Voucher expansion: The House Education Committee approves a bill that would use the state’s general revenue to expand a state scholarship program for students to attend private schools. The Family Empowerment Scholarship would be open to about 28,000 students, twice as many as the Senate is proposing, and students from families of four with incomes up to $77,250 would be eligible. That threshold is about $10,000 higher than the Senate’s, and it would increase each year. By 2023, any family with an income of up to $96,572 would be eligible. Both chambers’ bills are aimed at reducing the 14,000-student waiting list for Florida Tax Credit Scholarships (FTC). Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the FTC program. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Orlando Sentinel. GateHouse. Florida Phoenix. redefinED. Gradebook. Politico Florida. WFSU.
Bright Futures: If history is a guide, the Senate’s proposed bill to raise test scores needed to qualify for Bright Futures scholarships is likely to disproportionately affect minority students. In 2010, Florida began bumping up the standards to qualify for Bright Futures. Between 2013-2014, when the new standards were fully in effect, and 2017-2018, the number of black students qualifying dropped by 53 percent, from 10,587 to 5,582. In that same time period, the number of white and Hispanic students qualifying fell 39 percent. Florida Phoenix.
State Sen. Hukill dies: State Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, a champion of education who served Volusia and Brevard counties in the Legislature for 14 years, died Tuesday at the age of 72. Just last week she announced she would not be running for re-election because her cancer had returned and she was entering hospice care. Hukill was the chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee and a longtime advocate for requiring students to take a course in financial literacy before graduation. Before entering politics, Hukill was a teacher and a lawyer. Florida Today. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Space Coast Daily. Miami Herald. Florida Times-Union. Orlando Sentinel. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Florida politicians react to Hukill’s death, and begin the search for a replacement to run for her Senate District 14 seat in the Nov. 6 election. Florida Politics. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Sunshine State News.
Florida tops for scholarships: Florida is ranked first in the country for its tax credit scholarship programs, according to a new report from the American Federation for Children. The tax credit scholarship program for the survey’s highest ranking out of 18 such programs nationwide, with high marks for required testing, background checks and financial reporting. It’s also the largest, with 108,000 students receiving scholarships last year. Across the United States, almost a half-million students were enrolled in private school choice programs during the 2016-2017 school year. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarship program for the state. The 74.
Trump at Tampa school: President Trump talks about workforce development during a roundtable discussion at Tampa Bay Technical High School on Tuesday. Trump said the just-signed Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act would give states the freedom to issue up to $1 billion in grants to help students in high school career and technical programs and at community colleges and technical schools. “Now more than 11 million students and workers will have greater access to better training and more jobs,” Trump said. “When we invest in our workers, we are investing in our people.” WFTS. WFLA. WTSP. Tampa Bay Times. Education Week. PBS. YouTube. Washington Post.
Budget decisions: Polk County School Board members approve a budget of $890 million, almost $63 million higher than last year’s. School officials attribute the hike to the additional 3,150 students it expects this year. Lakeland Ledger. The Sarasota County School Board approves an $828 million budget, about $40 million more than last year’s, but is cutting its reserves back to 7.68 percent, the lowest percentage since 2002. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Broward County School Board approves a budget that includes $15 million in cuts in staffing and fuel costs. Sun-Sentinel. Northeast High School in Oakland Park will be renovated at a cost of $41.2 million, the Broward school board decides. When the project was approved in 2014, it was expected to cost $14.2 million. Sun-Sentinel. Pasco County School Board members are unhappy that the proposed budget does not include money for raises, and are challenging themselves and school officials to come up with ideas to find money for them. Gradebook.
Lead found in schools: Twenty-one of 50 Hillsborough County schools tested in the past year have lead in their water, according to district officials. Plumbing components that could have caused the contamination have been replaced. “We will continue testing the drinking water sources in our schools for lead until we have checked all 270 facilities in our district,” parents and staff have been told in an email from the district. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.
Bathroom rights upheld: A federal judge rules that transgender student Drew Adams may use the boys bathrooms at Nease High School this year. U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan wrote that Adams “poses no threat to the privacy or safety of any of his fellow students. Rather, Drew Adams is just like every other student at Nease High School, a teenager coming of age in a complicated, uncertain and changing world. When it comes to his use of the bathroom, the law requires that he be treated like any other boy.” Officials at the St. Johns County school had ordered Adams, 18, to use gender-neutral bathrooms, prompting the discriination suit against the district. Florida Times-Union. St. Augustine Record. WJAX. WJXT.
Teacher pay: An analysis of Palm Beach County School District pay records shows that the district is paying teachers with 20 years of experience $3,000 a year less in 2018 than it did in 2008. The typical 30-year teacher is earning $2,100 less, and a typical 15-year teacher is making $1,000 less. It’s happened because teacher pay was frozen during the recession, salary schedules were abandoned, and the district then shifted more money toward starting pay and younger teachers. Palm Beach Post.
Tight budgets: It’s school budget season, and districts are struggling to make ends meet with the funding they’re receiving from the state. Officials are trying to slash costs in ways that will not violate the state’s class-size amendment and least affect students, and in some cases are dipping in to reserves to close deficits. “We really try to hold schools harmless and keep them out of the fray when it comes to budget reductions,” says Pasco County assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley. Tampa Bay Times. The Marion County School District needs at least $422 million for building and renovation projects over the next five years but will receive only $60.5 million. “In order to get by, we have to piecemeal many projects,” says Robert Knight, the district’s supervisor of facilities. “There is not enough money for everything.” Ocala Star-Banner.
H.B. 7069 lawsuits: The Hillsborough County School Board chooses not to join other districts in suing the state over the constitutionality of the new education law, H.B. 7069. Board members say a suit would cost too much money, take too much staff time and potentially contaminate relationships with state legislators. Fourteen other districts have announced their intention to join the lawsuit, which has not yet been filed. Tampa Bay Times. The Palm Beach County School District files its challenge to H.B. 7069 in Leon County Circuit Court. The suit claims the law unconstitutionally forces districts to share local property tax revenue with charters, and specifically targets just those provisions that require districts to share property tax proceeds with charters. School board members chose to file their own suit instead of joining other districts. Palm Beach Post. redefinED.
Makeup days: The Hernando County School District will use extra minutes already built into its daily schedule to make up the time lost to Hurricane Irma. Only Moton Elementary does not have that time available, since it’s a turnaround school and is required to have 60 extra minutes a day for reading. So eight minutes a day has been added to Moton’s schedule. Tampa Bay Times. Duval County school officials detail the setting up of hurricane shelters in schools, and the ensuing teardown and cleanup to prepare for the resumption of classes. Florida Times-Union.
Social media boost: Lake County School Board members are encouraging the county’s schools to launch and maintain Facebook and Twitter accounts in order to better communicate with students and parents. “I am pretty excited,” says board chairman Marc Dodd. “We definitely understand the value of communicating that way and how many people it can reach.” Existing employee and student conduct rules will apply to the use of the platforms, and the district will offer training. Daily Commercial.
School resegregation: Florida’s public schools are resegregating, according to a study by the LeRoy Collins Institute. “Student enrollment trends in Florida over the past decades show growing racial isolation for Hispanic and black students on some measures, with signs of continuous segregation on others,” the study says. About 35 percent of black students and 32 percent of Hispanic students attend “intensely segregated” schools, defined as schools with a nonwhite population at 90 percent or higher. About 20 percent of the state’s schools were intensely segregated in the 2014-2015 school year, double the number in the 1994-1995 school year. News Service of Florida. WFSU. WLRN. Politico Florida.
Storm aftermath: Florida schools are bracing for an influx of new students arriving from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria battered the island. Expecting to get the most students are Miami-Dade, Orange and Hillsborough counties, all of which have a substantial number of residents of Puerto Rican descent. Tampa Bay Times. Gradebook. WOFL. NPR. Florida Politics. Several Florida colleges are offering in-state tuition to new students from Puerto Rico. Orlando Sentinel. Miami Herald. Setting up and cleaning up hurricane shelters cost the Duval County School District about $300,000, school officials estimate. They’re asking state legislators for the money. WJXT. Monroe County students are beginning to return to schools in the Florida Keys. WLRN. Miami Herald.
Makeup days: Collier County students will make up four of the days lost to Hurricane Irma by attending school on previously scheduled vacation days. In Manatee County, students also have four days to make up. Two early release days will be converted into full days, two days during the Thanksgiving holiday break will now be full days, and 10 minutes will be added to several other days. Students in Palm Beach and Indian River counties will lose three vacation days, and Broward County students will likely have two vacation days converted into school days. Naples Daily News. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel. TCPalm.
High school protests: A 6-year-old Pasco County 1st-grader took a knee during the pledge of allegiance Monday at Wiregrass Elementary School. His teacher instructed him to stand, angering the boy’s mother. “She told him right away, based on what he told me, to stand up and to stop it… That’s not her right,” says Eugenia McDowell. Wednesday, assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley issued a memo that said, in part: “Kneeling or other non-disruptive forms of non-participation should generally be considered as permissible alternatives” to reciting the pledge. WFTS. Gradebook. Palm Beach County school officials announce that students who kneel during the playing of the national anthem won’t be punished. Palm Beach Post.
Latinos and literacy: Miami-Dade is the top-performing school district in the nation in reading proficiency by Hispanic students, according to a report by Child Trends, a research nonprofit in Maryland. The survey compared Hispanic fourth- and eighth-graders in 21 urban school districts by scores on National Assessment of Educational Progress testing. Duval County was second in both groups, and Hillsborough County was third among fourth-graders. Florida’s fourth-graders led all other states in reading achievement, and the state’s eighth-graders were eighth. Miami Herald.
Evaluation errors: Evaluation reports for 642 Pasco County teachers were incorrectly rounded. “Of these 642 teachers, roughly 50 teachers will receive a higher overall summative rating (example – highly effective as opposed to effective),” assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley wrote in a memo. “District staff is in the process of generating corrected summative forms for the impacted teachers.” Gradebook.
Diddy’s charter school: Rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs is opening a free public charter school in Harlem for grades 6-12. Danita Jones, an Orlando educator, will be the principal of the Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School. Jones helped run the Human Experience charter middle school in Orlando. Associated Press. Rolling Stone. Hip Hop DX. Music-News.
Testing pressure: Parents say the emphasis on standardized testing puts too much pressure on students and teachers, and they worry about what effect that might have. They spoke at a community meeting in Lakeland. Lakeland Ledger. Marion County school officials say the computers for standardized testing are ready to go. The bulk of the testing begins the week of April 11. Ocala Star Banner.
Recess petition: Miami-Dade parents start a petition drive demanding 20 minutes of recess time a day in elementary and pre-K schools. Miami Herald.