Board term limits: A bill that would place the issue of local school board term limits on the Florida ballot has been approved by a second House subcommittee. The vote was 11-4 in favor, mostly along party lines with Republicans supporting it, though members from both parties called for some changes. The Senate version of the bill has yet to receive a committee hearing. The bill would limit board members to eight years in office. It would require approval by 60 percent of both chambers to make the 2020 ballot, then 60 percent of Florida voters to be added to the Constitution. News Service of Florida. Gradebook. Florida Politics.
School security: Broward County School Board members approve policies designed to address safety flaws that were criticized after the 2018 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. All schools will have to identify corners in every classroom for students to hide safely in, and all school employees will be required to call a “Code Red” emergency if they see or hear anything threatening student safety. Sun Sentinel. WLRN. WPLG. Court cases provide guidance on the liability of schools and districts in keeping students safe. Education Dive.
Schools’ graduation rate up: Florida’s high school graduation rate hit a record high last spring at 86.1 percent, according to figures released Wednesday by the state Department of Education. That’s 3.8 percentage points higher than the 2017 rate. Also impressive is the improvement made by minority students. Black students graduated at a rate of 81 percent, up from 64.7 percent in 2014, and the rate was 85.1 percent for Hispanic students, up from 75 percent four years ago. “Today’s announcement is particularly important because it not only shows across-the-board progress, it highlights success in closing the achievement gap and leveling the playing field for all students,” said outgoing Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. Florida Department of Education. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Orlando Sentinel. Gainesville Sun. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Enrollment down: Florida has 17,000 fewer K-12 school students this year than projected, according to a report from the Legislature’s Office of Demographic and Economic Research. The state budget had funding for 2.848 million K-12 students. The revised forecast is 2.831 million, 7,955 more than last year but 17,142 fewer than expected in the 67 school districts. “Most of the revision is due to less than expected net in-migration to the public school system, combined with fewer than expected hurricane-affected students remaining in 2018-19 from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” according to the report. News Service of Florida.
Free tuition proposal: A proposal is filed with the Florida Constitution Revision Commission to provide free higher education tuition and fees to family members of first responders, law-enforcement officers and active-duty military members who are killed on the job. The proposal was filed by commission member Emery Gainey, and is supported by Gov. Rick Scott. The commission will decide what proposals to put on the November 2018 ballot, and voters would have to pass the proposals with a 60 percent majority. News Service of Florida.
Finances improving: Finances have improved in Florida’s 67 school districts for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2016, according to a report from the Florida auditor general. Jefferson County was the only district with a financial condition ratio under 3 percent, which helps determine if districts have the state-required 3 percent in reserves, and that district has been turned over to a charter school company. The audit shows that 42 districts have some deficiencies, compared to 54 a year ago. Gradebook.
Displaced students: Central Florida leaders appeal directly to Gov. Rick Scott for financial help to help them absorb the influx of evacuees from Puerto Rico and other areas devastated by hurricanes this summer. An estimated 143,000 people have arrived in Florida from Puerto Rico alone, and 6,300 are children who are enrolling in state schools, mostly in central Florida. Osceola Superintendent Debra Pace says the additional 1,300 students are “equal for us to two additional elementary schools added to the population.” Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics. Other areas around the state are seeing a similar influx, and are making plans to prepare for more. WUSF. Lakeland Ledger.
School recess: A bill requiring a daily 20-minute recess in every Florida elementary school goes before the House’s K-12 education committee today. The bill, pushed hard by parents’ groups, would also prohibit schools from withholding recess as punishment. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. A large number of parents will rally for recess at the Capitol today. Tallahassee Democrat.
School transfers: A Florida Senate education committee passes a bill that would allow students to transfer to any school in Florida that has an opening, for academics or athletic reasons. Orlando Sentinel.
Capital spending: Public schools are exceeding a state-imposed limit for spending on construction projects, according to House education budget chairman Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, and he wants to reduce that cap. Some Democrats and school officials say Fresen’s conclusions are oversimplified. Miami Herald.
School uniforms: The Volusia County School Board votes tonight on whether to require school uniforms for every K-12 student. Parents seem to be split on the measure, while most board members have spoken in favor. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Charter schools: The Jacksonville Urban Education Symposium on Feb. 6 will focus on charter schools as a viable educational option. Florida Politics.
Private schools. The Human Experience, a private middle school in Orlando, urges its 30 students to “do good, love well, and pursue your passion.” The unconventional school has its critics, but founder Nathan Smith says the at-risk students are becoming confident and unafraid. WMFE.
Rallying for choice: As many as 11,000 supporters of school choice rally at the Florida Capitol to support tax-credit scholarships and urge the Florida Education Association teachers union to end its lawsuit that alleges the program is unconstitutional. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer those accounts. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. Sunshine State News. Tallahassee Democrat. AP, via Bradenton Herald. News Service of Florida. WUSF.
Recess reconsidered: Hours after agreeing to consider a resolution that would urge elementary schools to offer at least 20 minutes of recess on days when students do not have a physical education class, the Pinellas County School Board backs off and now will consider whether to require it. The R’Club Child Care Inc., which supervises thousands of children during non-school hours at 27 elementary schools, has offered to help. Tampa Bay Times.
Teacher bonuses: The Senate Education Committee considers the teacher bonus program today. Several senators are publicly questioning the wisdom of basing bonuses partly on teachers’ performances on such tests as the SAT and ACT. Gradebook.
School health clinics: The Brevard County School District is considering onsite health clinics for school employees to provide low-cost medical services and prescriptions and limit rapidly rising health costs. Florida Today.
Osceola superintendent: Debra Pace is named superintendent of the Osceola County School District. The other finalists were Hernando County Superintendent Lori Romano and Anna Diaz, area superintendent for East Learning Community in Orange County. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Today.
School impact fees: An Orange County advisory group will look into whether the county should raise its impact fees, which help pay for new schools. Orlando Sentinel.
Exams explained: Polk County school officials explain how end-of-year exams are weighted in determining final student grades. Lakeland Ledger.
Testing forum: Lee County School Superintendent Greg Adkins will hold a forum Thursday with parents, students and the community about school testing. Fort Myers News-Press.
District options: The Manatee County School Board, presented several options for balancing school enrollment, wants to take some time before deciding which option to choose. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
School calendar: The Sarasota County School Board’s draft calendar now sets Aug. 22 as a start date. The board considered moving that date a week earlier, but protests from parents caused it to scrap the idea. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Stadium configuration: Bay County school officials say building the new Tommy Oliver Stadium in its current east-west footprint instead of orienting it north-south would save a million or more dollars. Panama City News Herald.
Chasing threats: Police officers from the Palm Beach County schools are asking for the public’s help to identify the people who have made at least eight threats against the school system since October. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel.
Resource officers: The Mount Dora Police Department shows off new vehicles for school resource officers, as the integration of officers into Lake County schools continues. Daily Commercial.
Jury gets bribe case: The case of grand theft, money laundering, racketeering and other charges against former Broward Teachers Union President Pat Santeramo is now in the hands of the jury. Sun-Sentinel.
Teacher arrested: A first-grade teacher at Bob Sikes Elementary School in Crestview is arrested after allegedly starting a fight at a hospital. Northwest Florida Daily News.
Opinions on schools: Teaching kids about sex may be uncomfortable, but it is absolutely necessary. Laurie Futterman, Miami Herald. The PreK-12 Committee of the Florida Senate should amend the teacher bonuses bill to focus on recruiting and retaining math and science teachers and teachers in high-needs schools. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.
Student enrichment: Microsoft is making a version of Minecraft for schools to use in classrooms as a teaching tool. CNN. Hundreds of volunteers worked Monday to clean up and beautify Myrtle Grove K-8 Center in Miami Gardens. Miami Herald. About 50 Golden Gate High School students show off their entrepreneurial skills at INCubatoredu, a program that teaches students how to turn ideas into businesses. Naples Daily News.
Legislature and education: School choice and charter school funding and accountability are among the big education issues in the legislative session that begins today. Miami Herald. Five issues and five people to watch during this session. Tampa Bay Times. Legislators may bicker over the sources of funding for K-12, since a large part of the money will come from higher property taxes. Northwest Florida Daily News.
Early promotion: A bill filed Monday by State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would allow schools to promote students during a school year if they demonstrate mastery of the subject matter. Gradebook.
Budget choices: Tax revenue on electric bills, a primary source of Florida’s funding for school construction, is projected to decline 2.5 percent. That means legislators will increasingly have to choose between money for construction or teacher salaries, early education and other educational programs. Tampa Tribune.
Grade warning: School grades being issued by the state in February will not be accurate, Hillsborough School Superintendent Jeff Eakins is warning parents in an email. Gradebook.
Teacher bonuses: School districts have just two weeks to fill out paperwork so teachers can apply for bonuses under the Best and Brightest Teachers Scholarships program. Gradebook.