Archive | Florida schools roundup

Florida schools roundup: Charter audits, discipline disparities and more

Discipline disparities. Black students make up 44 percent of Duval County's student body, but account for some 80 percent of its suspensions. Florida Times-Union.

Charter school audits. State financial audits find internal weaknesses at 94 charter schools. Gainesville Sun.

Private school ordinance. A prestigious Miami-Dade private school runs afoul of a city-imposed enrollment cap. City of Pinecrest officials learned Gulliver Prep had understated its enrollment by more than 100 students. Miami Herald.

HB 7069. Pasco County school board members aren't contemplating joining a lawsuit challenging a major education law. For one thing, they worry about political consequences. At most, they're in what one member calls "wait and research mode." Tampa Bay Times. St. John's County legislators, including likely future House Speaker Paul Renner, discuss the bill at a local forum. St. Augustine Record.

School improvement. School board members call for change at two long-struggling Volusia County schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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Florida roundup: Charter schools, Schools of Hope, growth and more

Schools of Hope. The Hillsborough school district could win substantial grants to improve its persistently struggling schools. Tampa Bay Times. School districts are lining up to sue the state over the new school turnaround law. Sunshine State News. The Orange County School Board is the latest to consider joining the suit. Orlando Sentinel.

Community schools. Polk County plans to offer wraparound services at one of its elementary schools. Lakeland Ledger.

Enrollment growth. Florida’s public schools are expected to add thousands of students in the coming year. News Service of Florida. Officials in fast-growing St. Johns County schools add portable classrooms to absorb students. St. Augustine Record. Continue Reading →

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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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Florida schools roundup: Help for failing schools, H.B. 7069 challenge and more

Help for failing schools: Ninety-three failing Florida schools can apply to the state for up to $2,000 more per student to fund such services as after-school programs and community partnerships, the Department of Education announces. The schools are eligible through the “schools of hope” provision of H.B. 7069 because they have received grades below a C from the state for the past two years. They have less than a month to apply, and only 25 will get the money because of a cap limiting payouts to $58 million of the $140 million set aside by the law. The rest will go to charter schools that set up within 5 miles of the failing schools. Miami Herald.

H.B. 7069 suit: The Palm Beach County School Board votes unanimously to support a proposal to sue the state over the new education law, H.B. 7069. Board attorneys were directed to research the best way to challenge the law, which increases money for charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools and limits local districts’ authority over charters. Board members say they may not join a proposed lawsuit by Broward and St. Lucie counties. Board member Frank Barbieri says separate suits could make a defense harder for the state. “If we are going to sue, which we certainly should, we should make it as difficult and painful for the state Legislature as they have made it for us to operate this school district, the highest performing large urban school district in Florida,” he said. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. The Florida Charter School Alliance says Palm Beach County Superintendent Robert Avossa signaled an intention to “wage war” on charter schools when he urged the school board to join the lawsuit. Lynn Norman-Teck, executive director of the alliance, says the board should remember that charter schools and their students are in the public school system. Palm Beach Post.

Duval may join suit: Duval County School Board members ask Jacksonville’s city attorney to investigate how much it would cost to sue the state over H.B. 7069 or join the current movement toward a suit by Broward and St. Lucie counties, the likelihood of success, and whether the city would join the board in the suit. At least six Duval schools are in danger of being closed or turned over to charter companies under the new law. Other districts that have discussed joining the suit are Pinellas, Palm Beach, Sarasota, Manatee and Alachua. Florida Times-UnionWJCTWJXT.
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Florida schools roundup: Indoor recess, turnarounds, court challenge and more

Indoor recess: When Florida elementary schools reopen next month, they’ll be required to offer students at least 20 minutes of recess a day. But Florida Department of Education officials say recess could be held in classrooms, since there is no requirement that the time for free play be outdoors. Districts are required to report their compliance with the law by Sept. 1. Charter schools are exempt. Associated Press. Lake County School Superintendent Diane Kornegay says giving 20 minutes of school a day for recess leaves the district with 340 minutes a day of instructional time. The state requires at least 300 minutes. Each of the county’s 32 public elementary schools will arrange its own schedule. Daily Commercial.

Turnaround schools: The Florida Board of Education has ordered three school districts to revise turnaround plans for troubled schools. These are the first to fall under the new education law, which gives districts less time to turn around schools and offers three options if they don’t: close the schools, turn them into charters or bring in an outside “partner” to help run the schools. Gadsden County will bring in help for the coming school year, then search for a charter school company to take over Gadsden High in the 2018-2019 school year. Alachua County’s plan to turn around Hawthorne Middle/High School was rejected, and district officials will have to prepare a plan using one of the three options. Hamilton County will have to choose a charter company to take over Hamilton High before next spring. redefinED.

Education challenge: How do you measure if the state has a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools,” as required by the state constitution? That’s what First District Court of Appeal judges seemed to be wondering during a hearing Tuesday in the case challenging Florida’s education policies. A group known as Citizens for Strong Schools brought the suit, arguing troubling racial achievement gaps show the unconstitutionality of the system. The state argues that funding levels are sufficient, that Florida students’ achievements have improved significantly in the past 20 years, and that the constitutional language was political and not a literal standard that judges can interpret. The state won the first round in state court in May 2016. Miami Herald. News Service of FloridaWFSU. Associated Press. Sunshine State NewsPolitico Florida.

District spending: The Duval County School Board is asking district officials for details on how they spent $21 million more than they were budgeted to in the last fiscal year. Some of the causes are known: $3.4 million related to employees taking early retirement, $4.8 million in unbudgeted transportation costs, $1.4 million less from the state for per-student funding and $3.3 million for capital costs. Board members say they want to avoid repeating any mistakes the district may have made. Florida Times-Union. The Polk County School District is still waiting for numbers from the Florida Department of Education in order to present a proposed budget to the school board. District Chief Financial Officer Mike Perrone called the situation “unique,” with the districts typically getting the numbers by the second week in July. Lakeland Ledger. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Charters, turnaround schools, teachers and more

Charter funding: Superintendents from around the state tell members of the Florida Board of Education that the new education bill provision requiring districts to share capital funding with charter schools could result in traditional public schools crumbling. “You really could see the potential unraveling of long-term maintenance and construction for public school systems across the state,” says Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “It is not a good indicator when one of the two largest credit rating agencies declares a negative condition for school systems on the basis of a policy statement out of Tallahassee.” WTVY. News 13.

Appeal denied: The Florida Board of Education declines an appeal by a Clay County charter school to remain open after the school received F grades from the state the past two years. The board cited data showing that students from Orange Park Performing Arts Academy performed “significantly lower” than similar schools, and also pointed out that no other public school in Clay County received a grade below C. redefinED.

Turnaround plans: The Florida Board of Education approves a turnaround plan for the new Gadsden High School, but with conditions: The district must hire a charter company to operate the school by the 2018-2019 school year, fire teachers with unsatisfactory ratings, and provide monthly progress reports to the board. WTXLTallahassee Democrat.

School may close: The Palm Beach County School Board is expected to vote Wednesday to close the half-empty Odyssey Middle School. If it does, the closing would be the first of a traditional public school in the county in more than 25 years. The school opened in 2001 in Boynton Beach at a cost of $21 million. In the past 13 years, enrollment has gone from 1,360 to 730. Palm Beach Post. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Opt-out case denied, alternative exams and more

Opt-out decision: The Florida Supreme Court announces it will not consider a lawsuit brought by parents against several school districts for retaining their 3rd-graders because they opted out of taking the Florida Standards Assessments tests. The decision lets stand a court of appeal ruling that the lawsuits should have been filed in the home counties of the districts, rather than in Leon County. News Service of Florida.

Alternative exams: Florida students who fail two key tests needed to graduate have alternative tests they can take – but the standards for those alternatives could be changing. Students have to pass the algebra 1 test and the 10th-grade language arts exam that is part of the Florida Standards Assessments to earn a diploma. Students who fail can take the SAT or ACT for language arts, or the PERT for algebra. But a state panel is recommending that the PERT be eliminated, with the PSAT replacing it, and that the passing score on the SAT be raised from 430 to 500. The Florida Board of Education will decide on the proposed changes. Orlando Sentinel.

Gardiner scholarships: The expansion of the state’s Gardiner scholarships for students with disabilities has been so broad and rapid that even the namesake, former state Sen. Andy Gardiner, worries that the program is straying from the original intent to provide help for children with the most severe disabilities. The program has grown from $20 million in 2014 to $100 million this year, and the criteria for qualifying has broadened so much that students with peanut allergies now are eligible for vouchers. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the program. Politico Florida.

Turnaround schools: Today, the Florida Board of Education will consider a turnaround plan for the newly combined Gadsden County High School, which is merging East and West high schools. Both schools received D grades from the state this year, and both have had ongoing disciplinary problems. The plan would likely mean a change in administrators, teachers, curriculum and the length of school days. Turnaround plans will also be considered for Hawthorne Middle School in Alachua County and Hamilton County High School. Tallahassee Democrat. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Teacher of the year, Bright Futures, charters and more

Teacher of the year: Tammy Jerkins, who teaches pre-calculus at Leesburg High School in Lake County, is named Florida’s teacher of the year by the Florida Department of Education. In the letter supporting her nomination, principal Dennis Neal wrote: “I have never seen her give up on a student, no matter how tough and/or unmotivated the student was she always provides the consistent, tough love that is more like that of a mother than a teacher.” Jerkins, 58, who is a graduate of Leesburg High, wins $25,000, a trip for four to New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, a $1,000 wardrobe, $1,000 for her school, and a year out of the classroom to be an education ambassador for the state. The other finalists were Katelyn Fiori, an elementary school teacher from Indian River County; Diego Fuentes, who teaches children with disabilities in Marion County; Vanessa Ko, a middle school math teacher in Pinellas County; and Michael Miller, a 5th grade teacher in Osceola County. Each wins $17,535 and $1,000 for her or his school. Florida Department of Education. Orlando Sentinel. TCPalm. WKMG. Here are two profiles of Jerkins written earlier this year, when she was named one of three finalists for Lake County teacher of the year. Orlando Sentinel. Daily Commercial.

Bright Futures: In a letter this week to universities and colleges, the Florida Department of Education confirms that top award winners of Bright Futures scholarships will have full tuition and fees covered this year and next summer, and also receive $300 stipends for the fall and spring semesters. The state budget provided money for the upgrade, but it hadn’t been confirmed by the DOE until Wednesday. More than 40,000 students will benefit from the boost from about $3,000 last year to about $6,000 this year. Orlando Sentinel. Tallahassee Democrat.

Charters win a battle: An administrative law judge rules that the Palm Beach County School Board exceeded its authority by imposing several restrictions on charter schools. The judge says the district engaged in an “an invalid exercise” of their legal authority by requiring charter schools to prove they are innovative, can’t open near traditional schools and that charter school board members must be county residents. Palm Beach Post.

Board member sanctioned: A member of the Miami-Dade County School Board loses his Florida teaching license over an arrest in New Jersey in 2010. Steve Gallon, who was elected to the school board in November, was accused of using a false address to send his godsons to school in Plainfield, N.J., where he was superintendent. The charges were later dropped, but the New Jersey Department of Education revoked Gallon’s school administrator certificate in 2012. Thursday, the Florida Education Practices Commission revoked Gallon’s license and permanently barred him from reapplying for certification. The decision has no impact on his position on the school board. Miami Herald. Continue Reading →