Florida School Boards Association
Superintendent of year: Malcolm Thomas, leader of the Escambia County School District, is selected as Florida’s superintendent of the year by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. “He’s a visionary, and above all there’s never any question in anybody’s mind where is heart is, and that is in the classroom,” says State Sen. Bill Montford, executive director of the association. Thomas was first elected superintendent in 2008, then re-elected twice. He’s retiring when his term expires in 2020, and the Escambia superintendent position will then become an appointed one. Pensacola News Journal. Gradebook.
H.B. 7069 lawsuit: In a court filing, the state disputes the contention of 11 district school boards that a 2017 education bill is unconstitutional. The boards allege that H.B. 7069 illegally takes authority from local boards to approve charter schools, and exempts some charter schools, called “schools of hope,” from regulations public schools must follow. The law was upheld by a circuit judge last spring, which prompted appeals from boards in Alachua, Bay, Broward, Hamilton, Lee, Orange, Pinellas, Polk, St. Lucie and Volusia counties, and a separate appeal from the Collier County board. News Service of Florida.
Funding fears: While school officials applaud voters for approving 18 ballot measures in August and November to help pay for expenses at schools, some fear that those approvals will embolden the Legislature to cut back funding and lean more on local tax efforts. That could lead to funding disparities based on where students live. “It’s a grave concern,” says Andrea Messina, head of the Florida School Boards Association. “The more we rely on local dollars to provide for educational needs, the greater the disparity could be.” Gradebook.
School board elections: When the Florida Constitution Revision Commission proposed an amendment that would have imposed term limits on school board members, critics said it was unnecessary because of natural turnover. The Florida Supreme Court removed the amendment from the budget to make the argument moot. So how did the elections turn out? Across the state, 290 school board seats were open. Fifty-nine incumbents chose not to seek re-election. Eighteen incumbents who did run lost in the August primary, and seven more lost in the general election. Meanwhile, 73 incumbents and 53 newcomers were elected to boards without drawing opponents. Gradebook.
Blue Ribbon schools: Twelve Florida schools are among 349 across the United States chosen as National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education. Schools earn the designation through high achievement or by closing the achievement gaps for disadvantaged students. The Florida schools honored are: A.D. Henderson University School and FAU High School in Boca Raton; Colleen Bevin Elementary in Lithia; Lorenzo Walker Technical High School and Seagate Elementary in Naples; West Shore Junior/Senior High in Melbourne; George Washington Carver Middle, Herbert Ammons Middle and Archimedean Upper Conservatory in Miami; Tarpon Springs Fundamental Elementary; Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville; Pensacola Beach Elementary; and the Somerset Academy Elementary in Miramar. redefinED. Space Coast Daily. Boca News Now. U.S. Department of Education.
A/C help discussion: The Hillsborough County Commission is expected to “discuss collaborating with the Hillsborough County School District to explore ways the county can help expedite urgently needed upgrades to school air-conditioners and other vital building infrastructure” at its meeting Wednesday. The school district has a growing backlog of schools with A/C problems and other issues, and is asking voters Nov. 6 to approve a half-cent increase in the sales tax to raise $1.31 billion over 10 years for maintenance and construction. Gradebook.
Redirection of funds rejected: Incoming legislative leaders reject Gov. Rick Scott’s call to allow school districts to use $58 million in unspent funds for school security. Scott proposed uncommitted money from the armed guardian fund be divided up among the state’s districts to hire more officers or use on other security measures. But House Speaker-elect Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah, and incoming Senate President-elect Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, both say the money should stay in the armed guardian fund, and that the program needs time to grow. Many school districts favored school resource officers over arming school employees or security guards, and didn’t apply for the guardian funds. Associated Press.
Top court gets Amendment 8: An appeal of a judge’s decision this week to remove proposed constitutional Amendment 8 from the November ballot will skip the appeals process and be heard by the Florida Supreme Court. The state had appealed the decision to the First District Court of Appeal, which immediately passed it on to the top court because “involves a question of great public importance and requires immediate resolution.” The court has asked the state to file its arguments by Monday. Amendment 8 would allow the state to create an entity that could authorize charter and public schools outside the jurisdiction of local school boards. It would also set term limits for school board members and require civics education. Monday, a Leon County judge ruled the proposal “fails to inform voters of the chief purpose and effect of this proposal.” Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. Florida Phoenix. News Service of Florida.
FSA test results: Florida students improved their test scores in the state’s math, science and social studies exams, and in reading in some grades, according to results released Thursday by the Florida Department of Education. The Florida Standards Assessments measure reading and math for students in grades 3-12, science for 5th- and 8th-graders and end-of-course exams in biology, civics and U.S. history. Test results also show a narrowing of the achievement gap between white and nonwhite students in language arts, algebra 1 and geometry. Testing results are part of the formula used to assign grades to individual schools and districts. Orlando Sentinel. Sun-Sentinel. Bridge to Tomorrow. Florida Department of Education. More reports on how school districts around the state did in the testing. Ocala Star-Banner. Palm Beach Post. TCPalm. Tampa Bay Times. Gradebook. WJXT. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Gainesville Sun. Space Coast Daily.
Proposed tax hikes: If the Palm Beach County School Board agrees to the placement of a property tax increase on the November ballot, it would be the third school tax increase voters have been asked to approve in the past four years. This time, the request is for an extra $1 per $1,000 of taxable property value, which would be used for teacher salaries, school security and mental health care. The tax is projected to raise $200 million a year for four years. The board vote is scheduled Wednesday. Sun-Sentinel. A school tax referendum in Hillsborough County is likely to be delayed beyond November because it might take up to eight months or longer to get the financial audit that is now required by the state before voters can be asked to approve an increase in taxes. District officials say when they contacted the Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability to request the audit, they were told there might be a six-month wait and that the results would have to be posted for two months before a vote could take place. Tampa Bay Times.
Education amendment: A proposed constitutional amendment that bundles three education issues will appear on the November ballot. The Constitution Revision Commission, in a 27-10 vote, approves Proposal 6003, which calls for eight-year term limits on school board members, gives the authority to approve charter schools to an entity other than local school boards, and requires civics to be taught in public schools. It was one of eight amendments approved on Monday. Another education proposal, which would have allowed “high-performing” public school districts to apply for an exemption from following some state laws and regulations, as charter schools can now, was rejected by the CRC. There will be 13 amendment proposals on the ballot. Each must be approved by 60 percent of voters to take effect. Miami Herald. News Service of Florida. Gradebook. redefinED. Orlando Sentinel. Associated Press. Politico Florida.
Education funding: The state’s school superintendents say that if legislators are going to be called for a special session on gambling, they should also reconsider funding for education. The Florida Association of District School Superintendents wants the Legislature to increase the base allocation by $152 per student, which would cost the state about $300 million. It also wants to be able to use money from the program that calls for arming school employees to instead hire school resource officers. A previous request by the group for a special session to take another look at education funding was denied. Gradebook.
A call for reform: Legislators and local school officials are calling for better oversight of private schools that get millions of dollars from the state’s three scholarship programs. A series in the Orlando Sentinel last week detailed how some of those schools hired uncertified teachers with criminal backgrounds and submitted falsified fire reports for years without the state taking action against them. State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, remains a supporter of the tax credit, Gardiner and McKay scholarships, but agrees that “there’s some place between no regulation and over-regulation.” Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit and Gardiner scholarship programs. Orlando Sentinel.
Teacher pay: Gov. Rick Scott has pushed for higher teacher pay in the past, but now is saying that the decision is out of his hands. “The way our system is set up in our state those decisions are made at the local level,” Scott said during a discussion with teachers. “What I tell everybody is, ‘You have to be active with your school board members, your superintendents.’ ” Associated Press. Scott did say that his budget proposal will include $63 million for teachers to help buy classroom supplies, an increase of $18 million over last year. That would bump the $250 a year teachers receive for supplies to $350. WTLV.
‘Schools of hope’: The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter school network is working on establishing a “school of hope” in the Liberty City area of Miami. The tentative agreement calls for the Miami-Dade County School Board to provide KIPP Miami with a facility, and KIPP would receive a state grant to help disadvantaged students and share its training programs with the district. The “schools of hope” program was set up by the Legislature to offer financial incentives so charter companies could move into neighborhoods with persistently struggling schools. KIPP is the nation’s largest nonprofit charter school network. redefinED.