Karen Castor Dentel
Arming teachers: Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, says he supports the idea of arming teachers. His endorsement likely means it will be included in the package of proposed gun-related bills being announced today by the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott. Tampa Bay Times. Sun-Sentinel. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. News Service of Florida. The idea of teachers with guns has some support among politicians, but most educators don’t like it. Tampa Bay Times. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-Union. Associated Press. WEAR. The National Association of School Resource Officers also opposes the idea of arming teachers, noting in a statement that it “strongly recommends that no firearms be on a school campus except those carried by carefully selected, specially trained school resource officers.” Gradebook. President Donald Trump, who likes the idea of arming select teachers and school staff, slams Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart for suggesting more active shooter drills should be considered. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. New York Times.
School cop resigns: The school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School never entered the building last week to confront the shooter, says Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. The officer, Scot Peterson, rushed to the building when he heard the gunfire but waited outside for four minutes. Israel says Peterson should have “went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.” Peterson, 54, resigned Thursday after he was suspended without pay. Four years ago, Peterson was named school resource officer of the year in Parkland. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. USA Today. Associated Press. Law enforcement officials were warned repeatedly that alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz was dangerous and a possible school shooter. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, says a special investigative committee will look into the botched response to the shooting, and it could be chaired by a parent of one of the slain students. Politico Florida.
Editor’s note: Another year, another legislative session, another stack of school-choice bills in Florida. Here’s a roundup of choice legislation that lawmakers will consider in the annual session that begins today.
SB 1076 by Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz. Expands the “Career and Professional Education Act (CAPE),” revising requirements for high school graduation and accelerated high school graduation, and allowing students to earn and substitute certain industry certifications for certain course credits. Also requires districts to make digital materials available to students and to use the Postsecondary Industry Certification Funding List in determining annual performance funding distributions to school districts and Florida College System institutions, etc.
HB 373 by Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando. Provides that a contract for a charter school employee or service provider may not extend beyond the school’s charter contract, and that the employee or service provider is not entitled to compensation after the school’s closure. (Identical to SB 780 by Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando.)
HB 453 by Rep. Victor Torres, D-Orlando. Requires the compensation and salary schedules for charter school employees to be based on school district schedules. (Identical to SB 784- Charter Schools by Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando.)
SB 744 by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. Requires charter school applications to demonstrate the applicant is financially qualified to open and maintain a high-quality charter school, requires the charter to set forth detailed reporting of the financial operations of the school to ensure employees are not paid unreasonable compensation, and requires that the term of the charter must provide for cancellation of the charter if the school becomes insolvent, fails to provide a quality education, or does not comply with applicable law. The bill also clarifies that a charter school system shall be designated a LEA solely for the purpose of receiving federal funds if certain criteria are met.
SB 828 by Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah. Grants school districts the ad valorem tax exemption given to charter schools, and restricts the use of capital outlay funds for property improvements if the property is exempt from ad valorem taxes. It restricts charter schools or technical career centers having financial problems from certain activities, and grants flexibility to high-performing school choice districts.
HB 1001 by Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland. Prohibits charter schools from requiring, soliciting, or accepting certain student information before student’s enrollment or attendance. Also requires charter schools to submit attendance plans to the school district for students enrolled in school; provide funding to the school district in event of student transfers; and report to the school district certain student enrollment and wait-list information.
SB 1092 by Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando. Requires charter school to submit attendance information for each student to the school district, and requires the charter school to provide a prorated portion of per-student funding to the school district if a student transfers to another public school in the school district before the last day of the school year.
SB 1164 by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. Revises the eligibility criteria for extracurricular activities to include students in charter schools, and revises the criteria for bylaws, policies, or guidelines adopted by the Florida High School Athletic Association. (Compare to HB 1279 by Rep. Larry Metz, R-Groveland.)
Count newly-elected Florida Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr. among a number of state lawmakers who are public school district employees. But Diaz, an assistant principal in the Miami-Dade public school district, isn’t just a cheerleader for traditional public schools.
He’s also a huge – and very vocal – advocate for school choice.
“We have an evolving student body – different than what it was five years ago,’’ Diaz, a Republican who represents his hometown of Hialeah, said during a recent telephone interview with redefinED. “I do believe we have to look at all the options.’’
Diaz has been appointed to the House Education Committee, as well as the K-12 and Choice & Innovation subcommittees. Among his goals there: to help guide fellow lawmakers and education leaders toward reform that is “student-centered and parent-centered.’’
To that end, Diaz said he fully supports district programs, such as magnet schools; high-quality charter schools; and other nontraditional options, such as tax credit scholarships.
“I think the competition makes our educational choices better,’’ he said. And better can only be defined by results. “I’m big on the accountability side,’’ Diaz said. “It’s a matter of having the political courage to move forward, to take measures already in the law.’’
If a district school isn’t helping students succeed academically, bring in interventions, he said. If a charter school isn’t operating ethically, shut it down.
Diaz also responded to recent news reports in which Gov. Rick Scott called for private schools that accept tax credit scholarships to give those students the same tests as their public school peers.
I was a news reporter for 20 years. I appreciate what good journalists do. But I’m often perplexed by the selective scrutiny that permeates so much education coverage in Florida, particularly when it comes to school choice issues.
The latest example: An “investigation” by an Orlando TV station into the “cozy connections” between Florida state lawmakers and rapidly expanding charter schools. WFTV-Ch. 9 raised conflict-of-interest questions this week about lawmakers who work for charter schools and who have backed legislation that generally promotes charter expansion. It singled out incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel; Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami; and John Legg, R-New Port Richey, a state rep headed to the state senate.
First off, this is old news. The ties between all three lawmakers and charter schools have been well publicized. In fact, they were among a bigger handful of lawmakers cited last December in a front-page Tampa Bay Times piece on the same issue. Curiously, the TV station kicked off its story with the same anecdotal lead as the Times did, one involving Legg and the Pasco County School Board.
More important, the station neglected to mention that a number of other lawmakers have strong if not direct ties to school districts. Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, heads the state superintendents association. Former state rep and now Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, is a public school teacher and local union rep. Two newly elected Democratic state reps, Mark Danish in Tampa and Karen Castor Dentel in the Orlando area, also teach in district schools. Should teacher-lawmakers be voting on state budgets that could affect how much they’re paid? Should they vote on legislation that could impact how they’re evaluated?
More money for schools. In Miami-Dade, voters approve a $1.2 billion bond referendum for public schools, the Miami Herald reports. In Pinellas, they again approve a property tax increase aimed mostly at boosting teacher pay, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
Legislative races. In Central Florida, pro-school-choice Democrat Darren Soto wins a state Senate seat, while Democrat Karen Castor Dentel – a teacher targeted by that Jerry Sandusky ad – wins a House seat, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Florida style reformer loses. Indiana state superintendent Tony Bennett, who championed Florida-like ed reforms and was a member of the Jeb Bush-backed Chiefs for Change, lost re-election in a stunner to Glenda Ritz, an elementary school media specialist. Stories here and here.
Jury awards charter principal $155 million. From the Miami Herald: “The ousted principal of an Aventura charter school has won a $155 million award in a lawsuit claiming her firing was not only without cause, but ruined her health and career prospects.” More from Education Week.
Criticism of tax credit scholarships. A mother complains about education quality at an Orange City private school that accepts tax credit scholarships, reports wftv.com.
A campaign ad that “sounds indefensible.” From the Orlando Sentinel: “A group supporting Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon’s re-election bid is sending last-minute advertisements that attempt to link Plakon’s opponent, Democrat Karen Castor Dentel, to convicted child sex predator Jerry Sandusky.” Castor Dentel, the daughter of former state education commissioner Betty Castor, is a public elementary school teacher who opposed the 2011 law overhauling teacher tenure. Plakon said the ad “sounds indefensible.”
Florida lags with mainstreaming. Students with disabilities, particularly those with autism and emotional problems, are less likely to be mainstreamed in Florida than their counterparts in most other states, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Charter school applications in Duval. Six more are on the table for a board vote today. Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals is recommending four for approval, two for denial, the Florida Times Union reports.
Funding, fairness. In an op-ed for the Fort Myers News Press, Lee County Superintendent Joseph P. Burke says the state needs to restore education funding to 2006-7 levels and suggests charter schools should have to play by the same rules on class-size requirements.
Absentee voter fraud. A school board election in Madison County is behind the state’s longest-running case of absentee voter fraud, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Pity the parent trigger. Its political identity crisis never ends.
In Florida, the trigger erupted in a state House race this week, with a Democratic challenger accusing her Republican rival in an attack ad of voting last spring “to take control of our schools away from parents and teachers, and give it to out of state corporations instead.” This is no surprise, given how effectively Florida critics – including many Democrats – have portrayed the trigger as a spawn of the right.
But meanwhile, one of the progressive Democrats most closely associated with the parent trigger indicated in an op-ed that he couldn’t support a trigger proposal in Michigan. Why? Because it doesn’t bar for-profit charter schools from being among the parent-picked turnaround options. Ben Austin (pictured here), who leads Parent Revolution, went even further, writing, “Parents must have power over the education of their own children. Profit has no place in that education.”
This guy is a wild-eyed privatizer?
Austin’s comments drew a swift rebuke from the ed policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which many would consider conservative: “While the notion that schools should be ‘above’ self-interest and the profit motive has a certain raw populist appeal, a moment’s reflection reveals it to be ridiculous,” wrote Michael Van Beek. “Should schools also purchase only textbooks produced on charitable printing presses? Should their cafeterias only serve food grown on government farms?”
Beek also criticized the trigger because it’s limited to parents in the poorest performing schools. All parents, he wrote, should have access to this power.