Education proposals get a look: This week, legislators will begin to consider Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposals to rework the educator bonuses program, launch an Equal Opportunity Scholarship to erase a waiting list for state scholarships for low-income students, improve career and vocational education programs, and make adjustments to the Schools of Hope program and to graduation requirements. Since announcing his ideas, DeSantis has followed up with specifics on each. State Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, chairman of House PreK-12 Appropriations and vice chair of House Education, says legislators could approve, rewrite, or even kill the ideas. “The governor’s proposals certainly were bold. But just because he put it forth doesn’t mean it’s going to be something we automatically do.” Gradebook.
Search for standards: The Florida Department of Education is asking for input from educators, parents and others as it begins the process of rewriting Florida’s version of the Common Core standards. Gov. DeSantis has given Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran a year to set new standards of what Florida K-12 students should learn in math and language arts courses. The state will use the new standards to rework the Florida Standards Assessments tests, and school districts will use the standards to determine their curricula and textbooks. Orlando Sentinel. WFTS.
Arming teachers: A bill that would broaden the state’s 2018 armed guardian law and allow some teachers to carry guns in schools clears the Senate Education Committee in a 5-3 vote along party lines, with Republicans in the majority. Last year’s bill specifically prohibited the arming of teachers, but calls grew to change that after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission recommended arming willing teachers. Senate Bill 7030 also broadens state oversight over districts’ compliance with the law’s security rules, and would require sheriffs to train teachers in districts that opt in. The bill may get a hearing in the appropriations committee before heading to a Senate floor vote sometime after the Legislature opens March 5. News Service of Florida. GateHouse. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. Gradebook. Politico Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Politics.
Superintendent’s contract: Cynthia Saunders is approved as school superintendent in a 3-2 vote by the Manatee County School Board. The contract runs through June 30, 2021, and pays her $196,000 a year. She had been acting as interim superintendent since Diana Greene left last summer. Her ascension was delayed last year when Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart accused Saunders of manipulating student data to inflate the district’s graduation rate. Saunders is negotiating a settlement with the DOE in which she would neither admit nor deny the charge. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Scholarship funding: In a recent interview, Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis says he wants to direct more funding toward the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program. Ultimately, he said, he’d like the state to give families a stipend for their student’s education that they could use as they wish. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarship. Florida Trend. DeSantis’ education transition team is preparing its final recommendations, which are expected to include increased parental empowerment on educational choices of schools, and expanded school choice options and vocational education. Florida Politics. WJCT. WLRN. New Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran talks about his vision for the future of education in Florida. He starts the job Jan. 8. WTSP. Politico Florida. Outgoing Commissioner Pam Stewart says, “We are, in Florida, at an all-time high,” and says Corcoran needs no advice from her because he already knows enough to do a good job. Gradebook.
School shooting aftermath: The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission is expected to release its report today. WFLA. What’s being done to stop another school shooting? Sun Sentinel. Broward County school resource officers are receiving more rigorous active-shooter training and being given more powerful weapons, according to Sheriff Scott Israel. Associated Press. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. What went right on the second floor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building that was attacked by a gunman Feb. 14. Sun Sentinel. A review of Israel’s performance since the shooting reveals excuses and misstatements. Sun Sentinel.
Schools’ graduation rate up: Florida’s high school graduation rate hit a record high last spring at 86.1 percent, according to figures released Wednesday by the state Department of Education. That’s 3.8 percentage points higher than the 2017 rate. Also impressive is the improvement made by minority students. Black students graduated at a rate of 81 percent, up from 64.7 percent in 2014, and the rate was 85.1 percent for Hispanic students, up from 75 percent four years ago. “Today’s announcement is particularly important because it not only shows across-the-board progress, it highlights success in closing the achievement gap and leveling the playing field for all students,” said outgoing Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. Florida Department of Education. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Orlando Sentinel. Gainesville Sun. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Enrollment down: Florida has 17,000 fewer K-12 school students this year than projected, according to a report from the Legislature’s Office of Demographic and Economic Research. The state budget had funding for 2.848 million K-12 students. The revised forecast is 2.831 million, 7,955 more than last year but 17,142 fewer than expected in the 67 school districts. “Most of the revision is due to less than expected net in-migration to the public school system, combined with fewer than expected hurricane-affected students remaining in 2018-19 from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” according to the report. News Service of Florida.
Corcoran appointed: Richard Corcoran, former speaker of the Florida House, is unanimously approved by the Florida Board of Education to replace Pam Stewart as education commissioner. Corcoran, who was recommended by Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis, is a combative supporter of school choice, scholarship programs and charter schools and was widely opposed by teachers unions and public school advocates. “We won’t be concerned with tradition, or who has the power, or who has the might,” Corcoran said. “What we’re going to do is break down those walls and give kids an opportunity.” Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. Florida Phoenix. Politico Florida. Orlando Weekly. WWSB. Florida Politics. Capitolist. WUSF. WFSU. WFTV.
Report cards and abuse: Child abuse reports spike on Saturdays after report cards are issued by schools on Fridays, according to a report published by University of Florida researchers in the Journal of the American Medical Association. There were almost four times more abuse cases reported on Saturdays a day after report cards are issued than on other Saturdays. “Anecdotally, we know a lot of parents will spank their children or use corporal punishment if they’re unsatisfied with their school work,” says University of Florida psychologist Melissa Bright. The report, which acknowledges its conclusions are speculative, drew its data from Florida’s 67 counties during the 2015-2016 academic year. New York Times. Associated Press. Fatherly. University of Florida.
DOE departures: Commissioner Pam Stewart isn’t the only top Department of Education official who is leaving soon. Linda Champion, the department’s deputy commissioner of finance, and K-12 chancellor Hershel Lyons have also announced their impending retirements. Today, the Florida Board of Education will consider Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’ proposed appointment of Richard Corcoran as Stewart’s replacement. Gradebook.
Borrowing for education: Leaders in the Florida Senate say they will consider borrowing money through bonding to pay for school infrastructure needs. Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, says the state has a lot of capacity to borrow, up to $2.6 billion through the Public Education Capital Outlay program, and may need to do so because of infrastructure needs, a slowing economy and hurricane recovery costs. News Service of Florida.