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Charter schools didn’t cause your late-summer air conditioning woes

Florida students head back to school in the heat of August. A Tampa Bay Times column notes some of them suffer in sweltering buildings with worn-out air conditioners.

This problem has many causes. Temperatures routinely break 90 degrees. School officials disagree on the best way to manage the heat. And, for a variety of reasons we’ll get to in a minute, the district is strapped for building maintenance money.

The Times points to a different culprit: Charter schools.

The nutshell version is that the bulk of Hillsborough’s more than 230 public schools are older buildings with cooling units that have reached the end of their usefulness. Your Florida Legislature keeps funneling public school dollars into private charter schools, so money to fix or replace failing systems is disappearing.

Fun fact: Hillsborough schools receive $145 million less from the state funds for routine maintenance than seven years ago. Thank your Legislature for that.

The basis for this “fun fact” is not clear. The state budget seven years ago allocated $122.1 million for building maintenance at non-charter public schools. That’s total, statewide. The Hillsborough County school district received $8.7 million of that. (See page 30.) The Times does not explain how the district could have lost $145 million in state maintenance funding since 2010. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: School costs, repairs, absenteeism, eclipse and more

School costs rise: Lee County school officials are asking the school board to approve an additional $13.9 million to build Bonita Springs High School. The board approved a budget of $49.9 million in April 2016, but the latest estimate of the final cost is $84.9 million. School officials blame a labor shortage, rising costs and changes to the design of the school, which is expected to open in the fall of 2018. Fort Myers News-Press.

School repairs: Marion County school officials say they will receive $164.38 million over the next five years for school repairs to their 51 schools and district offices. But the latest estimate of the cost of all the needed repairs is $530.25 million, leaving the district $365.87 million short. “Our state Legislature has dropped the ball.” says Lake Weir Middle School principal David Ellers. “They are not taking care of the kids.” Ocala Star-Banner. Sarasota County School Board members say they were taken by surprise by renovations planned for the district’s administrative offices. Superintendent Todd Bowden says the work is part of the staff reorganization he proposed in March, and well within the budget the board approved. Board member Eric Robinson says it was unclear what the board was approving. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student absenteeism: The rate of Duval County students considered chronically absent doubled during the 2015-2016 school year. The rate has usually been 6-7 percent of students who miss 21 or more days a month of school, school officials say, but rose to more than 12 percent last year. School board members were shocked by the spike, and asked interim Superintendent Paula Wright to investigate. Florida Times-Union. Chronic absenteeism is also a problem in Palm Beach County, says school board member Erika Whitfield. She says there’s a clear correlation between attending school and graduating. “If we can’t get our students to school on time or to be there, how are we ever going to teach them?” she asks. Palm Beach Post.

Eclipse schedules: School districts around the state are deciding if their students will be permitted to view the solar eclipse Monday, and if they will be, how they might do so safely. TCPalm. Northwest Florida Daily News. Citrus County ChronicleSt. Augustine Record. WUSF. WKRG. WPTV. Cape Coral Daily Breeze.

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Florida schools roundup: Solar eclipse, sales taxes, school names and more

Eclipse schedules: School districts around the state are deciding if their students will be permitted to view the solar eclipse Monday, and if they will be, how they might do so safely. Palm Beach Post. Fort Myers News-PressNorthwest Florida Daily News. St. Augustine RecordGradebook. WFTX. WJAXJackson County Floridan. WCJB. WPECGradebook. Florida Today. Lakeland Ledger. Bradenton HeraldWashington PostU.S. News & World ReportFox News. Education Week.

Sales tax revenue: The half-cent sales tax voters approved in 2014 for the Brevard County School is bringing it almost 30 percent more money than projected. The district expected to collect about $78 million from the tax by now. Instead, it has collected $101 million. The money is used for building repairs, security upgrades and technology purchases. Florida Today.

Confederate school names: Duval County School Board members say they have no plans to rename any of the district schools bearing the names of Confederate leaders. A couple of years ago, the board changed the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School to Westside High School. Forrest was a Confederate lieutenant general. WJAX. A study by the Southern Poverty Law Center says there are at least 109 schools in the United States named after prominent members of the Confederacy, and many of the schools have a significant number of black students. Cox Media Group.

Back to school: More from districts around Florida that have returned to school or will soon. Naples Daily News. Panama City News Herald. Miami Herald. The kindergarten and 1st-grade wing at Osceola Magnet School reopen today. It had been closed since Monday for mold contamination. Air quality tests on other parts of the Vero Beach school are due Friday. TCPalm.

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Florida schools roundup: Teacher bonuses, H.B. 7069, eclipse and more

Teacher bonuses: Each Florida school district will be responsible for determining the eligibility of teachers for state bonuses under the “Best & Brightest” teacher bonuses program, the Department of Education says. The program was redefined as part of the new education bill, H.B. 7069, which also calls for $1,200 payments to teachers rated “highly effective,” up to $800 for those rated “effective,” plus bonuses for those teachers who scored in the top 20 percent on the SAT or ACT test. Teachers are expected to receive the bonuses April 1. Principals are also eligible for bonuses for the first time, but the state has yet to say how that program will work. Miami Herald.

H.B. 7069: Orange County School Board members informally say they are likely to join the lawsuit against the new state education law, H.B. 7069. All eight members support the suit, saying the law infringes on the authority of school boards and could hurt students. The board expects to take an official, binding vote next week. Orlando Sentinel. WMFE. Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has removed state Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, from his assignment as chairman of a Senate budget subcommittee for pre-K-12 education. Replacing him is first-term Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. Simmons angered many Republican leaders by voting against the House’s top priority, H.B. 7069. Negron denies the change was made as punishment. Gradebook. Naples Daily News. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida. Simmons says he plans to remain involved in education issues. Gradebook.

Eclipse schedules: School districts around the state are deciding if their students will be permitted to view the solar eclipse Monday, and if they will be, how they might do so safely. Sun-SentinelGradebook. WPLG. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton HeraldOcala Star-Banner. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. WFTV. Florida Today. WQAM. Panama City News Herald. Lakeland Ledger. WJAX. WFLA. WTSP.

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Florida schools roundup: Charters, funding, back to school and more

Charter school support: Support for the charter school movement is declining in America, according to a recent survey by Education Next, a journal published by Harvard’s Kennedy School and Stanford University. Only 39 percent of of those polled favor opening more “charters – schools that are funded by public money, but usually operated independently of school districts.” That’s down from 51 percent last year. Associated Press.

Back to school: More from districts around Florida that have returned to school or will soon. Florida Times-UnionPalm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel. Orlando SentinelSarasota Herald-Tribune. Gainesville Sun. Tallahassee Democrat. Daytona Beach News-Journal. About a quarter of Osceola Magnet School’s students stayed home on the first day of the new school year after the disclosure of a mold problem at the school. School officials are still waiting for the results of air quality tests. TCPalm. WPTV. Ten tips for young teachers from a veteran educator. Palm Beach Post.

School funding protest: The Lake County School Board approves a resolution urging the state to “halt the transfer of education funding from poorer school districts to wealthier school districts.” That district cost differential portion of the school funding formula has shortchanged the district by $57 million since 2004, board members say. “You have 14 counties in the state benefiting from this. The 53 other counties are paying for it,” says board member Bill Mathias. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart,  recently approved a legislative study of the differential. Daily Commercial.

Help for gifted students: Students at 16 high schools in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco who are struggling in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs will get help from a program developed by two academics to support students who they think are often “taken for granted.” The Advancing Coping and Engagement program will provide students with weekly lessons on developing time management skills and connecting with teachers. Tampa Bay Times.

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Florida schools roundup: School arrests, back to school, marijuana and more

School arrests: The Orange County School District and county law enforcement officials agree on a plan to move away from arresting students for minor crimes, and instead will issue them civil citations. They think that will keep more students in school and out of the criminal justice system, which improves students’ odds of graduating. The district had a 6.4 per 1,000 students arrest rate in the 2015-2016 school year, which was less than Pinellas and Hillsborough counties but more than Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Duval. Orlando Sentinel.

Back to school: More Florida districts head back to school this week. Florida Times-Union. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach PostTampa Bay Times. Miami Herald. TCPalm. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tallahassee Democrat. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Keynoter. Key West Citizen. Mold is found at Osceola Magnet School in Vero Beach and while the school opens as scheduled today, students will be moved around the avoid the rooms where the mold was found and will be released an hour and 40 minutes early every day while school officials await the results of air-quality tests. TCPalm. Martin County students who live within 2 miles of their school will be riding buses after all. Parents of 850 students had been notified that busing would end because of state rules. But the school board reversed that decision and the district will transport them when school opens Tuesday. School Board President Tina McSoley said busing will continue until the district can come up with a plan to help students who will be walking to arrive safely. TCPalm.

Medical marijuana: Florida school districts fear that they could be liable for helping students who are prescribed medical marijuana. Many are waiting for guidance from the state Department of Education. The Education Commission of the States, a group that studies education policy in the country, recently advised that schools could lose some federal funding if they help those students since the federal government enforces drug-free workplace policies. Sun-Sentinel.

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Florida schools roundup: Skipping lines, back to school, start times and more

Principal kills fund-raiser: A Parent Teacher Student Association’s idea to raise money by allowing students to skip the lunch line if their parents make a $100 donation has been killed by the principal after some parents protested. Brian Andrews, principal at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, said in an email to parents that “I do not approve of any donation that is tied to any student advantage or privilege on campus. … Nobody’s a second-class citizen here.” Jil Bevis, president of the PTSA, says “due to a clerical error, the form was inadvertently included in the orientation packets.” Lakeland Ledger. WFLA.

Back to school: Thursday was the first day of school for many Florida districts, and some others start next week. Florida Today. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay TimesFort Myers News-Press. Lehigh Acres CitizenOcala Star-Banner. Lakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Gainesville Sun. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Northwest Florida Daily News. Daily Commercial. Keynoter. Citrus County Chronicle. Charlotte Sun. WFLA. Tampa Bay Times. Hillsborough County shows a slight decline in Day 1 attendance, 196,822 this year compared with 197,064 last year. Tampa Bay Times. More than 130 Manatee County students who opted to leave their low-performing school for a better option discover the buses they were supposed to get won’t be running until Sept. 4. “Unfortunately, the state was late in informing our district as to the identity of those students,” deputy superintendent for operations Ron Ciranna told his staff. “Therefore, bus transportation will not be available for these students until transportation hubs can be established.” Bradenton Herald. Hundreds of Martin County students lost their bus privileges because they live within 2 miles of their school, but the school district has no plans to add crossing guards to help them get to school safely. School starts Tuesday. TCPalm.

School start times: The Palm Beach County School Board agrees to research school start times for next year to better accommodate the needs of students and parents. Board member Debra Robinson says the subject has come up before, but that “it’s a conversation worth having again. I’d like to see a smorgasbord of choices for parents to include a choice of start times.” Most high schools start at 7:30 a.m., elementary schools at 8 and most middle schools at 9:30. Sun-Sentinel.

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Florida schools roundup: H.B. 7069 lawsuit, evaluations, charters and more

H.B. 7069 suit: The Miami-Dade and Palm Beach school boards vote unanimously to join other districts in suing the state over the new education law, H.B. 7069. Broward, Lee, Bay, St. Lucie and Volusia counties also have agreed to join a common lawsuit, and another 10-12 are reportedly considering joining. The districts are unhappy that they have to share local property taxes with charter schools, but have limited authority over those schools. Some board members and board attorneys also say the law violates the state constitution’s rule limiting bills to a single subject. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. WLRN.

District ends use of VAM: The Citrus County School Board eliminates the use of the state’s value-added measure (VAM) in evaluating teachers. VAM is a complicated formula that takes into consideration students’ expected test scores vs. actual scores. Citrus is one of the first districts in the state to end the use of VAM. The district’s method will use student improvement, but also allows consideration of students who are doing well academically even if their test scores aren’t as high as the state expects. Gradebook.

Charters to Florida: The recent $33 million sale of two Florida charter schools to buyers from Oregon was the second part of a seven-school, $100 million deal, says an official from the Colliers International Education Services Group. Achikam Yogev, senior vice president of the company, says he expects more deals to follow. He says the new education law that provides money for charter schools to move into areas with persistently low-performing schools is an indication that state leaders strongly support the charter school industry, making it a solid investment. Bisnow.

Back to school: In calls and text to parents, Hillsborough County school officials are warnings that buses could be up to two and a half hours late today, the first day of the school for the district, and maybe even into next week. Gradebook. Many districts around Florida start school today or Monday. Orlando Sentinel. Fort Myers News-Press. Lakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Ocala Star-Banner. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Port St. Joe Star. WTVTWFLA. WTSP. Tampa Bay Times.

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