Archive | Religious education

Florida schools roundup: School crime reporting, scholarships, suit and more

School crime reporting: The Broward County School District has failed to report many students’ crimes to the state as required by state law, according to records from the Broward Sheriff’s Office. For example, the district reported 193 weapons were found in schools during the 2016-2017 school year, but officials acknowledge they no longer were counting such things as ammunition, small knives, throwing blades, nunchucks, BB guns and combustible materials. District spokeswoman Cathleen Brennan says the data sent to the state is meant only to capture “the most serious of incidents, while other incidents are recorded and addressed locally.” Lisa Maxwell, executive director of the Broward Principals and Assistants’ Association, adds, “The state statute is really kind of unclear and open to interpretation, so it leads to subjective decisions.” Sun-Sentinel.

Scholarship oversight: Several legislators say they want to standardize education curriculum for all state schools. Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, was among those calling for the change after a newspaper report detailing some of the materials used by some private schools that enroll students who get scholarships from the state. Among those lessons: people and dinosaurs lived on Earth at the same time, slaves who “knew Christ” were better off than free men who did not, and God intervened to prevent Catholics from controlling North America. The state doesn’t track curriculum used by private schools with scholarship students, and bars the Florida Education Department from regulating academics at those schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer two scholarship programs students use to attend private schools. Orlando Sentinel.

One lawsuit on hold: Leon County Circuit Court Judge James Shelfer rules that the Palm Beach County School Board’s challenge of the Legislature’s 2017 education law, H.B. 7069, is on hold until an appeal on a broader lawsuit against the law is settled. Palm Beach is challenging only the part of the law that requires the district to share local property tax revenue with charter schools it authorizes. The other lawsuit, brought by several districts, claims the law is unconstitutional because it has “encroached on the authority vested by the Florida Constitution in locally elected district school boards to operate, control, and supervise the local public schools located in their respective jurisdictions.” redefinED. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Private school curriculum, education lawsuits and more

Private school problems: Three Christian publishing companies provide some Florida private schools and homeschooled students with a curriculum that denies evolution, says humans and dinosaurs shared the earth, downplays the horrors of slavery and treatment of native Americans, and disparages religions other than Protestant Christianity and cultures that didn’t descend from white Europeans, according to a review of the materials. Experts from several colleges and school districts say the lessons also are easier than those required in public schools, and do not prepare students for college. Orlando Sentinel. The principal of an Osceola County private school says he knew about the felony convictions of the man he hired as athletics supervisor, but didn’t know hiring him was a violation of state law. Orlando Sentinel.

Education lawsuits: Lawyers for the state say 10 members of the 1998 Constitution Revision Commission should not be permitted to file a brief supporting the group Citizens for Strong Schools in its suit filed nine years ago that alleges the state has not adequately funded school education as required by the constitution. Those members, who include former attorney general Bob Butterworth, former Supreme Court justice Gerald Kogan and former House speaker Jon Mills, say they want to explain their intent in framing the constitutional amendment requiring the state to provide a high-quality public school system. Gradebook. News Service of Florida. State lawyers also argue that the appeal of the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Legislature’s 2017 education law, H.B. 7069, should continue in the standard appeals process instead of being certified quickly to the Florida Supreme Court, as the school boards that brought the suit are requesting. News Service of Florida.

Bittersweet graduation: Sunday’s graduation ceremony for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School seniors was a bittersweet affair, the excitement tempered with the memory of the Feb. 14 massacre of 17 people, including four students who would have graduated. Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon made a surprise appearance as a guest speaker, telling students, “When something feels hard, remember that it gets better. Choose to move forward. Don’t let anything stop you.” Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Teacher wins Tony, spelling bee, security and more

Teacher wins a Tony: Melody Herzfeld, the one-person drama department at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who saved 65 students during the shooting rampage at the school Feb. 14 by barricading them in a closet, wins a special Tony award for educators. The award is given annually to U.S. teachers who have “demonstrated monumental impact on the lives of students and who embodies the highest standards of the profession.” She wins $10,000 and a pair of tickets to the Tony ceremony and gala. Sun-Sentinel. New York Times. Associated Press.

National spelling bee: Two Florida students spell their way into Thursday’s finals at the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C, before being  eliminated. Simone Kaplan, a 12-year-old 6th-grader from Davie who attends St. Bonaventure Catholic School in Broward County, was eliminated in the ninth round when she spelled the word carmagnole as carmagnol. Marisa Langley, a 14-year-old home-schooled 8th-grader from Tallahassee, was eliminated in the eighth round when she spelled the word hausen as housen. The champion is Karthik Nemmani of McKinney, Texas. The 519 spellers who started the competition included 31 students from Florida. Associated PressScripps Howard Spelling Bee. Miami Herald. Sun-SentinelPalm Beach Post. TCPalm. Continue Reading →

Voucher-friendly amendments won’t be on Florida’s 2018 ballot

Florida voters will not be voting this fall on whether to make the state constitution more amendable to school vouchers.

The state’s Constitution Revision Commission is still finalizing its proposals for the November ballot. But two proposals that might have drawn the attention of private school choice advocates won’t be in the mix.

One of those proposals would have struck Florida’s so-called Blaine Amendment. The debate around that now-scuttled proposal could hold insights for school choice advocates looking to overturn provisions in state constitutions that bar public aid to religious institutions.

Commissioner Roberto Martinez is a Miami lawyer who supported the proposal. He pointed to programs like a prison substance-abuse program that faced a legal challenge from the Council for Secular Humanism. Courts ultimately ruled the program’s faith-based providers do not violate Florida’s Blaine Amendment.

“I say this with all respect to the judges who were involved in those opinions. They performed legal jiu-jitsu in order to find the programs in effect constitutional, and not in violation of the no-aid provision, even though those programs provided aid to a religious organization,” Martinez said while debating the proposal last week.

If judges had blocked the program — which, he argued, the state constitution technically requires — they could have wound up on a collision course with the U.S. Supreme Court, which last year found it was unconstitutional to exclude religious schools from a program the helped fund safe playground equipment.

Since Florida judges kept the door open for faith-based substance-abuse services, the state’s “no-aid” provision remains safe from a federal challenge that could gut it — at least for now. Continue Reading →

Fla. Hare Krishna school gives lessons in service

A student meticulously counts beads at Bhaktivedanta Academy in Alachua, a Hare Krishna school

Alachua, Fla. – The art projects were distinct from most others. Students at Bhaktivedanta Academy had to use pieces of trash to create artwork weighing less than 50 pounds.

The project, Trashformations, was part of the 19th-annual student recycled art competition sponsored by the Alachua County Commission.

Students at the academy, which is rooted in the Hindu faith, worked tirelessly and won first place for their aquarium they built entirely out of discarded materials. They also garnered a third-place award for a city built out of similar material.

But the students did not complete the project to win awards or receive course credit. They wanted to bring awareness to the community of the need to recycle.

This was not their first community service project. Students at the academy have also collected food items and necessities for families in need, while others visited homebound individuals. Several students recently baked cupcakes, raising $296 for families in Puerto Rico.

David Aguilera, the school’s principal, said community projects are a central part of the Hare Krishna faith. The academy is open to students from diverse religious backgrounds, and it works to instill tenets like community service in all its students.

“The basic principle of Krishna Consciousness is we all have a relationship with God,” he said. “Our life purpose is to reestablish that relationship in loving service.” Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Education bills, guns in schools, flu closing and more

Legislative education bills: The Florida House and Senate release their education bills, revealing differences in per-student spending and the teacher bonuses program. The Senate proposes spending an additional $110 per student, while the House wants $100. Both are below Gov. Rick Scott’s $200 proposal. The Senate also puts $184 million into general operations for teacher pay raises, while the House wants to keep the Best and Brightest bonus program and spend $234 million on it. Other highlights of the Senate proposal include $88 million to remove the limit on the number of traditional public schools eligible for extra money under the Schools of Hope program, almost $18 million for teacher classroom supplies and $40 million for student mental health issues. The House’s 109-page proposal includes new scholarships for 3rd-graders who fail the state reading exam, an expansion of the powers of charter schools and networks, a cutback in computerized state testing and new accountability rules for private schools accepting tax credit scholarships. Gradebook (Senate). Gradebook (House). redefinED. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Meanwhile, the Senate release its higher education budget, which calls for a $383 million boost in spending. Tuesday, the House proposed cutting spending for universities and colleges by $217 million. Tampa Bay Times. WFSU.

Guns in schools: The Florida House Criminal Justice Committee approves bills that would allow people to carry guns in public schools and churches with schools. H.B. 621 would allow designated people, chosen by superintendents or principals, to carry concealed weapons in public schools. Those designated, who could be any school employee or even volunteers, would have to complete 40 hours of proficiency training. H.B. 1419 would allow concealed weapons in churches, synagogues or religious institutions, even if they have schools. Current law prohibits anyone from having a gun in a school. Sunshine State News. WFSU.

Flu closing district: All Gulf County schools will be closed Friday due to the widening flu outbreak. Superintendent Jim Norton says about 20 percent of students have missed school this week with the flu, and the district is running out of healthy substitute teachers and school bus drivers. Schools will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized Friday. Other northwest Florida counties are also seeing more flu cases. Port St. Joe StarWMBB. WJHG. Destin Log.

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Florida’s ‘Blaine Amendment’ could be erased

By Lloyd Dunkelberger

News Service of Florida

A ban on state support for religious groups would be removed from the Florida Constitution under a proposal approved Wednesday by a Constitution Revision Commission panel.

In a 5-1 vote, the commission’s Declaration of Rights Committee endorsed a measure (Proposal 4) that would eliminate the Constitution’s so-called “no-aid” provision, which prohibits public funding “directly or indirectly” for any church, religious group or “sectarian institution.”

The no-aid provision, which dates to Florida’s 1885 Constitution, has been invoked in recent years in legal fights over using publicly funded vouchers to send students to private schools. A state appellate court in 2004 cited the provision in striking down a voucher program, though the Florida Supreme Court later found the program unconstitutional on other grounds.

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Florida schools roundup: Virtual school, dropouts, charter schools and more

Virtual school outreach: More than 20,000 Puerto Rican students displaced by Hurricane Maria will be offered free access to course offered by the Florida Virtual School, whether they’re at home or in Florida. “I am glad that Florida Virtual School has stepped up to help these families as they rebuild their lives,” says Gov. Rick Scott. “The state of Florida will continue to do all we can to help them during this challenging time.” The state is also encouraging all 67 school districts to accept displaced students. Many districts are already see enrollment of students from Puerto Rico and other areas hard-hit by the hurricane. WJHG. WFLA. WESH. WQAMMiami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. WWSB. WPLG. WUSF.

Dropout dollars: For-profit dropout recovery schools in Florida, Ohio and Illinois are aggressively recruiting at-risk students and counting them as enrolled even after they stop attending school in order to keep collecting public money, according to a review of public records and state auditors. Dropout recovery schools are enrolling an increasing number of struggling students who are offloaded by traditional high schools that want to keep test scores and graduation rates up. ProPublica.

Charter conversion: The Florida Department of Education has begun a process that could lead to the transfer of control of the Madison County Central School to a charter company. The state has informed the district it must reassign some teachers and form a community assessment team by Oct. 18. By Nov. 15, the school board would be presented three options: close the school, bring in an approved charter company to take over the school, or hire a charter company that is managed by the district. Superintendent Karen Pickles says the district-managed charter plan is the only acceptable option. Madison County Carrier.

Charter application: The Marion County School Board will vote Tuesday on a charter school application from Charter Schools USA. The for-profit charter company wants to build the Southeast Marion Charter School, which would start at K-6 with 615 students but add a grade in each of the first two years to top out at K-8 and 745 students. The company plans to build the school with state funds. If it fails, the property would be owned by Charter Schools USA. Ocala Star-Banner.

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