Laurie Rich Levinson
Enrollment slowdown: State analysts project that Florida’s K-12 public school enrollment will grow by less than 17,000 students in the 2019-2020 school year, to about 2.86 million. That’s just an 0.6 percent increase over the forecast 2.84 million students expected when schools start in August. Analysts think the state’s various scholarship programs are in part responsible for the slowing growth. A new program, the Hope Scholarship for bullied students to transfer or get a state scholarship to attend private schools, begins this year and is expected to send 6,400 students to private schools by 2019-2020. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarship. News Service of Florida.
Federal funding risk: Florida risks losing $1.1 billion in federal education aid if its impasse with the U.S. Department of Education over compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act is not resolved soon. Florida is the only state without an approved plan. The state is resisting giving state assessments tests in languages other than English for those who are just learning the language, and also in breaking down results by more student subgroups in order to target specific schools for assistance. Education Week.
Counseling firm investigation: A mental health counseling firm working in several Florida school districts is being investigated for possible Medicaid fraud by the state attorney general’s office. Motivational Coaches of America (MCUSA) offers free counseling to at-risk students. But an investigation by the Palm Beach Post showed the company focused largely on so-called “sponsored” children, or those with insurance or on Medicaid. The company has received more than $400,000 from Medicaid in the past two years, and has gotten unwanted public attention recently when counselors quit because they hadn’t been paid. Miami New Times. WJXT. MCUSA withdraws an offer to counsel students for free in Manatee County, just a day before the school board was going to consider the proposal. No explanation was given for the company’s decision. Bradenton Herald.
Low graduation rates: Thirty percent of Florida’s high schools were considered to be “low-graduation rate high schools” in 2014, according to a report by America’s Promise Alliance and other advocacy groups. Only Alaska and New Mexico were worse. Politico Florida.
Pre-K spending: Florida ranks just 39th in spending on pre-kindergarten, according to the annual State of Preschool Yearbook from the National Institute for Early Education Research. The state spends $2,304 per child. The national average is $4,489. The state’s enrollment fell by 3 percent, or 3,744, from 2013-14 to 2014-15. Florida Times-Union.
IG urged for district: Broward County School Board member Laurie Rich Levinson wants the district to hire an inspector general to investigate fraud, waste and mismanagement in the district. An outside auditor made that recommendation five years ago after a grand jury report found widespread corruption and misuse of money. The idea was not supported then, but recent financial problems in the district led Levinson to suggest it was time. Sun-Sentinel.
Superintendent under fire: The St. Petersburg NAACP is calling for the resignation of Pinellas County School Superintendent Mike Grego, alleging that he has not taken responsibility for the problems at five predominantly black, failing elementary schools in St. Petersburg or come up with a plan to improve them. Grego says he has no plans to resign. Tampa Bay Times.
Charter debt forgiven: Newpoint Education Partners is forgiving the nearly $1 million debt it says it is owed by Windsor Prep Academy, according to a lawyer for the school. Newpoint was indicted last week by an Escambia County grand jury on grand theft and money laundering charges. The Pinellas County School Board will vote next week on a proposal to terminate the contracts with Windsor Prep and two other Newpoint charter schools in the county. WFLA.