Archive | Home schooling

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 →


Florida schools roundup: ‘Schools of hope,’ testing and religion bills and more

‘Schools of hope’: In Florida, 77,000 students attend public schools that have received grades of D or F from the state for three years or more. Those are the schools House Republicans plan to improve with their “Schools of Hope” legislation, which would set aside $200 million to bring in well-regarded charter schools to offer those students an alternative. Nearly half of the struggling schools are in south Florida and the Tampa Bay area. Critics say the legislation is a simplistic solution to a complex problem. Miami Herald. Backers of the bill find support in a ruling last year by a Leon County judge. Circuit Judge George Reynolds tossed out a suit claiming that the state’s funding of public schools did not meet the constitutional requirement to provide a “high quality” education system. Reynolds’ ruling also warned of school boards’ seeming complacency in accepting long-term F schools, something the new bill aims to address. redefinED.

School testing: Most legislators share the opinion that the state testing system needs to be reformed. What’s unclear is which of the competing bills will be chosen by the Senate to move forward. One compresses the testing schedule into the final three weeks of the school year and requires results back within a week. The other would also move testing later in the school year, eliminate some exams and allow districts to administer the tests in paper and pencil. School officials say either bill would present practical challenges. Tampa Bay Times.

Religious expression: The House will vote Tuesday whether to proceed with the original Senate bill guaranteeing students and employees freedom of religious expression in public schools or adopt the House’s shorter and amended version. Gradebook.

Disappearing seniors: The Manatee County School District is among 10 districts that have drawn the attention of the state Department of Education for their high number of likely-to-fail seniors who transfer from public high schools to alternative schools. Since the 2013-2014 school year, at least 515 Manatee County seniors who would not have graduated have transferred to Smart Horizons, an accredited online private school. Manatee Superintendent Diana Greene says anyone who thinks the district is “cooking the books” to improve graduation rates doesn’t understand the numbers. Bradenton Herald. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Charter district, tests, home-schooling and more

Charter district: The Jefferson County School Board agrees to turn over operations of the district’s struggling schools to the charter school company Somerset Academy. The proposed deal will be taken to the Florida Board of Education today for approval. If the deal is approved, Jefferson would become the first charter district in the state. In its application, Somerset said it will operate an elementary, middle and high school on a single campus led by a single principal, bring in a rigorous curriculum, including Advanced Placement classes, pay teachers 7 percent more than they can get in surrounding counties, pay competitive benefits, and work to bring students attending the alternative school back into the traditional schools. redefinEDWFSU.

Testing debate: The debate over the state’s standardized testing intensifies at a Senate Education Committee meeting Tuesday. Supporters of former Gov. Jeb Bush are backing a moderate revision of the current system, while others want more significant changes, including fewer tests. Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, who is leading the committee in the medical absence of Chairwoman Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, said no decision has been made on what direction the bills will take, and that Hukill will make that call. News Service of Florida.

Help for home-schoolers: Students who are home-schooled would have greater access to college classes and career education courses offered by school districts in a bill approved by the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee. Districts also would be required to accept home-education registrations as long as parents and their children meet the state’s requirements. redefinED.

Religious expression bill: The Florida Senate moves the so-called “religious expression” bill to a third and final reading. If approved, the bill would be sent to the House, which has a slightly different version. The bill would give students more freedom to express religious thoughts in public schools. Gradebook. News Service of Florida. Continue Reading →

Bill would give Florida home schoolers more access to college, career courses


Home education students would have more access to college classes and career education programs under a bill approved this morning by a Florida House panel.

HB 1391 would allow homeschoolers to take career education courses offered by school districts. Public schools would be able to receive state per-pupil funding for courses they take.

The bill, along with a counterpart in the state Senate, would also require school districts to accept parents’ home education registrations if they meet the requirements in state law.

Several parents told the committee that some districts have begun asking for information — like birth certificates and proof of residence — that go beyond what the law requires.

“They’re taking the mindset, as we’ve tried to resolve this issue locally, that the law doesn’t say they can’t ask for additional documentation,” said David Bosworth, a Broward County parent who’s taught six children at home. As a result, he said, families can get stuck in administrative limbo trying to create home education programs for their children, even if they meet the requirements spelled out in state law.

The House bill also included provisions that would create textbook allowances for home school students who take dual enrollment courses at colleges or universities. Bill sponsor Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, took those portions out of the bill today because they required money from the state budget.

But he said hoped the removal would be temporary. He said he wants to put home school students on equal footing with their counterparts in public schools, who don’t have to pay for dual enrollment textbooks. Continue Reading →

Students lift voices to celebrate School Choice Week

This fall, after wowing millions of TV viewers, falling just short of the final round on NBC’s The Voice and gaining national exposure that she hopes will launch a lifelong music career, Shalyah Fearing tried something new. She started learning in a traditional classroom at a local public high school.

Now 16 and a junior, she takes three classes at River Ridge High School in New Port Richey, Fla. while managing the rest of her course load online.

Her family has experienced just about every flavor of school choice — public, private, virtual, home education. So it was fitting that they lent their voices to one of the first events of National School Choice Week, which runs Sunday through Jan. 28, and includes more than 20,000 events across the country.

National School Choice Week group

Students join Shalyah Fearing on stage during a celebration of educational options in Pasco County, Fla.

The events steer clear of politics and encompass multiple educational options.

Among others, Saturday’s celebration in Shady Hills featured local Catholic schools, the Pasco County school district’s career academies and the statewide virtual school that allowed Shalyah to take classes while she chased her musical dreams in California.

For most of Shalyah’s life, she and her six school-age brothers and sisters were homeschooled. As her mother puts it, they enrolled at Fearing Academy.

When she traveled to Los Angeles to compete on reality television, she took classes through Florida Virtual School. She tackled assignments as her schedule allowed, and kept up with teachers and classmates online and by phone.

“All I had to do was carry my laptop everywhere I went,” she said. “My teachers were always available.” Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Bonuses, testing, bullying, fitness, loans and more

florida-roundup-logoTeacher bonuses: Almost 7,200 Florida teachers will receive bonuses of about $6,800 under the state’s Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, the Department of Education announces. That’s 1,800 more than the number who got the bonuses last year, and represents 4 percent of the state’s teachers. First-year teachers can qualify if their SAT or ACT scores were in the top 20 percent, and experienced teachers need a highly effective evaluation too. The formula for qualifying has been criticized, and may be revised in the legislative session that starts in March. Orlando Sentinel. Bradenton Herald.

Testing targeted: Methods, times spent on assessment tests and the number of tests are all on the agenda as the Senate Education Appropriations Committee meets for the first time in 2017. House leaders say they’re open to an “honest conversation” about streamlining testing, but they’re focused more on school choice. Tampa Bay Times.

Bullying decline? An analysis of reports of bullying in Florida schools indicates just 0.1 percent of students were bullied in 2015, compared to 22 percent nationally. Just 3,000 incidents were reported, down from 6,200 in 2010. Experts and even some local school officials say the numbers are greatly underreported. In south Florida, for instance, almost 600 schools reported no incidences of bullying, Sun-Sentinel.

Fitness test bill: State Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, files a bill that would end a personal fitness test as a substitute for the required Health Opportunities through Physical Education (HOPE) class. Instead, students could fulfill the requirement by being on a varsity or junior varsity team for two full seasons. Gradebook. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Recess, early education, district rankings and more

florida-roundup-logoDaily recess: Elementary school students in the Orange County School District will be given 20 minutes of recess daily. The school board approved the measure, although it also allows teachers some discretion in how recess is scheduled. Orlando Sentinel.

Early education: Most of Florida’s children eligible for the Head Start program aren’t enrolled because there isn’t enough money to add classrooms, according to a study by the National Institute for Early Education Research. Fixing the problem would cost about $20 billion a year. Orlando Sentinel. Washington Post. The 74.

District rankings: The St. Johns County School District is named tops in the state in an annual survey by The Seminole County School District is second, Okaloosa third, Sarasota fourth and Brevard fifth. Ratings are based on data from the U.S. Department of Education, including test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores and teacher quality. WPLG.

Failing schools: New Miami-Dade County School Board member Steve Gallon is proposing the district focus on improving schools that have received grades of D or F from the state. Florida Bulldog.

SpringBoard survives: The Hillsborough County School District will keep using English and math textbooks from SpringBoard. Teachers and students have complained about effectiveness of the materials, which the district buys from the College Board. Replacing the textbooks would have cost almost $12 million, a price the financially strapped district was unwilling to incur. Tampa Bay Times. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Promotions, protests, prayers, pay and more

florida-roundup-logoFew promotions: Almost two months ago, a circuit judge ruled that the state wrongly retained third-graders who opted out of the Florida Standards Assessments testing. Today, just two of the 14 students named in that lawsuit have been promoted to fourth grade. Broward County twins were promoted earlier this month. But a Seminole County student is still in third grade, and the rest are in private schools or are being homeschooled. The ruling is being appealed by the state and several of the districts. Orlando Sentinel.

Education protest: A small group of people protest what they call the unequal distribution of funds in the Miami-Dade School District. The group, ICARE, accuses the district of not properly funding inner-city schools and their programs. The protest was held outside a hotel where Superintendent Alberto Carvalho was attending a national conference on urban education. Miami Herald.

Dress code warning: A call on Facebook to protest the Pasco County School District’s dress code leads to a warning for a Ridgewood High School senior. Hunter Banaciski says he was told by school officials that his protest could incite a riot, which might result in his suspension or even his arrest. Banaciski says the protest, which simply calls for students to wear clothing that doesn’t conform to the school dress code, will go on. Tampa Bay Times.

Prayer lawsuit: The Florida High School Athletic Association is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Tampa Christian school that alleges the organization violated its football players’ religious freedom. Last December, the FHSAA denied a request from Cambridge Christian School to use a loudspeaker to broadcast a prayer before its state championship game against University Christian School of Jacksonville. In its filing, the FHSAA argued that the schools and players were free to pray – just not over the loudspeaker. News Service of Florida. Continue Reading →