Free lunches threatened: Almost 200,000 Florida students could lose automatic access to free or reduced-price school lunches if a new Trump administration proposal to limit the number of people enrolled in the federal food stamps program (SNAP) is enacted, according to the Florida Policy Institute. Hardest hit would be Okeechobee County, where 83 percent of students are now automatically eligible. “Once these SNAP benefits are pulled, it will drastically impact the kids who are accessing free lunches at school, and it will put that much more of a burden on families that are already struggling,” said Paco Vélez, president and CEO of the hunger relief organization Feeding South Florida. Miami Herald. An anonymous donor has given $1,500 to the Leon County School District to help cover $4,000 in unpaid student lunch debts so far this school year. Tallahassee Democrat. About $11,000 in unpaid lunch fees are owed by Monroe County students. Key West Citizen.
Back to school: Most of Florida’s 67 school districts have reopened or are expected to today, tomorrow or Wednesday, according to the Florida Department of Education. A handful of schools will start later, and Hardee County schools remain closed until further notice. School districts are also starting to consider how they’ll make up the days missed. Florida Department of Education. Miami Herald. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Naples Daily News. Associated Press. Daily Commercial. Keynoter. Charlotte Sun. WFLA. WTSP. WFTV. Gradebook. More reports on damages to schools. Fort Myers News-Press. Lakeland Ledger. Free school meals will be provided in all Florida counties affected by Hurricane Irma. Brevard Times. Experts say teachers should address Irma with students as classes resume, and give them a chance to discuss their experiences. Tampa Bay Times. About 8.5 million U.S. students lost classroom time due to Irma. USA Today. School officials pay tribute to school employees who worked at hurricane shelters. Ocala Star-Banner. Miami Herald. Will Irma be the impetus to require charter schools to be built to serve as hurricane shelters? WLRN. redefinED.
VAM questioned: Some education experts are questioning the effectiveness of the state’s value-added model (VAM) for rating teachers. They say it’s easier for a teacher to earn a high VAM score if she or he works at a school with few poor students. State education officials disagree, saying their research shows no bias against high-poverty schools in VAM data. The state has spent about $4 million of federal money to develop VAM, and pays $509,000 a year for analysis and reporting, says Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Audrey Walden. Florida Times-Union.
Child Baker Acts up: The number of children who are involuntarily committed for psychological evaluation is up significantly in Florida and Bay County. Across the state in the fiscal year 2015-2016, the number of children committed under the state’s Baker Act was up about 34 percent over 2010-2011. In Bay County, the increase is 109 percent since 2011. The Baker Act is invoked most often when schoolchildren threaten suicide. Panama City News Herald.
H.B. 7069 lawsuit: A law firm is selected to represent the Florida school districts that are suing the state over the new education bill, H.B. 7069. Husch Blackwell, a Chicago firm, will handle the case, with attorney John Borkowski taking the lead. Borkowski is not licensed to practice in Florida, however, so Harrison Sale McCloy, the law firm of Bay County School District attorney Franklin Harrison, will work with Borkowski. The Bay, Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Orange, Polk, Lee, Volusia, St. Lucie and Hamilton school districts have all agreed to join the suit. Several other districts are considering joining them. Panama City News Herald.
Charter conversion: The Manatee County School Board approves the conversion of Lincoln Middle School into a charter school. It’s only the 22nd time in Florida that district-run schools have converted into charter schools. The changeover was initiated by the school staff and parents, and recommended by Superintendent Diana Greene. Local NAACP president Rodney Jones backed the conversion, even though the national group recently called for a moratorium on charter schools. “We are seeing kids go astray,” Jones says. “They should be allowed the opportunity to give the child the best opportunity of success that they can possibly have. They will provide a very unique cultural experience for these students that they will not get anywhere else.” The school has about 500 students, and every one receives a free or reduced-price lunch. redefineED. Bradenton Herald.
Teacher shortage: School districts around the United States are increasingly falling back on emergency measures to fill teaching vacancies. In Citrus County, the district is looking at retirees. In Franklin County, school officials made a last-minute math teacher hire and avoided the contingency plan of online classes. Some districts are hiring parents, and others are hiring people without any formal teacher training or certification. Education Week.
VAM evaluation use: While some state school districts are moving away from use of the value-added model to evaluate teachers, Pasco County school say they most likely will continue to use it. Union officials have no problem with that, saying its use hasn’t changes the outcomes of evaluations. The district and union are negotiating a contract. Gradebook.