State Rep. Jennifer Sullivan
House bill expands K-12 scholarships, penalties for safety noncompliance, educators honored and more
Charter schools now top choice: Charter schools are now the most popular school of choice for Florida parents, according to the Florida Department of Education. About 47 percent of Florida preK-12 students, or 1.6 million, attended a choice school during the 2017-2018 school year. Charter schools claimed 292,001 of those, compared to 262,633 who use open enrollment, 226,122 in choice and magnet programs at district schools and 225,033 paying to attend private schools. redefinED.
Lawmakers’ priorities: Two prominent members of legislative education committees echo Gov. Ron DeSantis’ call this week for cutting down the number of students on waiting lists for tax credit and Gardiner scholarships. Senate Education Committee Chair Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, says wait lists must be eliminated, and House Education chair Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, says the House is working on a education savings account plan that could immediately help students whose applications are on hold. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer both programs. redefinED.
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.
Schools of Hope: The Florida Department of Education is looking for a financial partner to provide loans to build charter schools near persistently struggling, traditional public schools. The partner would oversee the $100 million “Schools of Hope” loan program that was passed by the Legislature in 2017. The DOE expects to provide two loans a year to charter schools to build in areas where traditional public schools have received grades of D or F from the state for three consecutive years. Politico Florida.
Corcoran reaction: Reaction to the report that former House Speaker Richard Corcoran could be named the education commission by Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis draws strong reactions for and against the appointment. Former Senate president Don Gaetz says Corcoran, a fellow Republican and a staunch supporter of school choice, would become “the most disruptive education reformer in our state’s history.” Fedrick Ingram, the president of the state’s biggest teachers union, the Florida Education Association, says “Richard Corcoran may be the worst possible candidate to lead Florida’s Department of Education.” Gradebook. Orlando Sentinel.
Corcoran as commissioner? Republican Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis is reportedly considering appointing former House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, to be the next commissioner of education. The staunch school choice advocate would replace Pam Stewart, who had planned on retiring when Gov. Rick Scott left office in January but in October accepted a request by the Florida Board of Education to stay on another year. It’s unknown what effect the potential appointment of Corcoran would have on Stewart continuing another year. Politico Florida.
Teachers and guns: The argument for arming teachers and school employees gained credence when the chairman of the panel investigating the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School suggested it should be reconsidered. Despite that, many teachers and school board members remain opposed and say only trained law enforcement officers should be carrying guns in schools. Tampa Bay Times. Some school safety experts question whether the recommendations of a federal commission looking into the school shooting will carry any more weight than they have in the past. Education Dive.
School choice wins: A clear winner in Tuesday’s elections in Florida is school choice, according to the founder of the state’s tax credit scholarship program. “When given a clear choice between a candidate who supports empowering parents to choose K-12 options for their children and a candidate who wishes to restrict those choices, voters prefer the candidate who supports educational choice,” says John Kirtley, whose Florida Federation For Children donated about $1.6 million to school choice supporters in 39 key races around the state. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarship and several others. Gradebook.
Education challenge: The Florida Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in a 2009 case that claims the inadequacy of funding for education is a violation of the state constitution. Citizens for Strong Schools, the plaintiffs, lost at trial and in an appeal as judges ruled that the constitutional amendment requiring a “high quality education” uses political terms that can’t be objectively measured. Another plaintiff, Eunice Barnum of Jacksonville, says her then-elementary aged children “were failing in math, failing in reading, even though they were there every day. The constitution clearly says that it’s the paramount duty of the state to provide a high quality education. And, you know, when I went to school, ‘F’ was never considered high quality. It just wasn’t.” WJCT. Orlando Sentinel.