Archive | Home schooling

Florida schools roundup: Scholarship fund, Scientology, sales tax and more

Scholarship fund empty: The state’s Gardiner scholarship, which is awarded to students with special needs, has exhausted all its available funding for the first time since it began in 2014. About 10,500 students are receiving the scholarship this year, and another 1,270 have been approved but are on a waiting list. “We have definitely exhausted every last dollar, every last penny,” says Gina Lynch, vice president of operations for Step Up For Students, which helps administer the program and hosts this blog. “There is healthy demand for the program.The program allows families to pay for a wide range of education-related expenses, from therapy and homeschool curriculum to public school courses and private school tuition, for qualifying children with special needs.” redefinED.

Schools and Scientology: Several Florida private schools participating in school choice scholarship programs use learning concepts developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, reports the Huffington Post.

Sales tax squabble: Members of the Manatee County School Board still can’t agree on a date for an election asking voters to increase property taxes for schools, how to sell the referendum or even how much to assess voters. The squabbling has led board member Dave Miner to call for the removal of Scott Hopes as board chairman. Miner says Hopes misled the board about his support for the special election when he was chosen as chairman just two weeks ago. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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Florida schools roundup: Science teaching, homeschooling, tests and more

Teaching science: State Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, files a bill that would require school districts to teach “controversial theories and concepts” of science “in a factual, objective and balanced manner.” The bill would also allow local districts to adopt their own academic standards as long as they’re as vigorous as the state’s. In 2008, when the current standards were adopted, Baxley, then the executive director Christian Coalition of Florida, wanted the state to “leave the door open a little bit” for consideration of theories other than evolution about how life on Earth developed. Orlando Sentinel.

Homeschooling bill: A bill is filed that would limit the amount of information parents would have to provide to their school district if they intend to homeschool their child. The bill, filed by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, would require only the student’s name, birth date and address. Some districts ask for more. redefinED.

Test waivers: Miami-Dade County School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says he will ask the state to exempt students displaced by hurricanes from taking exams that are required for high school graduation. Education Week.

Tax bill and charter schools: Charter school operators warn that the tax bill under consideration in Congress would eliminate a variety of tax-exempt programs the companies use to borrow money to build schools. “This is devastating to charter schools, which often struggle to find space and lack the amenities of district schools,” says National Alliance President and CEO Nina Rees. Without the tax breaks, she says schools will have to take money from instruction to use for construction. The 74.

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Bill would add legal protections for homeschool parents

Sen. Dennis Baxley

A state lawmaker has once again has filed legislation that would rein in district inquiries to parents who register home education programs.

The bill comes in response to concerns among parents that districts add hurdles for homeschool registration. That has likely contributed to a decline in home schooling in some districts, even though state statistics show its popularity is growing statewide.

Florida law requires home schoolers to register with their local school districts. They have to send a signed notice of intent to the school district superintendent with the students’ names, birthdates and addresses. The bill would bar districts from requiring other information from parents. It would also clarify that a home education program is not a school district program.

The statute does not ask that parents provide proof of residency and a birth certificate. However, the Miami-Dade School Board adopted a policy requiring parents to provide those documents. And parents have complained of similar practices in other counties, including Broward, Hillsborough and St. Lucie.

“For that individual family to be supported in their decision to choose a different path when today we have so many more resources for home school curriculums they should not be impeded in the pursuit of what is best for each and every child,” said Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who filed the legislation.

Legal advocates say districts like Miami-Dade began requesting extra documentation from home schoolers after the death of 10-year-old Nubia Barahona, whose body was found in the back of a pickup truck in 2011. An investigation by the Department of Children and Families concluded she was a victim of child abuse. Investigators also noted that, in 2010, Nubia’s parents pulled her out of school system and homeschooled her. Continue Reading →


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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Why is the number of homeschool students declining in Miami-Dade?

Recent data released about the number of home school students in Florida reveals a mystery.

The number of home education students in the state continues to increase. State data show it reached 87,462 during the 2016-17 school year — roughly a 5 percent increase from the previous year. Miami-Dade County, however, saw a decline in enrollment by 11 percent.

Homeschool parents and legal advocates say there is a reason behind Miami-Dade’s declining numbers. When some parents file a notice of intent to homeschool with the district, they say, the district asks for additional documentation such as proof of residency or a birth certificate. These requests go beyond what the law requires.

This creates a new barrier to home schooling, legal advocates and parents say. Some parents are finding new ways around that barrier, such as forming umbrella schools. Others have prevailed in disputes with the district after getting home education advocates involved.

Miami-Dade school officials declined to comment for this story. Audrey Walden, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education, said the department was “looking into it.” Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Home-schooling, desegregation and more

Desegregation order: Indian River County School Board members renew their discussion about getting free from a court desegregation order, which it has been under since 1967. Board members feel the district has made progress toward fulfilling the court’s requirement of “having racially balanced schools taught by diverse staffs to establish an equitable education system for minority students.” The local NAACP chapter disagrees, saying the district still doesn’t have enough minority teachers or a success plan for minority students. TCPalm.

Home education: The number of Florida students being home-schooled increased by more than 4,000 from 2016 to 2017, according to the state Department of Education’s annual report. Since 2008, the number has increased by more than 30,000. redefinED.

Raising the bar: Florida and other states must continuously raise the standards for academic achievement, argues the CEO of the Foundation for Florida’s Future and the Foundation for Excellence in Education. “It is inevitable that when rigor is increased, student test scores and school summative grades initially will decline,” writes Patricia Levesque. “But once teachers and students adapt to the higher expectations, the scores will begin trending back up. This is how we drive better learning gains — through a continuous but realistic raising of the academic bar.” Politico Florida.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: Indian River County School Board members meet about joining a lawsuit against the newly signed state education bill, H.B. 7069, but make no decision. Several districts are committed to suing the state over the bill, which requires districts to share tax money with charter schools. TCPalm. Bay County School Board members will vote Tuesday on whether to join the lawsuit against the education bill. Superintendent Bill Husfelt and board members have complained about the bill and the secret manner in which it was put together. Ginger Littleton, board chair, calls the bill “slimy, underhanded, treacherous and very expensive for taxpayers.” Panama City News Herald. Continue Reading →

Home education once again on the rise in Florida

The number of home education students in Florida keeps rising. It reached 87,462 during the 2017-16 school year, according to fresh state data.

The Florida Department of Education releases a report on homeschooling each summer.

In 2015, the number of children taught at home saw some of its largest growth ever. Last year, it declined.

But the state’s largest school district, Miami-Dade County, accounted for that decrease single-handedly.

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Florida schools roundup: Fraud charges for charter founder, H.B. 7069 and more

Fraud, racketeering charges: The founder of a charter school company is charged with racketeering and organized fraud in connection with the operation of his schools in the Pinellas, Escambia, Bay, Hillsborough, Broward and Duval districts. According to a statewide prosecutor, Marcus May, who founded Newpoint Education Partners, took more than $1 million from the state, the six districts and the 15 schools he owned and used it to take trips, have plastic surgery, and buy homes and personal watercraft. Also charged is Steven Kunkemoeller, who owns two companies that allegedly sold supplies and furniture to May’s charter schools at inflated prices. The three companies also were indicted by an Escambia County grand jury a year ago on charges of grand theft, money laundering and aggravated white-collar crime. Tampa Bay TimesPanama City News Herald. Pensacola News JournalFlorida Times-UnionWJHG. WFLA.

More on H.B. 7069: One financial safeguard that was discussed early and often for inclusion in an education bill did not make it into H.B. 7069. There are no provisions to make sure that state funds for charter school construction aren’t pocketed for profit by charter company owners. Instead, charter companies will automatically get a proportion of funds based on enrollment, not need. Gradebook. H.B. 7069, and its push for school choice and charter schools, is now the law of the state. But the debate about it hasn’t ended. Critics of the bill say the “state-money-should-follow-the-student” catch-phrase many Republican legislators have adopted violates the state Constitution and a 2006 court precedent that outlawed state vouchers for private school tuition. Tampa Bay Times. Opponents of H.B. 7069 say they expect one or more districts to file a legal challenge to provisions of the bill. The Capitolist. Hillsborough County school officials should quit blaming the Legislature for their financial problems, says House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “It’s their bloat, inefficiency and gross overspending. Their problem is their mismanagement.” Tampa Bay Times. Continue Reading →