Archive | Gardiner Scholarship

Florida schools roundup: Teacher shortages, spending, recess and more

Teachers needed: Just days before the school year begins, school districts in west-central Florida still need hundreds of teachers. Hillsborough County has the most openings, 205. Pasco needs 128, Polk more than 110 and Sarasota, Hernando and Citrus counties are also hiring. Pinellas County has just seven jobs left to fill. “You have 67 public school districts in Florida, so we’re all competing for that same small group of students that are graduating from Florida universities and colleges,” says Teddra Porteous, assistant superintendent in Polk County. WFTS. WTSP. Lakeland Ledger. WFLA.

Spending analysis: The Duval County School Board delays an outside audit of the district’s spending, opting first to have the board auditor and district staff do an analysis of how the district spent $21 million more than it was budgeted to last year. Two state representatives had asked for an audit, which board members rejected. Now those members are saying they will likely have an outside audit done after the spending analysis. Board chairwoman Paula Wright says the first analysis should be able to narrow the focus of the second, which should lower its cost. Florida Times-Union.

School recess: Elementary students in Pasco will get their 20 minutes of free, unstructured recess every day. The district’s new student progression plan calls for “at least 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess each week for students in kindergarten through grade 5 so that there are at least 20 consecutive minutes of free-play recess per day,” according to the plan. Decisions on how to make that happen will be made by each school’s principal. Gradebook.

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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: Testing conflict, report cards, lawsuit and more

Testing conflict: The Florida Association of District School Superintendents is objecting to the state’s plan to dump the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test for high school students as an alternative to the algebra I end-of course exam. The Department of Education says the PERT standard is too low, and is recommending the PSAT as the alternative. Superintendents say both the PSAT and PERT should be options until the state has studied the relative value of each. The group also opposes the state’s plan to increase the SAT score required to use as an alternative to the 10th grade language arts test, arguing the state’s proposal raises the level to college readiness. Gradebook.

Late report cards: A provision of the new state education law will delay the issuing of end-of-year report cards by several weeks in 2018. The law pushes back all state standardized testing into the final three weeks of the school year, which means the Department of Education now has until June 30 to deliver test results to districts. The districts then factor in the test results and issue report cards. The only exception will be for 3rd-graders’ language arts test results, which must be delivered to districts by May 31. Gradebook.

Lawsuit issues: The education bill, H.B. 7069, was written to allow specific provisions to be found unconstitutional without the whole law being invalidated. But a threatened lawsuit against the law could challenge it on the grounds that it violates the state constitution’s rule requiring laws to address a single subject. If that happens and is successful, it would threaten everything else in the bill, from an expansion of the Gardiner scholarships for students with special needs to mandatory daily recess for elementary students. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the Gardiner scholarships for the state. redefinED.

Top teachers: Florida’s teacher of the year will be named Thursday night by the Florida Department of Education. The finalists are Katelyn Fiori, an elementary school teacher from Indian River County; Diego Fuentes, who teaches children with disabilities in Marion County; Tammy Jerkins, who teaches pre-calculus in Lake County; Vanessa Ko, a middle school math teacher in Pinellas County; and Michael Miller, a 5th grade teacher in Osceola County. The winner gets $25,000, a trip for four to New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, and a year out of the classroom to be an education ambassador for the state. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →

Lawsuit coming against major Florida education legislation

School districts plan to take the state to court to challenge a massive new education law Gov. Rick Scott signed last month.

The lawsuit could attack several provisions intended to boost charter schools, but the wide-ranging law has what’s known as a “severability clause.” That means if one part of the law is found unconstitutional, other parts will survive.

But one aspect of the lawsuit could try to invalidate the 274-page law in its entirety. A legal memo reviewed by the Broward County School Board before it voted to approve the lawsuit contends the law might violate a rule in the state constitution that says laws can only address one subject.

The case still hasn’t been filed, so the exact legal arguments against the law could change. Still, a single-subject challenge could create uncertainty for every provision of the new law, from the $30 million appropriation that funds Gardiner Scholarships for children with special needs* to new statewide recess requirements.

This wouldn’t be the first time a major school choice law faced such a lawsuit. In 2014, the statewide teachers union tried to challenge a wide-ranging law that, among other things, created the Gardiner Scholarship program. The lawsuit ultimately failed after a judge ruled the union didn’t have legal standing to bring the case.

The Broward memo also outlines other legal arguments taking aim at provisions supporting charter schools: Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Waivers, religious expression, charters and more

State seeks ESSA waivers: The Florida Department of Education is seeking waivers to the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in its draft for public comment. The state wants a transition period for students who aren’t fluent in English, a waiver on reporting student learning gains, and a waiver on the rule that requires school grade changes if 95 percent of every subgroup doesn’t participate in testing. The public can submit comments here until July 31. Orlando SentinelGradebook.

Religious expression: School districts around the state are starting to prepare for the implementation of the new freedom of religious expression in schools law. Students will now be permitted to include religious beliefs in their schoolwork, and pray at school. Some educators expect little change, since the law already permits those things. Others worry that the law will encourage some teachers to veer into religion-based instruction that ignores commonly accepted facts. Many districts are waiting for guidance on the issue from the Florida Department of Education before writing local policies. Tampa Bay Times.

Charter marketing: An Orange County charter school has budgeted almost $250,000 of taxpayer money over three years to advertise for students. The K-6 Renaissance Charter School will open later this summer on the south side of Orange County, with 661 students expected. To help fill those seats, the school has budgeted $148,725 for marketing in 2017-2018, $55,539 in 2018-2019 and $40,498 in 2019-2020. A spokesperson for Charter Schools USA, the for-profit company that was hired by Renaissance to run its schools, says the ad spending is “smart marketing,” and added, “Parents choose charters for a variety of reasons. We have to market it to let parents know it is there.” Orange County School Board member Linda Kobert says, “Charters have a different set of rules. The school district, the state of Florida, and the taxpayers have no say in how charters spend those taxpayer dollars.” WFTV.

Meal policies reconsidered: Schools across the United States are reconsidering how they deal with students’ meal debts. This month, the U.S. Agriculture Department is requiring districts to inform parents about school meal payments at the start of a school year, and encouraging districts to contact parents directly about delinquent accounts so children don’t go hungry. Several states are going one step further, prohibiting meal shaming or denying food to delinquent students. Associated Press. The Clay County School District is hiking prices for school meals next year. Breakfast at all schools will be $1.50, up 25 cents. Lunch at elementary schools will be $2 for, 25 cents more, and $2.25 at secondary schools, up 15 cents. Florida Times-Union. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Education bills signed, politics, hiring freeze and more

Bills signed: Seven education bills are among the 29 that Gov. Rick Scott signs into law. They are: H.B. 3A, which boosts per-pupil spending in K-12 schools by $100 a year; H.B. 15, which expands Gardiner scholarship eligibility and funding for students with special needs; H.B. 989, which allows any resident to challenge textbooks and materials used in school; H.B. 1109, which allows private school students to participate in some public school extracurricular activities; H.B. 1239, which hikes the penalties for injury-accidents resulting from a school bus passing violation; H.B. 899, which relates to transitional educational programs; and H.B. 781, which revises rules on school grades for feeder schools. News Service of Florida. Associated PressGradebook. WCTVPolitico Florida. Last week Scott signed H.B. 749, which allows charter school and Florida Virtual School employees to be eligible for state employee adoption benefits. Palm Beach Post.

Educational politics: How much of a factor will the recently enacted education bill, H.B. 7069, be in next year’s elections? The architect of the bill, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, thinks the answer is a lot. Corcoran, who is widely thought to be a candidate for governor, recently tweeted: “The bill is virtually 100% public school funding. It will be an issue in 2018. A referendum on who cares more about low income education!” And U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat who is expecting a challenge from Republican Gov. Rick Scott, bashed Scott’s signing of the bill in a recent letter asking for support. Gradebook.

Hiring freeze lifted: The less-than-1-month-old Hillsborough County School District hiring freeze has been lifted for teachers. It remains in effect for all non-classroom personnel except school bus drivers. Gradebook. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Education bill, impact for charters, reaction and more

H.B. 7069 signed: Gov. Rick Scott signs H.B. 7069, the Legislature’s massive $419 million public education bill, at the private Morning Star Catholic School in Orlando. The bill provides $140 million to recruit high-profile charter schools into areas with persistently low-performing schools, requires 20 minutes of recess every day in public elementary schools, sets aside more than $200 million for teacher and principal bonuses, moves standardized state testing to the end of the school year, and expands the Gardiner scholarship program for special-needs students, among other things. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the Gardiner program. Orlando Sentinel. redefinED. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-Union. Sarasota Herald-TribuneNaples Daily News. Gradebook. Lakeland LedgerAssociated Press. News Service of FloridaSunshine State News. Florida Politics. Politico FloridaWashington Post. More reaction to the signing of the bill and how its components could affect some school districts. Tampa Bay TimesFlagler Live. Bradenton Herald. Gainesville Sun. Miami Herald. WOKV. Cape Coral Daily Breeze. WJAX. WJHG. WTVT. Why would Scott sign the controversial H.B. 7069 and veto S.B. 374, the higher education bill? Many think it’s political payback to Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, for the Senate’s attempts to override Scott’s vetoes. Politico Florida.

Bill’s impact: Charter schools are the big winners in the education bill. Sun Sentinel. Here are some details of other things that will change with the bill’s signing. Palm Beach Post. Florida districts are starting to look into how to fit 20 minutes of recess into their school days. Gradebook. Continue Reading →

Fla. Senate avoids changes to massive education bill

Attempts to modify or remove funding from parts of a major piece of education legislation fizzled today in the Florida Senate.

As a result, all $419 million in House Bill 7069, including the House’s signature program to draw top charter school operators to academically struggling areas of the state, will likely remain intact as Gov. Rick Scott evaluates the measure in the face of a heated public campaign.

Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs and Senate education budget chief, set aside attempts to shift funding from the Schools of Hope grant program and a teacher bonus program into the main operating fund for public schools.

He had raised concerns about how the bill would be implemented and made clear today he still hopes those concerns will be addressed at some point.

During a debate on the Senate floor, Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, gave a forceful defense of the measure. He sponsored an expansion of virtual education eligibility that was folded into the bill during the regular legislative session that concluded last month. He rejected the idea, espoused by opponents of the bill, that it was simply force-fed to some Senators “to make a deal” with the other chamber. Continue Reading →