State Sen. Dorothy Hukill
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.
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.
Big raises for administrators: Eleven Broward County School District administrators received pay raises during the 2017-2018 school year ranging from 7 percent to 21 percent — far above the average 2.2 percent that most of the district’s 27,000 employees received. Six of the 11 raises were given after the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, when the district was complaining it didn’t have enough money for resource officers and teachers. Superintendent Robert Runcie defends the raises as correcting pay inequities, though he has adjusted one downward. Sun-Sentinel.
Creation of a crisis: The crisis of escalating problems with school air-conditioners in Hillsborough County is a creation of declining funding from the state and school officials’ decisions to emphasize teaching positions over maintenance during the recession and years of devoting fewer of their funds toward maintenance than any other large district in the state. In the past decade, Hillsborough spent about $122 per student on maintenance, compared to neighboring Pinellas County’s $217 and Orange County’s $179. Now, the district is asking voters to approve adding a half-cent to the sales tax to raise $1.31 billion over the next 10 years to fix the A/C problems and tend to other deferred repair projects. Tampa Bay Times.
Suit dismissal sought: The Florida Department of Education is asking a court to dismiss a challenge to the new education law, H.B. 7069. The suit was filed by the Palm Beach County School Board, and focuses on the portion of the law that requires school districts to provide money to charter schools for construction and other building-related expenses. The DOE says the lawsuit is “based on erroneous interpretations of the Florida Constitution.” News Service of Florida.
Dual enrollment: More than 15,000 south Florida high school students are now taking dual-enrollment courses to earn college credits, saving both time and money as they work toward a college degree. Several high schools are even set up specifically for students to take college courses. Sun-Sentinel.
Textbook challenges: Since the Legislature approved a law making it easier for anyone to challenge classroom material as pornographic, biased, inaccurate or a violation of state law, seven Florida school districts say they have received challenges to textbooks. Associated Press.
Amendment proposals: The Constitution Revision Commission’s education committee will consider three proposals today: ending pay for school board members, requiring superintendents to be appointed instead of elected, and setting term limits for school board members. All are proposed by Collier County School Board member Erika Donalds. Politico Florida. More than 10 of the 103 constitutional amendment proposals focus on education. Here are summaries of all 103. Sun-Sentinel.
School construction funds: Florida will be $36 million short for school construction funding in the next year if legislators do not agree to borrow money. The latest revenue estimates suggest the Public Education Capital Outlay revenue for the 2017-2018 school year will be $337 million. But state education officials have requested $373 million for projects. Gov. Rick Scott has historically been averse to such borrowing, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, has spoken out against new PECO bonding. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has said he is open to a “reasonable” amount of bonding. News Service of Florida.
Bright Futures: A House education subcommittee approves a higher education bill that is substantially different than the one approved by the Senate. But both bills expand Bright Futures scholarships by covering full tuition and fees for qualifying students plus $300 for textbooks and other costs. Both would also allow recipients to use scholarship money for summer classes, though the Senate version restricts use to “academic scholars” while the House bill offers it for all Bright Futures recipients. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida.
Making tests available: The House PreK-12 Quality subcommittee approves a bill that would require the Florida Department of Education to post state assessment exams online after they are taken. “So much is driven around these tests,” says Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay. “I think it makes sense for us to know what we’re evaluating.” The committee also approved a bill that would allow students to satisfy graduation requirements for an arts or elective credit with a trade apprenticeship. Gradebook. Politico Florida.
PTA praises Scott budget: The Florida PTA jumps into the legislative battle over education budgets by praising Gov. Rick Scott’s. In a statement, PTA officials said: “Florida PTA applauds the governor’s request to increase total funding for K-12 education to $20.99 million, and state funding to $11.55 million, both historic highs. We likewise consider his proposed record $7420.99 in per-pupil funding a good first step toward bringing Florida closer to the national average. Equally welcome is the governor’s commitment to increasing the budgets for early learning, voluntary pre-kindergarten, and school readiness.” Gradebook.
School funding: State Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, files a bill that would require a study of the “district cost differential” portion of the state’s school funding formula. S.B. 1394 would require a study by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, which would then make recommendations on possible changes. Some districts think the formula is unfair. News Service of Florida. Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, files a bill that would create a website showing the total federal, state and local dollars spent on students’ education. Bradley proposes allocating $500,000 for S.B. 1414. WFSU.
Drug test challenge: A retiree who wants to be a substitute teacher, classroom aide or tutor is suing the Palm Beach School District over its requirement that applicants for those jobs pass a drug test. Joan Friedenberg objects to the “suspicionless drug test.” Palm Beach Post.
School testing: The Manatee County School Board rejects a proposal to end district-mandated testing. School officials’ arguments that the tests have led to higher Florida Standards Assessments, SAT and ACT scores and a higher graduation rate persuaded Charlie Kennedy, who proposed the cutbacks. “I am kind of in a different place now than I was coming into it … having a better understanding of the data we are using to guide (and) the benchmarks as a way to improve FSA scores,” Kennedy said. Bradenton Herald.
Legislative preview: Education issues affecting students from kindergarten through college are being considered in the legislative session that begins Tuesday. Here are previews of some of the issues being debated. Miami Herald. News Service of Florida.