Archive | Religious education

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.

Continue Reading →

0

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.

Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Retention and H.B. 7069 suits, DeVos visit and more

Retention lawsuit: Parents who launched a legal challenge against the state’s policies on 3rd-grade retention are now asking a court to dismiss the case. They had challenged the policy that required students to take the Florida Standards Assessments reading test to be eligible for promotion, regardless of their academic performance. But they lost that case, and an appeal for the Florida Supreme Court to consider it, largely on the question of venue. The state contended the suits should have been filed in local courts. Gradebook.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: Leon County school officials won’t ask the school board to join the lawsuit challenging the state’s new education law, H.B. 7069. The Florida Association of District School Superintendents also says it will not join the suit, saying those decisions are for local school boards. Eleven school boards have voted to join the suing coalition. They say the new law is unconstitutional because the bill covers more than one subject, and it forces districts to share tax money with charter schools while stripping those districts of authority over charters. WFSU.

DeVos visit: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tours a private religious school and a charter school during a stop in Tallahassee, and touted the schools as “examples of what schools should aspire to be.” Her trip extends into today, when she will visit another private religious school. News Service of Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. Miami HeraldUSA TodaySunshine State News. WFSU. Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna is critical of DeVos’ trip, saying “it’s insulting that she’s going to visit the capital of the state of Florida, to visit a charter school, a private school and a voucher school.” Tallahassee Democrat. DeVos gave no indication during her trip if the U.S. Department of Education would be receptive to Florida’s request for a waiver from requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Politico Florida.

Continue Reading →

Catching up on nationwide private school enrollment trends

Editor’s note (Aug. 23): This post contains significant updates and corrections. The original version erroneously reported a drop in private school enrollment between 2013 and 2015. The error occurred because it compared 2013 data that included Pre-K students with 2015 data that did not. We regret this mistake. The revised post provides accurate year-to-year comparisons.

The U.S. Department of Education is out this week with a new report on private school data from across the country. The last such data came out two years ago. Here’s what the numbers from the 2015-16 school year show.

Here’s what the numbers from the 2015-16 school year show.

Enrollment in private schools reversed its decline. In addition, there were more private schools and more private school teachers.

Between 2013 and 2015, the number of students rose 7 percent, to 4,903,596.

The number of teachers rose faster, by about nine percent, to 481,558.

Meanwhile, the number of schools jumped by nearly 1,000, to 34,576.

This factoid might be related. In the fall of 2013, roughly 36 percent of private schools had fewer than 50 students. Two years later, 46 percent of private schools fell in that category.

Enrollment in faith-based schools is growing. But enrollment in Catholic schools was close to flat. It increased by a little more than half of one percent. Enrollment other religious chools grew faster — by nearly 13 percent during the same period. Non-sectarian schools, meanwhile, grew by nearly 10 percent.

Continue Reading →

Siblings from Argentina adjust and thrive thanks to school choice scholarships

In a three-year span, Mariel Ubfal’s world fell apart. Her husband died. She moved her family to the United States. Then she watched as her children struggled in school.

The move from Argentina to America came in 2008, three years after Mariel’s husband died from cancer. At the time, all four of her children were under the age of 10. “Leaving was not easy,” Mariel said. “But I knew this was the right decision for my kids.”

Starting over wasn’t easy, either.

Being unemployed and underemployed for the first few years, Mariel struggled to pay bills and, at times, even to feed her kids. As if that wasn’t enough, her children began having behavioral and academic issues in their neighborhood schools – something that never happened in Argentina.

After moving to Miami from Argentina, the Mohadeb kids — Agustin, Barbara, Matias, and Sebastian — attended Hebrew Academy in Miami on Florida tax credit scholarships.

Troubles first hit her three eldest – Matias, Agustin, and Barbara Mohadeb.

Matias hated school because he struggled learning a new language. In eighth grade, he earned D’s and F’s and routinely got into fights. Agustin was held back in sixth grade for poor academics. Barbara failed fifth grade because she did not speak the language.

Mariel felt desperate. She called the school and tried setting up meetings with her sons’ teachers, but that proved difficult.

“Maybe it was the language barrier, I’m not sure, but I wasn’t able to help my kids succeed at their local school,” she said.

Mariel searched for a better option and found a school that felt like home, but couldn’t afford the tuition. Then a friend told her about the Florida tax credit scholarships. (Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps provide the scholarships to more than 100,000 low-income and working-lcass students.)

It was “the answer to my prayers,” she said.

In 2010, Matias, then 15, and Agustin, then 13, began ninth and seventh grade respectively at Hebrew Academy.

The school is smaller and more family-oriented than their previous schools, Mariel said, and its teachers are more accessible to parents. The curriculum is rigorous and the school has high expectation for student academics and parental involvement, she said.

Progress didn’t happen immediately. Matias’s behavior was terrible in the beginning. At one point, he refused to go to his new school, and Mariel couldn’t get him out of bed. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Teacher pay, funding formula, tax holiday and more

Teacher pay: Teachers at Memorial Middle School in Orlando will be paid $20,000 more this year as the Orange County School District tries to entice top teachers to turn around the persistently low-performing school. If a state grant can’t be obtained, the district will cover the extra costs. Officials say teachers at five other struggling schools also would get the extra pay if the district gets the grant. Only teachers rated effective or highly effective are eligible for the extra pay, and they’ll have to work an extra 30 minutes a day. Orlando Sentinel. Florida ranks 43rd among states and U.S. territories in average teacher pay at $47,256, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2016. The only states with lower pay than Florida are Arkansas, Idaho, West Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona, South Dakota, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Alaska is No. 1 at $74,122. Tallahassee Democrat.

Funding formula fight: Volusia County School Board chairwoman Melody Johnson makes a personal appeal to the Pasco County School Board to join the fight against the state’s district cost differential (DCD) portion of the school funding formula. She says 55 of the state’s 67 counties have lost money to the DCD, which gives urban districts more money to cover the higher costs of living. Johnson says Pasco has lost $53 million since 2003. Pasco board members asked Superintendent Kurt Browning to investigate and make a recommendation. Gradebook.

Back to school: The back-to-school sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 Friday and runs through 11:59 p.m. Sunday. The National Retail Federation says the average family with children in K-12 schools spends $687 on clothes and school supplies. News Service of Florida. Sunshine State NewsLakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. Keynoter. WFLA. WTSP. Florida schools open soon, and some new laws focused on school traffic are in effect. Palm Beach Post. Do school dress codes discriminate against girls? WFSU.

School branding: In an era of school choice, school branding is becoming increasingly important, say some school officials. Education Dive.

Continue Reading →

U.S. Supreme Court gives legs to anti-Blaine Amendment crusade

Speculation swirled after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Missouri could not exclude private religious schools from a playground grant program.

Did justices signal they set their sights on a legal obstacle to school vouchers? Even informed legal scholars disagreed.

But the high court sent a much clearer signal this morning.

Justices granted a petition by the Douglas County, Colo. school board. The school district wanted the high court to review a ruling that hobbled its local voucher program. State courts argued vouchers violate the Blaine Amendment in Colorado’s constitution, which bars public funding of religious institutions. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Special session, testing, prayer case and more

Special session: A proposal to change the way K-12 schools are funded fails in the Senate, and the chamber appears to be closer to agreeing to the House’s spending plan for K-12 education. But the special session could collapse over a dispute about spending for higher education. Speaker Richard Corcoran says the House will not join the Senate in overriding Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of about $75 million in projects for colleges and universities, as Senate President Joe Negron has demanded. His escalating feud with Negron over education priorities and the agreement Scott and Corcoran reached last week is threatening to sink the special session. Today is the final scheduled day. Miami Herald and Tampa Bay TimesPolitico FloridaMiami Herald. News Service of Florida. Palm Beach PostFlorida Politics. Gradebook. redefinED. Sunshine State NewsPolitico Florida.

State testing results: Florida sophomores post a 62 percent pass rate on the Florida Standards Assessments algebra 1 exam, up 7 percentage points over last year’s performance, say Florida Department of Education officials. There was no change in the 50 percent pass rate on the language arts exams. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Department of Education. WJXTHere are reports on testing results, and potential effects of those results, from districts and schools around the state. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-UnionGradebook. GradebookBradenton Herald. Fort Myers News-Press. Gainesville SunOcala Star Banner. Florida Today. Lakeland Ledger. TCPalm. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Flagler Live. Panama City News Herald. WFLAOnly 11 percent of Florida’s high school seniors who had to retake the algebra 1 end-of-course test passed it, according to the Florida Department of Education. GradebookPolitico Florida.

Prayer court decision: A federal judge rules against a Tampa Christian school that claimed its free speech rights were violated when the Florida High School Athletic Association did not allow it to broadcast a prayer before a football game. The FHSAA denied Cambridge Christian School’s request to use a stadium loudspeaker for a prayer before a state championship football game in 2015, saying allowing it would have implied an endorsement of the message. The federal judge’s decision concluding the school had no right to broadcast the prayer concurred with the recommendation from a magistrate judge in February. News Service of Florida. Continue Reading →