Governor’s budget: Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing a $91.3 billion budget that includes $21.7 billion for the K-12 public school funding formula, with a spending boost of $224 per student. DeSantis wants to allocate $582.8 million for the Bright Futures scholarship program for high-achieving students and use state funds to replace cuts in local school property taxes. He’s asking for $500 million for the Best and Brightest teacher bonuses program, and wants to scrap the use of teachers’ college entrance exams as a factor in determining bonuses. He’s also asking for $99 million for school safety grants for hardening buildings and wants to carry forward the $57 million in unspent money for school guardians from last year. House and Senate committees will review the request as they prepare a final spending plan. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. GateHouse. Politico Florida.
Common Core caution: Much of the reaction to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to eliminate the use of Common Core standards in Florida schools has been positive. But the issue isn’t as simple as just signing an order, and some educators say it could be years before the state fully eliminates the Common Core standards. “Now you have curriculum materials that will be not aligned, probably, to the new standards,” says Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning. “How do teachers teach? … I think we need to be very, very cautious and careful about how we go about doing this.” WTSP. WTVT. WJAX. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WLRN.
Refugee influx: The academic performances of most students who came to Florida schools after Hurricane Maria will not be counted when the state figures grades for districts and schools, says Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. She says the federal government approved the exception for English language learners, which covers most of the nearly 8,000 students who fled the hurricane and have enrolled in Florida schools. Most of the extra students – 7,212 – are from Puerto Rico, and 710 are from other islands. Orange County has gotten the most refugee students, 1,793 for an 0.8 percent increase, while Osceola County has enrolled 1,218, which is a 2.2 percent increase. Housing remains the biggest problem for the refugees, members of the state Board of Education are told. Gradebook. Orlando Sentinel. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Daily Commercial.
Teacher evaluations: Several states, including Florida, have begun to change the way they evaluate teachers. Florida still uses testing and student performance indicators to determine one-third of teacher evaluation scores, but now allows districts to decide whether they want to use a state-approved formula for student growth to determine the other two-thirds. Six other states – Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Oklahoma – now let districts decide what data to use to evaluate teachers. Education Week.
Housing for teachers: Broward County School Board members are considering ways to convince developers to build more housing that teachers can afford. Among the ideas is to waive school impact fees for those developers who build homes for people with incomes of up to $42,700 for a single person or $61,000 for a family of four. “We have a drastic need for teachers and many of them can’t afford to live in the county,” says board member Patti Good. The median home price in Broward is about $355,000, which is more than most teachers can afford. Sun-Sentinel.
School funding formula: Two Republican state senators are calling for a study of the Florida K-12 school funding formula. Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, and Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast, say the current formula shortchanges smaller districts because larger districts get a bigger portion of state funding to help make up the difference for a higher cost of living. The senators want the study to see if the formula should be “kept, modified or eliminated.” Volusia County, Hukill’s home district, has been pressing for changes. School officials there say the formula has cost the district $140 million since 2004. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida.
H.B. 7069 lawsuit: School boards in Lee, Volusia and Bay counties vote to join the lawsuit against the state over the new education bill, H.B. 7069. They join Broward and St. Lucie counties in the challenge over the bill, which forces districts to share local property tax revenue with charter schools and provides financial incentives for charter companies to set up schools in areas with persistently low-performing traditional public schools. The bill also strips local officials from approving charter schools in their districts. Other districts are considering joining the suit, which has not yet been filed. Palm Beach County is expected to file suit individually. Fort Myers News-Press. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Panama City News Herald. Naples Herald. The Miami-Dade County School Board could decide as early as today if it will join other districts in suing the state over the education bill. The district has already spent almost $10,000 researching the constitutionality of the bill. Miami Herald. The Polk County School Board is considering joining the suit. Board attorney Wes Hodges believes the bill is vulnerable because it violates the state’s constitutional single subject requirement for bills, but there could be a political backlash for those districts that sue. Lakeland Ledger.
Charter schools: Charter schools are in line to receive about $146 million this year from state and local governments, or twice as much as they received last year. They get about $50 million from the state, and they expect to collect about $96 million from local schools property taxes thanks to the new education law. Todd Ziebarth of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says Florida’s law is one of two major advancements toward funding equity for charter schools in the United States. redefinED. The NAACP is expected to release a report today calling for a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools. The report, to be released at the group’s national convention, says charter schools lead to segregation and divert money from traditional public schools. The 74.
Teacher bonuses: Broward County’s decision to offer bonuses for highly rated teachers to work in at-risk schools is paying off, school officials say. At 28 low-income county schools, only 2 percent of teaching positions were vacant at the start of the school year. Before the bonuses program started four years ago, 30 percent of the jobs in those at-risk schools were unfilled. And about half of those 28 schools have improved their grade from the state. Sun-Sentinel.
School construction: Problems were reported in the air-conditioning systems at all 82 schools in the Brevard County School District in August, school officials say. Even as temperatures are dropping, there are still hundreds of issues reported each month. The problems are being reported at newer schools as well as the older ones. Florida Today. The Polk County School District has almost $448 million of unfunded new construction projects over the next 10 years, and $74 million in unfunded repair and renovation projects. School officials are hoping voters approve an extension of the half-cent sales tax in 2018. The tax brings in about $40 million a year. Lakeland Ledger. A new high school in Bonita Springs is just one of several projects the Lee County School District has in the works. Fort Myers News-Press.
Testing survey says: Almost 90 percent of students who took the online Florida Standards Assessments tests this year say they had no technical problems. But they still aren’t happy with testing, according to a Florida Education Department survey. Students complain they are tested too much, and many prefer the paper and pencil tests to the computer versions. They also suggested breaks during the testing, refreshments, more comfortable chairs and warmer testing rooms. Orlando Sentinel.
Software deal: The Brevard County School District is considering terminating an $8 million software contract with Harris School Solutions. The software was purchased three years ago to manage the district’s finances, contracts, human resource information, payroll and more. School officials say the software is not fully usable. Florida Today.