s no escaping the infamy. “It’s haunting,” Peterson says. “I’ve cut that day up a thousand ways with a million different what-if scenarios, but the bottom line is I was there to protect, and I lost 17.” Still, he believes there is little or nothing more he could have done. Washington Post. Parents of students killed at Stoneman Douglas express outrage at Peterson’s comments. “I’m tired of him trying to paint himself as the victim,” says one, Fred Guttenberg, the father of 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg. “He is not a victim. He created victims. He keeps referring to them as his kids. They are not your kids, Scot Peterson! You let them die!” Miami Herald. Continue Reading →