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Florida schools roundup: Hope Scholarship, Kavanaugh and more

Hope Scholarship delays: While the new state scholarship for bullied students technically begins when school resumes in August, funds for the Hope Scholarships won’t be available until after Oct. 1 and possibly not until later in November. The scholarships will be funded through voluntary donations of the $105 from the sales tax that drivers pay for vehicle transactions. The collections do not begin until Oct. 1 and car dealers have 20 days to report their previous month’s tax collections, which could delay the money being available until Nov. 20 or later. The scholarships are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and state analysts project a demand of about $27 million in the first year. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, will help administer the program. News Service of Florida.

Kavanaugh and education: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has defended then-Gov. Jeb Bush’s Florida school vouchers program against a constitutional challenge in 2000, publicly praised attempts to break down the barriers between religious schools participating in programs financed with public funds, and supported the use of public address systems for student-led prayers at public school events in Texas. The 74. Miami Herald. Politico. Sun-Sentinel. Education Week. Continue Reading →

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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 →

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Florida schools roundup: District force ripped, security, tax measures and more

District’s force blasted: A Palm Beach County grand jury looking into school security issues a report blasting the school district’s police department, calling it “understaffed, underfunded and underpaid” and saying it is misleading the public about how well it’s protecting schools. “If the Palm Beach County School Board and the [school district] do not want to adequately fund, hire, pay and equip the [school district police], they are in effect wasting our taxpayer money and could be putting our children’s lives in danger,” the grand jury concluded. If the district isn’t willing to spend the money necessary, the grand jury said, it should turn over the job to the sheriff’s office. School officials call the grand jury’s suggestion to fix the problems by using financial reserves or cutting other school programs “irresponsible.” Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel.

School security: South Florida schools districts are scrambling to hire police officers to comply with the state mandate of having an armed officer in all schools when they reopen this fall. Sun-Sentinel. Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight and county commissioners criticize School Superintendent Todd Bowden for his handling of negotiations for school resource officers and for the district’s decision to create its own police force. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WFLA. WTSP. About 180 people have applied to become armed guardians for the Volusia County School District. Sheriff’s officials say about 130 met the minimum requirements and will be interviewed. As many as 52 could be hired to guard elementary and charter schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Orlando Sentinel. Estero city officials say protecting schools should be the responsibility of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, not the city. WFTX. The St. Johns County School District and county agree to a deal to have the sheriff hire 16 youth resource deputies to help guard schools. The district will contribute $1.4 million and the county $1 million. St. Augustine Record. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: District’s deal with hospital, school security and more

District-hospital deal: The Volusia County School District and a local hospital reach an unusual agreement that gives the hospital advertising rights in the district in exchange for health care services and education for students. The program will be known as the Florida Hospital Healthy Futures Program of Volusia County Schools. District officials call the deal “a first of its kind agreement between a school district and major health care provider that will serve as a national model.” The contract is for five years and requires Florida Hospital to pay $200,000 a year and provide $1 million of in-kind services. Florida Hospital becomes the district’s “Official Health Care Champion,” and will have direct involvement in the district’s 15 health care academies and programs, support athletic teams and physical trainers and provide health care services to students at 36 schools with high student absenteeism. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School security: Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has rejected a request to provide 50 deputies on overtime to patrol dozens of elementary schools, and district officials now say they will consider hiring private security guards. Palm Beach Post. A report from Sarasota School Superintendent Todd Bowden that an agreement was reached with the sheriff’s office to provide school resource officers is refuted by the sheriff. District officials later said it was just an idea being floated, and that the district will go ahead with its plan to create its own police department. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Paul Grohowski, the new Sarasota County School District’s police chief, has made decisions in his past three jobs that caused controversy. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Leon County school officials say they have a deal to pay the sheriff’s office $1.9 million to provide resource officers for 30 schools, and will spend $1 million to hire off-duty officers for the remaining 18 elementary schools. Tallahassee Democrat. The city of Cape Coral is considering ways to help Lee County put an armed school resource officer in each of the city’s schools. The cost for the 23 officers needed will be more than $1 million a year. WFTX. Like public schools, Catholic schools are struggling to find the money to provide security for students. redefinED. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Test scores improve, proposed tax hikes and more

FSA test results: Florida students improved their test scores in the state’s math, science and social studies exams, and in reading in some grades, according to results released Thursday by the Florida Department of Education. The Florida Standards Assessments measure reading and math for students in grades 3-12, science for 5th- and 8th-graders and end-of-course exams in biology, civics and U.S. history. Test results also show a narrowing of the achievement gap between white and nonwhite students in language arts, algebra 1 and geometry. Testing results are part of the formula used to assign grades to individual schools and districts. Orlando Sentinel. Sun-SentinelBridge to TomorrowFlorida Department of Education. More reports on how school districts around the state did in the testing. Ocala Star-Banner. Palm Beach Post. TCPalm. Tampa Bay Times. GradebookWJXT. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Gainesville Sun. Space Coast Daily.

Proposed tax hikes: If the Palm Beach County School Board agrees to the placement of a property tax increase on the November ballot, it would be the third school tax increase voters have been asked to approve in the past four years. This time, the request is for an extra $1 per $1,000 of taxable property value, which would be used for teacher salaries, school security and mental health care. The tax is projected to raise $200 million a year for four years. The board vote is scheduled Wednesday. Sun-Sentinel. A school tax referendum in Hillsborough County is likely to be delayed beyond November because it might take up to eight months or longer to get the financial audit that is now required by the state before voters can be asked to approve an increase in taxes. District officials say when they contacted the Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability to request the audit, they were told there might be a six-month wait and that the results would have to be posted for two months before a vote could take place. Tampa Bay Times.

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Florida schools roundup: School police chief, budgets, depression and more

School security: Paul Grohowski, who most recently worked as the director of public safety and chief of police for the Allan Hancock Joint Community College Police Department in Santa Maria, Calif., is hired as police chief for the Sarasota County School District. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Some of the everyday people being hired as school guardians in Polk County talk about their motives for taking the job. Lakeland LedgerCBS News. A survey shows that students in Boca Raton want improved active shooter drills, bulletproof windows installed and identification badges on campus enforced. Palm Beach Post. The Gulf County teachers union holds a community meeting to discuss school safety, motivating students and other issues. Port St. Joe Star.

Budget problems: The Volusia County School District is projecting a budget deficit of $4.49 million for the next fiscal year, and district officials and school board members have six weeks to close it before the scheduled board vote. Items unsettled include how much school security is going to cost, pay raises as the district continues to negotiate with the teachers union, and whether there will be money left over from the current budget year, which ends June 30. Dipping into reserves has been mentioned as an option to close the deficit. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Teaching with depression: Teachers who suffer from depression spend less time than other teachers in group instruction and explaining new assignments, according to research published in the Journal of School Psychology. Researchers studied 32 3rd-grade teachers and their 326 students in eight schools in north Florida three times over the course of a year, and theorize that depressed teachers may be choosing lessons that require less energy. Education Week.

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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 →

Research brings positive news for vouchers in North Carolina

New research from North Carolina State University breaks a streak of widely publicized negative test results for voucher students. It shows modest to strong positive effects for low-income students who use North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program.

The study, “An Impact Analysis of North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program on Student Achievement,” by Anna Egalite, D.T. Stallings and Stephen R. Porter, is the first statewide voucher study in several years to show immediate and strong positive effects right out of the gate.

“The effects sizes observed are positive, large, and statistically significant,” the researchers wrote.

The report comes after several studies over the last two years have shown negative impacts in Louisiana, Ohio, Indiana and D.C. Overall the research still trends modestly positive for voucher recipients with eight of the 15 “gold-standard” random-assignment studies showing positive effects. Only three show negative effects.

North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship program was launched in 2013 to low-income students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. It offers scholarships worth up to $4,200 to attend private schools. Participating private schools do not have to use the same state curriculum or standardized test as public schools. Continue Reading →