More choice, accountability: At its first meeting, Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’ education transition team urges more school choice for Florida students, more information about those choices for parents, expanded personalized learning options and increased accountability for schools. “We’re moving from school choice to informed, high quality school choice,” says Kim McDougal, former chief of staff and education adviser to Gov. Rick Scott. “The closer we can get to individualizing education for each child, the more success we will see,” says Marva Johnson, chair of the Florida Board of Education and co-chair of the transition committee. The group meets again Dec. 19 and 28. Gradebook.
Teacher performance pay: A bill is introduced in the Legislature that would end state restrictions on the way public school teachers get paid. Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, wants districts to be able to decide if they want to use the performance pay plans, instead of forcing them to, and to end a prohibition on using advanced degrees as a criteria when making salary schedules. “The way you pay teachers should be done at the local level,” says Plasencia, who calls the current model “flawed” and “rigid.” Gradebook.
BOE and Corcoran: The Florida Board of Education will consider Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’ choice of Richard Corcoran as education commissioner at its just-scheduled Monday meeting. The seven-member BOE is tasked with approving an education commissioner, and in the past has conducted national searches. But BOE chair Marva Johnson and vice-chair Andy Tuck are both on DeSantis’ education transition team, and Johnson has indicated she’s open to DeSantis’ choice. News Service of Florida. Gradebook. Capitolist. WUSF.
School lockdown delay: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School officials were confused over who had the authority to order a lockdown when a school shooter opened fire Feb. 14, leading to a delay of several minutes in declaring a “code red” that orders students to hide behind locked doors, according to district emails. As a result, some students were caught in hallways and shot. Sun Sentinel. Two newspapers ask a Broward County court to make witness interviews from the Parkland school shootings open to the public. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. Parkland shooting survivors-turned-activists are among 10 finalists for Time magazine’s 2018 person of the year award. Sun Sentinel. The St. Johns County School District is adding 16 resource officers at schools next month. WJAX.
Corcoran chosen: Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis has officially nominated former House Speaker Richard Corcoran for the job of education commissioner. Corcoran is a staunch supporter of school choice, vouchers and charter schools, and former Senate president Don Gaetz says Corcoran could become the “most disruptive education reformer in our state’s history.” Politically liberal groups and traditional public schools advocates are reacting negatively. “Richard Corcoran has a terrible track record of putting private interests over the needs of Florida’s children,” says Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center. The State Board of Education will have to approve the appointment. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. WUSF. Florida Times-Union. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Politics. WJXT. Florida Phoenix. DeSantis’ 41-person education transition committee includes, among others, state Board of Education chairwoman Marva Johnson, Florida State University president John Thrasher, former Brevard superintendent Desmond Blackburn and John Kirtley, founder and chairman of Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog and helps administer several state K-12 scholarship programs. Sunshine State News. Florida Politics. Gradebook.
Spending on schools: Spending on K-12 schools across the United States increased for the third consecutive year, according to a report released Thursday by the National Center for Education Statistics. Across the country, $678.4 billion was collected and $596.1 billion was spent in the 2016 fiscal year. The average spent per student was $11,841, but the totals varied widely. The District of Columbia, for example, spent $27,067 per student, and New York spent $24,717, while Idaho spent $8,258 and Utah $8,408. Florida spent $9,176, which was almost identical to the two previous years and ranks 43rd among the states and D.C. Education Week.
Several school-choice related proposals before the Florida Constitution Revision Commission could be in line for revisions.
The full commission has scheduled a marathon of meetings at the state capitol next week. All four of its school choice-related proposals could appear on the agenda. Three of them could see substantial changes.
Commissioner Roberto Martinez has sponsored a proposal that would eliminate Florida’s ban on government support of religious institutions.
This week, he proposed an amendment that would merge it with another proposal, which would eliminate a provision allowing the Legislature to ban property ownership by “aliens ineligible for citizenship.”
Martinez would likely argue both proposals would purge outdated language rooted in bigotry from Florida’s governing document.
A rival amendment by Commissioner Anna Marie Hernandez Gamez would take a different approach, declaring the so-called “Blaine Amendment” cannot block Florida’s existing private school choice programs or “successor” programs lawmakers might create.
Some school choice advocates question whether the Blaine Amendment is truly a barrier to private school choice in Florida, as it stands.
Schools of Hope extension: A Florida Senate committee is considering a plan that would give school districts another option for trying to turn around persistently low-performing schools. Right now, the state gives districts three options for those schools: close them, convert them to charter schools or hire an outside operator to run them. A fourth option would allow districts to place principals with highly effective performance reviews in charge of the struggling schools as well as their own. Those principals would be given the authority to make changes and pool resources between the schools. The schools, which would be called “franchise model schools,” would be eligible for money from the $140 million Schools of Hope program. redefinED.
Hope Scholarship: The Florida Senate Education Committee approves a revised version of the bill offering scholarships for students who are bullied or victims of violence. Principals would have 30 days to investigate claims from parents. If the claims are substantiated, the victimized students would be eligible for scholarships to attend private schools, or they could transfer to a public school of their choice. The committee also approves a measure that would increase oversight of the state’s K-12 private school choice programs. Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer Florida’s tax credit and Gardiner Scholarship programs. It would also help administer the Hope Scholarship program if lawmakers create it. redefinED. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Sunshine State News. Politico Florida.
Choice in Florida: Almost 1.7 million Florida preK-12 students attended a school outside their attendance zone in the 2016-2017 school year, according to an analysis of Florida Department of Education statistics. That’s an increase of 207,000 students using school choice in the past five years. Step Up For Students did the analysis. redefinED.
Cold closing schools: A cold front is expected to bring freezing temperatures and icy conditions into north Florida today. The Walton, Escambia, Jackson, Holmes, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa school districts have closed all schools, and Bay County is limiting after-school activities. Northwest Florida Daily News. WMBB. WEAR. Pensacola News Journal. Destin Log. Panama City News Herald. The Leon County School District won’t be closing schools because of the weather today. Earlier this month the district closed for two days when cold weather, snow and ice moved into the area. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL.
Pension payments: Florida school districts will have to contribute an additional $54.4 million into the state pension fund this year, if a bill before the Legislature is approved. The state is forecasting a lower rate of return on the $160 billion pension fund, which would require school districts, colleges, universities, county governments and state agencies to pay a collective $178.5 million to ensure that there’s enough money to pay retirement benefits. News Service of Florida.
Computer coding bill: A bill promoting computer coding in schools, by allowing students to use it to satisfy foreign language requirements, is amended to include a requirement that a set percentage of schools in each district offer computer science courses, and providing financial incentives for teachers to become certified in the field. The amended bill is approved by the Senate Education Committee and now moves to the appropriations committee. Gradebook.
Education budget: In his budget proposal, Gov. Rick Scott wants local school boards to keep property taxes at their current levels so rising property values can produce extra funds for school districts. Florida Education Secretary Pam Stewart concurs, saying it’s the only way districts can get the extra funds they need. But the Florida House balked at that suggestion last year, calling it a tax hike, and is expected to resist again when the Legislature convenes next month. Stewart says the districts need the extra money to supplement what they get from the state and help pay for the influx of students from Puerto Rico and other islands that were devastated by hurricanes. “We’d find ourselves unable to do that (get to the $7,497 per-student spending called for in Scott’s budget) if we didn’t leave the RLE (required local effort) at the current level,” she told members of a Senate education panel. News Service of Florida. WFSU. Florida Politics.
Puerto Rican migration: Quality education is one of the primary motivations for Puerto Rican families moving into Florida, and particularly central Florida, according to Orlando real estate consultant Jose Hoyos. “They say, ‘I am here because these public schools are like the private schools in Puerto Rico,’ ” he says. “They don’t mind working here for $10 an hour because their children are getting a good education.” The number of Puerto Ricans in five central Florida counties (Orange, Osceola, Hillsborough, Polk and Seminole) grew by more than 115,000 between 2010 and 2016, U.S. Census reports show. Orlando Sentinel.
Reporting sexual abuse: The Miami-Dade County School Board approves a program to help students at all grade levels to spot inappropriate sexual behavior, and how to report it, and to help parents spot signs of sexual abuse in their children. The board sets a February deadline for having a completed plan on classes and communication. Miami Herald.
Finding gifted students: Educators from Washington state are looking to the Miami-Dade School District as a model for increasing and diversifying the students who are accepted into gifted programs. Miami-Dade uses a two-tier system to determine gifted eligibility: middle-class and affluent students need IQ scores of at least 130, while low-income children or English-learners can get in with scores of 117 if they demonstrate creativity and academic achievement. Plan B was approved by the Florida Legislature in 1991, though not many districts use it because of the expense. Seattle Times.