Archive | Gardiner Scholarship

Florida schools roundup: Budget deal, schools of hope, bonuses and more

Budget deal: The Florida Senate and House reach agreement on an $83 billion state budget. The agreement includes $200 million to attract specialized charter schools to the state to compete with persistently low-performing schools – the so-called “schools of hope” plan – and increases for teacher bonuses and higher education. But the Senate agreed to the House’s demand not to allow higher property taxes to increase K-12 per-student spending. The budget must be completed by Tuesday for the session to end as scheduled May 5. Miami Herald. Naples Daily News. News Service of FloridaGradebook. redefinED. redefinED.

School and cancer: After a briefing about the suspicions of a cancer cluster at the old Bayshore High School property, Manatee County commissioners agree to meet with school board members within the next 30 days to discuss the community’s concerns. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Financial situation dire: The financial outlook for the Hillsborough County School District is bleak, school officials tell school board members. Only about a quarter of the needed cuts have been made, while costs and enrollment are rising and public funds are increasingly scarce. Chief business officer Gretchen Saunders said the district may not even be able to honor its 2013 agreement with the teachers union to raise pay. Tampa Bay Times. The district is deficient in keeping its technology updated, according to a critique from its consultants. The student information system, for example, uses a computer language invented in 1959 and outdated hardware that costs about $1.5 million a year to maintain. Replacing technology will take years, says Patti Simmons, the district’s supervisor of data analysis. Tampa Bay Times. The board approves new start times for the 2018-2019 school year. WFLA.

Smaller campuses: The Orange County Commission approves a plan to allow the school district to build schools on smaller sites. The new rules allow elementary schools to be built on 7 to 11 acres instead of 15; middle and K-8 schools on 12 to 16 acres instead of 25; and high schools on 40 to 50 acres instead of 65. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →


Florida House backs private school choice legislation unanimously


The Florida House this afternoon unanimously passed legislation that would strengthen two private school choice programs.

HB 15 would increase per-student funding for tax credit scholarships. Children would be able to receive larger scholarships in high school, where private school tuition tends to be more expensive.

The bill would also allow military families to apply for the school choice program year-round.

Maximum scholarships in a branch of the program that reimburses transportation expenses for children attending public schools across district lines would increase from $500 per student to $750.

The measure would also expand the list of conditions that allow students to qualify for Gardiner scholarships, which provide education savings accounts for children with special needs. Continue Reading →


Fla. Senate panel backs expanded Gardiner scholarship eligibility

Leon County parent Jeanne Boggs testifies before the Florida Senate Education Committee.

The Senate Education Committee approved legislation today that would allow more children to qualify for Gardiner scholarships, which provide education savings accounts for children with special needs.

SB 902, by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, would expand eligibility for the program to include children who are deaf or visually impaired, as well as those with rare diseases or traumatic brain injuries. It defines rare diseases as those affecting populations of fewer than 200,000 in the United States.

In what became a theme for the meeting, Simmons said the program does not hurt public schools but assists them.

“The Gardiner scholarships have shown that there is no one size that fits all to helping these children and these families with these kinds of challenges,” he said. “These are extreme challenges, challenges which those who have faced them, most have stood up and met those challenges. This is one tool that we as a government can, in fact, help these children and these families.”

The scholarships are worth approximately 90 percent of the amount the state would spend to educate a child in public schools. Parents are able to use the money to pay for private-school tuition, homeschool curriculum, therapies, public-school courses, college savings and other approved education-related expenses.

Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer the program. It serves more than 7,700 students this school year, which makes it the largest education savings account program in the nation.
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Florida schools roundup: Education budgets, schools of hope and more

Education budgets: Leaders in the Florida House and Senate may be $538 million apart in their proposed education budgets, but both seem optimistic there’s enough middle ground to strike a deal. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, says talks are collegial and he expects the differences to be “smoothed over.” Senate PreK-12 Appropriations chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, praised several programs in the House budget, particularly the $200 million proposal to create “schools of hope” – charter school options for persistently low-performing schools. “We are all on the same team,” Simmons said. Meanwhile, the Senate passes its $85 billion spending bill. That’s $4 billion more than the House budget, which is expected to be approved in that chamber today. Gradebook. Politico Florida. Support for the “schools of hope” program are divided along party lines. Leading Democrats are blasting the proposal, saying it will shortchange struggling schools that are already burdened by Legislature-imposed restrictions the charter schools do not have. Republicans dismiss the objections, saying the state cannot be content with 70,000 students stuck for years in persistently low-performing schools. Miami Herald. redefinEDFlorida PoliticsSunshine State News. Politico FloridaCapitol News Service. WFSU.

Facilities funding: Two groups with different constituencies are lining up to fight the bill that determines how much state funding traditional public schools and charter schools get for facilities. Democrats are trying to amend Senate Bill 376, which would require school districts to share facilities funding with charter schools. They want to allow local districts to raise more money through property taxes, cap the amount charter schools can get and give local school boards the authority to decide on sharing. Meanwhile, charter school companies are fighting a clause denying funds to charter schools that receive D grades from the state for two straight years. Politico Florida. redefinED.

Chronic absenteeism: Kindergartners have the highest rate of chronic absenteeism of any grade in the Sarasota County School District. Students are judged to be chronically absent if they miss 21 or more days of schools. In the 2015-2016 school year, 8 percent of the district’s kindergartners had at least that many absences. “It really matters because kindergarten is where they’re really learning to read rather than reading to learn,” said Sarah Mickley, a kindergarten teacher at Bay Haven School of Basics Plus. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
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Florida schools roundup: Budgets, charter schools, scholarships and more

Education budgets: Differences in the Senate and House education budgets are a significant factor in the yawning gap in the overall spending plans between the two chambers. The House is proposing to spend $81.2 billion and the Senate $83.2 billion. But the Senate budget doesn’t include $2 billion that is factored into the House budget, widening the gap to $4 billion. Major differences are in school taxes, Bright Futures, teacher bonuses, tuition costs and a new initiative that would recruit charter schools to replace persistently low-performing traditional public schools. Sun-Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. News Service of Florida. Several leading charter school companies say they are not interested in expanding into Florida, even if the $200 million incentive plan proposed by the House is approved. Politico Florida.

Charter school facilities: The Senate Appropriations Committee passes a bill that would require school districts to share local property tax revenue with charter schools. The bill would nearly double the amount of money that charter schools would receive to build and maintain facilities. But it add some restrictions that charter company  representatives say could create a “chilling effect” on the expansion of charter schools. redefinED.

Expanding scholarships: The House Education Committee approves a bill that would expand eligibility to one state scholarship program, and the amount of money students receive for another. Eligibility for the Gardiner scholarships, for students with special needs, would expand to include the deaf or visually impaired and those with rare diseases or traumatic brain injuries. Meanwhile, the amount of money students would receive for tax credit scholarships would also increase. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer both programs. redefinED. Politico Florida. Continue Reading →


Fla. private school choice legislation ready for House floor

Sullivan portrait


After hearing from parents, a Florida House panel approved private school choice legislation unanimously.

With a few tweaks made this morning, HB 15 would expand the pool of children who qualify for Gardiner scholarships, which provide education savings accounts for children with special needs.

The bill, now ready for a vote on the House floor, would expand eligibility for the program to include children who are deaf or visually impaired, as well as those with rare diseases or traumatic brain injuries.

The bill would prevent double-billing for services families have already paid for using Medicaid or health insurance. It would also increase the per-student funding amount for Florida’s tax credit scholarship program. Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer both scholarship programs.

“This bill specifically helps our most vulnerable students,” bill sponsor Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, told the House Education Committee. “Those that find themselves in financial obstacles and also physical obstacles. This bill addresses both of those to set them up for success in the future.”

The provisions dealing with Gardiner scholarships were removed last week, but Sullivan put them back in. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Charter schools bills, reading, religion and more

Charter schools plan: State Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, says the House proposal to turn over failing schools to charter schools “creates a separate but unequal system” that violates the Florida and U.S. Constitutions. The so-called “schools of hope” bill calls for traditional schools with D or F grades for three years to become charter schools. “These schools have failed these kids long enough,” said Rep. Manuel Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah. “These are kids trapped in generational poverty, and for us to create this illusion it [schools of hope] is a separate system? It’s not.” The House Appropriations Committee passed the bill, which now goes to the full House for a vote. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. redefinED.

Charter facilities funds: The House Appropriations Committee passes a bill that would nearly double the amount of money set aside from local property taxes for charter schools facilities. But a lobbyist for Charter Schools USA, Chris Moya, says the bill may actually reduce the money available for charters because districts can subtract the amount spent on debt service before the rest of the money is divided, and because sharing formula favors charters that enroll low-income students. Moya argues that the Legislature should “stop thinking about funding institutions or districts or even schools, and really think about funding the student.” The bill now moves on to the House vote. redefinED.

Extra reading narrowed: High-level readers at the 300 lowest-performing elementary schools in the state would no longer have to attend the extra hour of required reading under a Florida House bill that has been approved by the appropriations committee. Students who achieve Level 4 or 5 on the state language arts test would have the option of skipping the reading hour. Students who achieve Level 3 or below are required to attend. The bill would also give schools the option of fitting in that hour instead of requiring it to be an extra hour of school. The changes are at odds with the Senate version of the billGradebook.

Class sizes: The House approves a bill that changes the way class sizes are calculated to meet the requirements of a 2002 voter-approved amendment. If approved, schools could use a schoolwide average instead of counting individual classes. A similar bill is moving through the Senate. Associated Press. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: K-12 funding, recess, choice, charters and more

K-12 funding: The Senate Budget Committee proposes a boost of $790 million in spending in the next school year for Florida’s K-12 public schools. Almost 68 percent of that would come through higher property taxes for local districts. Gov. Rick Scott has proposed an $815 million increase for K-12 schools, also with 68 percent of the boost coming from local property taxes. House leaders, who have said they won’t accept any tax increase, propose an increase of $251.3 million. The House budget’s chief priority is $200 million to attract charter school networks into areas where traditional public schools have struggled. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida. Politico FloridaFlorida Politics.

Recess bill: The Florida House K-12 Innovation Subcommittee makes significant changes to the mandatory recess bill, then passes it. The original bill called for at least 20 minutes of unstructured but supervised recess every day for the state’s elementary school students. The amended bill changes the daily requirement to at least twice a week, lets schools count recess time toward physical education requirements, and removes the recess requirement for fourth- and fifth-graders. Miami HeraldSunshine State News.

School choice: The House Education Appropriations Subcommittee approves a bill that would increase the money students can receive through the state’s tax credit scholarship program. But removed from the bill was an expansion of eligibility and triple the money for Gardiner scholarships for students with disabilities. Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer both programs. The subcommittee also stripped the bill of a provision that would have allowed McKay scholarships for students with special needs even if they hadn’t attended a public school for an entire school year. redefinED. News Service of Florida.

Charter schools: The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee approves a bill that could make it easier for high-performing charter schools to expand, give charter networks the ability to received federal funding directly, allow school districts an extra 30 days to review charter applications, and make public schools accountable for the academic performance of students who transfer to private or alternative charter schools. Ralph Arza of the Florida Charter School Alliance says his group supports nearly all the bill, but said alternative charters should be held responsible for students who transfer from traditional schools. redefinED. The committee also approves a bill that would require school districts to proportionately split local property tax revenues with charter schools after the money districts set aside for construction debts is deducted. The state’s 556 charter schools would receive about $148 million, or nearly double what they now get. redefinED. Continue Reading →