Archive | Home schooling

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 →

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 →