Archive | Magnet schools

Florida schools roundup: H.B. 7069, ESSA, school safety, recess and more

H.B. 7069: According to recently revealed text messages, state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, worked behind the scenes to try to kill H.B. 7069, the education bill that provides money for a major expansion of charter schools in Florida. The messages show that Latvala worked with Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, on a plan to derail the bill. Details of the plan were not discussed in the texts, and neither Latvala not Farmer responded to questions about it. Latvala, chairman of the Senate appropriations committee, is considering running for governor in 2018. Politico Florida.

ESSA proposal: A coalition of civil rights group is asking the Florida Department of Education to give due consideration to the needs of poor, at-risk children when it submits its federal education accountability plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In a letter, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights says it’s critical that the plan uphold the spirit of the law, which pledges to provide “all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and close educational achievement gaps.” The state has to submit its plan by Sept. 18. Gradebook.

School safety: Pasco County students are now being told to fight back against violent threats at their schools, instead of simply hiding. One of the key messages of the new approach is: “It is okay to do whatever you have to do to get away from Stranger Danger.” Superintendent Kurt Browning says “the decision to defend one’s self or others is a personal decision and will never be required.” But the district wants to give students options, he says, and to empower them “not to be victims.” Gradebook.

Recess rules: After hearing complaints from parents, Pinellas County school officials say they are reconsidering their idea to count student time in math and engineering centers toward the required 20 minutes a day for recess. Shana Rafalski, the county’s executive director for elementary education, acknowledged that “doesn’t necessarily reflect the spirit of (the law). … This probably is out of context in the teaching and learning handbook, and I’ll revisit this,” she says. Gradebook.

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Florida schools roundup: Funding study, retention motion, charters and more

School funding: Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, approves a study of the school funding formula’s district cost differential (DCD). The request for the study came from Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, and Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, who contend that the DCD has cost school systems in their districts and around the state millions of dollars since it was adopted in 2004. The DCD directs extra money to districts with a higher cost of living. The study will be conducted by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability and the Office of Economic & Demographic Research. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Retention suit motion: The Florida Department of Education is asking a circuit court to dismiss a lawsuit that challenged the state’s third-grade retention law and how it was implemented by several school districts. The Florida Supreme Court recently refused to hear the case, saying the plaintiffs would have to file suits at the county level. Now the DOE says the plaintiffs didn’t exhaust their administrative options before filing the suit in Leon County, and that students who refuse to take the state’s standardized tests have no right to an option of a portfolio review. Gradebook.

Charter schools: A new state law requires local school districts to share local property taxes collected for capital improvements with charter schools. But there’s an exception that will leave a handful of charter schools without any public funds. The amount to be shared hinges on how much debt a district has. Charters in districts with a lot of debt may get no money at all, while charters in districts with little debt will. So districts with little debt and charters in districts with heavy debt are both asking for relief. Tampa Bay Times.

Cities buy their way in: Affluent cities in Miami-Dade County increasingly are starting their own charter school systems or buying seats for local students in magnet programs at other public schools. The practice can increase public school options, but some critics worry it will lead to racial and economic segregation. Steve Gallon, a member of the school board, says such proposals “could result in the creation of systems and structures that could impede such access to poor children and those of color to a world-class education based on their ZIP codes.” Miami Herald.

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Arts academies inspire rare political unity on school choice

Yesterday, the New York Times published a profile of an illustrious public arts academy in Miami-Dade County.

It suggests magnet schools like New World School of the Arts can unify different camps in the often-fraught school choice debate.

Though Democrats and Republicans are at sharp odds over the direction, funding and effectiveness of public education and school choice, schools of the arts often bridge the partisan divide.

Many of them are magnet schools, which grew out of a hard-fought battle: desegregation. The hope was that by removing geographic barriers to admission, magnet schools would attract students with a special interest, be it science and technology or the arts, from both high-performing and underperforming schools.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools have long pushed to expand options. Their superintendent once memorably declared his intent to ride the "tsunami of choice," rather than fight it. And there's some oft-overlooked overlap between school choice advocates and advocates for arts education. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Schools of hope, bonuses, funding and more

Budget deal: Leaders of the Florida Senate and House reach an agreement on an $83 billion budget, and the Legislature will vote on it Monday. Gov. Rick Scott didn’t rule out a veto, saying the budget was done in secrecy and doesn’t have enough tax cuts or money for education. Details of the bill are sketchy, but it does include a $200 million fund to help struggling schools and to recruit charter school companies into the state – the so-called “schools of hope” plan – and $213 million for educator bonuses. Tampa Bay Times. Associated PressNews Service of Florida. Naples Daily News. Lakeland LedgerPolitico Florida. Also included in the budget is $500 million for the Public Education Capital Outlay program, with $50 million each going to public schools and charter schools for maintenance projects, and $57 million for specific school projects in smaller counties. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida.

Title I funding: School district leaders from around the state continue to lobby the Legislature about the proposal to change the way federal Title I funding will be distributed. Legislators are proposing bills (S.B. 1362 and H.B. 7101) that would spread out the funds among more schools, including charter schools. Critics say doing so will starve the very schools that need the money the most. Neither bill has a scheduled hearing in the Senate. Gradebook. The Polk County School District could lose $15 million if the proposed split of federal Title I funds between traditional public schools and charter schools is approved, says district budget director Jason Pitts. Lakeland Ledger.

Testing changes: Work continues on the bill to reform school testing in the state. Support for the Senate bill chosen to move forward is tepid, with many senators complaining the bill does little to reduce the number of tests students take. Negotiations continue to consider details that could broaden support. Also in the bill is the proposal to require daily recess for elementary school students. Miami Herald. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Schools of hope, state budget, Title I and more

Education bills: House leaders are considering changing the so-called “schools of hope” legislation to allow school districts to compete with charter school companies for part of the $200 million fund created by the bill. Originally, the bill was conceived as a way to recruit highly regarded charter companies to open schools in areas with persistently low-performing traditional public schools. “What we’re arguing for is an equitable playing field, where we would have the ability to be able to compete for the dollars that are set aside,” said Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie, who helped pitch the plan to legislators. Politico Florida. A Senate committee spent just nine minutes to describe, amend and approve its version of the “schools of hope” bill. “These issues have been discussed around here, and we’re just putting them in the conference posture,” says Senate Appropriations chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. Miami Herald. School officials expect the “education train” bill to continue to morph in the final days of the legislative session, which could mean further changes to the state’s standardized testing. St. Augustine Record.

Budget discussions: Negotiations continue between Senate and House leaders on an $83 billion budget, and details are slowly emerging. The proposed deal allots $200 million for the “schools of hope” proposal and $200 million to expand the Best and Brightest teacher bonuses program, but won’t allow increases in property tax revenue for schools. Per-student spending would be increased only slightly. But, says Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, “It would be a mistake to only count in the education budget what comes directly through the FEFP (Florida Education Finance Program, the formula that determine per-student spending). I think there are other educational opportunities that we’ll give to our constituents, and I think that improves the overall quality of our system.” Florida Politics. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. The budget agreement comes only after extensive one-on-one talks between Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes. Tampa Bay Times.

Title I concerns: School officials and educational consultants have concerns about the way the Florida House education bill would distribute federal Title I funds, which are intended to help low-income students. The House bill calls for Title I funds to be spread more evenly among schools, including charters. Cheryl Sattler, a Tallahassee consultant on federal education funding, says the bill would mean fewer dollars for children in low-income schools and fewer resources for preschools. “Low-achieving schools couldn’t expect help,” she says, “so they will stay low-performing.” Gradebook.

Financial literacy: The Senate passes a bill requiring Florida students to take a financial literacy course to graduate from high school. Senators name it the “Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Education Act” to honor the Republican senator from Port Orange, who has missed the session as she has undergoes cancer treatment. “This has been a bill that Sen. Hukill’s worked on since the day she came to the Florida Senate. I can’t even count the number of conversations that I have had with her about this bill since she’s been here with us,” said Sen. Jack Latvala. Florida Politics. WFTV. News Service of Florida. Continue Reading →

Florida roundup: Charter schools, magnets, superintendents and more

Growth. Could charter schools help Hillsborough school officials deal with an enrollment boom? Tampa Bay Times.

Schools of Hope. The state Senate proposes a counter-offer to the House’s ambitious charter school legislation — one that prioritizes traditional schools. Times/Herald. redefinED.

Superintendents. Duval County schools chief Nikolai Vitti is chosen to lead public schools in Detroit. Chalkbeat. Florida Times-Union. Detroit Free Press. Hillsborough’s Jeff Eakins talks with Gradebook. Alachua County picks finalists to fill its leadership post. Gainesville Sun.

Magnet schools. The Tampa Bay Times breaks down Pinellas County’s most sought-after magnet programs.

Civil rights lawsuit. More immigrant children join a legal battle with the Collier County school district, which they say prevented them from enrolling in high schools. Naples Daily News.

Letter grades. No more D’s and F’s for Leon County’s youngest students. Tallahassee Democrat.

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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 →

Florida schools roundup: Testing bills, recess, graduation rates and more

School testing: State senators will consider competing school testing bills this week. SB 926 would push testing back to the final three weeks of the school year, and the test results would have to be returned to teachers within a week. It’s sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami. The second bill, SB 964, also delays tests until the final month of the school year, but eliminates specific tests, allows districts to give pencil-and-paper tests, and gives principals wider discretion on teacher evaluations. It’s sponsored by Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee. Tallahassee Democrat. Montford is confident his bill will be given consideration, even though it was left off the Senate Education Committee’s next meeting agenda while SB 926 was included. Gradebook. An amendment added to the Senate’s school testing bill would specify that any school board member could visit any school in his or her district at any day and any time. No school could require advance notice, and a campus escort would not be required. The amendment was proposed by Flores. Gradebook.

School recess: The House has finally scheduled a hearing for a bill that would require recess for elementary school students. But the bill, HB 67, has several significant differences from the Senate bill, which has moved through committees and is headed to the Senate floor. The House bill calls for daily recess time, but allows schools to count recess time toward physical education class requirements, allows P.E. classes to count for recess time, and removes fourth- and fifth-graders from the requirement. Miami Herald.

Graduation rates: A bill drafted late last week in the House would count students who move from traditional high schools to alternative charter or private schools in the graduation rate of the school the student left. The bill surfaced just after the Florida Department of Education announced it would investigate whether traditional high schools were pushing struggling students into alternative charter schools in order to boost their graduation rates. That investigation was sparked by a report in ProPublica in February. redefinED. Continue Reading →