Opt-out decision: The Florida Supreme Court announces it will not consider a lawsuit brought by parents against several school districts for retaining their 3rd-graders because they opted out of taking the Florida Standards Assessments tests. The decision lets stand a court of appeal ruling that the lawsuits should have been filed in the home counties of the districts, rather than in Leon County. News Service of Florida.
Alternative exams: Florida students who fail two key tests needed to graduate have alternative tests they can take – but the standards for those alternatives could be changing. Students have to pass the algebra 1 test and the 10th-grade language arts exam that is part of the Florida Standards Assessments to earn a diploma. Students who fail can take the SAT or ACT for language arts, or the PERT for algebra. But a state panel is recommending that the PERT be eliminated, with the PSAT replacing it, and that the passing score on the SAT be raised from 430 to 500. The Florida Board of Education will decide on the proposed changes. Orlando Sentinel.
Gardiner scholarships: The expansion of the state’s Gardiner scholarships for students with disabilities has been so broad and rapid that even the namesake, former state Sen. Andy Gardiner, worries that the program is straying from the original intent to provide help for children with the most severe disabilities. The program has grown from $20 million in 2014 to $100 million this year, and the criteria for qualifying has broadened so much that students with peanut allergies now are eligible for vouchers. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the program. Politico Florida.
Turnaround schools: Today, the Florida Board of Education will consider a turnaround plan for the newly combined Gadsden County High School, which is merging East and West high schools. Both schools received D grades from the state this year, and both have had ongoing disciplinary problems. The plan would likely mean a change in administrators, teachers, curriculum and the length of school days. Turnaround plans will also be considered for Hawthorne Middle School in Alachua County and Hamilton County High School. Tallahassee Democrat.
With Gov. Rick Scott’s signature, Florida’s newest educational choice program will have a new name, and will be able to serve more students.
Flanked by Senate President Andy Gardiner and his family, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, and the lawmakers who sponsored the legislation, Scott approved SB 672 this afternoon during a ceremony in the governor’s office.
The new law increases funding for Gardiner scholarships by roughly a third, to $71.2 million. It also allows more 3- and 4-year-olds to use the education savings accounts for students with special needs, and makes them available to children with muscular dystrophy and a wider range of students with autism.
The scholarships, previously known as Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts, allow families to pay for school tuition, therapy, curriculum and other education-related services of their choice. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer them.
A measure expanding Florida’s newest educational option for special needs students is now headed to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.
The Florida House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly approved SB 672, which would allow more families to access Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts and give the program a new name.
The Gardiner Scholarship — renamed for the family of Senate President Andy Gardiner, who championed the program — would be open to more students, including 3- and 4-year-olds and students with muscular dystrophy, as well as more children across the entire autism spectrum. The measure would also boost funding for scholarships to $71.2 million, and create new college programs for special-needs students.
The Florida Senate this morning unanimously approved legislation expanding — and renaming — the state’s newest educational choice program for special needs students.
SB 672 would codify changes allowing 3- and 4-year olds, children with muscular dystrophy and more students with autism to qualify for Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts. It would also boost funding for the scholarships to $71.2 million and expand higher-education programs for children with special needs.
Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the accounts.
Under an amendment added today, the program would be renamed the Gardiner Scholarship, in honor of Senate President Andy Gardiner, who championed the scholarships since they were first created two years ago. He and his wife, Camille, have focused their legislative agenda on helping children like their son, Andrew, who has Down Syndrome.
“This is a bill that people come up to us with tears in their eyes and talk about how it’s changed their life,” Gardiner said, calling attention to a girl with special needs who was seated in the back of the chamber.
“She said, ‘I just want to go to college,'” Gardiner said. “Your bill will provide that path, from cradle to career.”
Heading toward what could be his final year in the state Legislature, Florida’s Senate leader said recent changes to the state’s newest parental choice program for special needs students should be made permanent.
Florida’s Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts could potentially serve three times as many special needs students next year, under the budget signed this morning by Gov. Rick Scott.
The budget boosts funding for the program from $18.4 million to nearly $55 million. Related legislation also expands the eligibility to three- and four-year olds, a broader range of students with diagnoses along the autism spectrum disorder, and children with muscular dystrophy.
This year, two scholarship funding organizations, including Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog and employs the author of this post, helped administer accounts for 1,665 students. The expansion would allow the program to serve up to 3,600 more.
The accounts were part of a broader push by Senate President Andy Gardiner to expand educational opportunities for special needs students. On that front, there is unfinished business.
An expansion of Florida’s newest parental choice program for special needs students may be among the casualties of the standoff between the state House and Senate, despite versions of the bill passing both chambers unanimously.
The Senate today rejected the House’s version of legislation expanding access to Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts for special needs students, sending a revised version back to the other chamber, which has already adjourned for the current session. The state’s usual 60-day session is expected to end on Friday.
Sponsor Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville objected to changes the House made to the scholarship account bill the Senate passed earlier this month. Among other things, the revisions would have removed auditing provisions the Senate supported and deleted language intended to help families use the accounts to fund their Florida Prepaid College plans.
Gaetz said the House amendment could have resulted in administrative costs for the program being deducted from scholarships, rather than funded separately, as they were in the version the Senate approved. He said those changes did not meet the “moral standard” set by the upper chamber.
The fees would allow organizations like Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog and employs the author of this post, to cover their costs administering the program.
“We believe that a student should receive 100 percent of his or her PLSA scholarship to access necessary educational supports that are tailored specifically to his or her needs and academic success,” Senate President Gardiner, a supporter of the program, said in a statement released afterward. “Returning to the Senate’s version of the language ensures that the administrative fee is not taken from a child’s funds.”