Archive | Tax credit scholarships

Florida schools roundup: Spending, bill for scholarships, bathrooms and more

School tax hike: The K-12 education budgets of both Gov. Rick Scott and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, count on an extra $400 million-plus that would be raised through rising property values on unchanging local property tax rates. Neither considers that a tax hike. But Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, does, and Wednesday he sent an emphatic message to Scott and Negron: “That’s a hell no. That’s a hell no. We’re not raising property taxes to fund government waste.” Gradebook.

More for scholarships: A bill filed in the House would raise the amount of money students would receive from the state’s tax credit scholarship program and widen eligibility for Gardiner scholarships for students with disabilities. H.B. 15, filed by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, would give low-income students a higher percentage of the current per-student funding to attend a private school. Right now the tax credit scholarship provides 82 percent of the state’s per-student rate. It would go up to 88 percent for elementary schools, 92 percent for middle schools and 96 percent for high schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer both scholarships. News Service of Florida. redefinED.

Bathroom access: The Trump Administration rescinds the federal directive allowing transgender students to use school bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The Obama Administration issued the directive last year. “This is an issue best solved at the state and local level,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said. “Schools, communities and families can find — and in many cases have found — solutions that protect all students.” New York Times. Associated Press.

Higher education: Senate and House committees hear pitches for ideas to include in the higher education budget. Among them: $2.8 million for the University of Central Florida to develop a community schools program to help turn around low-performing schools, $300,000 to fund a robotics competition at Florida Atlantic University for high schools students, an expansion of the amount students receive for Bright Futures scholarships and how they can be used, more vocational training programs and $375,000 for academic mentoring programs for black high school students in the Big Bend area. Senate President Joe Negron says he plans to combine the two main higher education bills into one. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Continue Reading →

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Florida House bill would match Senate on special needs scholarships

Sullivan portrait

Sullivan

The Florida House and Senate may be aligned on a measure that would triple the size of the nation’s largest education savings account program.

A bill filed today by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, would boost funding for Gardiner Scholarships* to $200 million, matching a proposal from a key committee chairman in the Senate.

The scholarships provide funding that parents of children with special needs can use for private school tuition, public school courses, homeschool curricula, tutoring, therapy and other education-related expenses.

Like the Senate plan, Sullivan’s bill would make the scholarships available to more groups of students, including children with rare diseases, those who are vision or hearing impaired, and those with traumatic brain injuries.

HB 15 would clarify that it’s illegal to use the scholarships to pay for services that are also billed to Medicaid or health insurance, which could help prevent fraud.

The bill would also make some changes to the state’s tax credit scholarship program, which helps low-income and special needs students pay private school tuition.*

It would increase the amount of scholarship funding students can receive, offering larger increases for students in high school, where tuition tends to be more expensive. It would also strengthen the Department of Education’s legal authority to kick schools out of the scholarship program if they repeatedly fail to submit clean financial audits.

*Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog and pays my salary, helps administer both scholarship programs.

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Florida schools roundup: Less money for school recognition, testing and more

Recognition money: The Florida Department of Education is handing out 36 percent less recognition money to schools this year. Last year, 1,673 schools received $134.58 million. This year, 1,226 schools are getting $85.7 million. State officials say the decline is due to the number of schools with A grades falling from 1,184 to 754. Officials attribute to decline to harder Florida Standards Assessments tests and higher standards for individual school grading. Florida Times-Union.

Testing cutbacks: Another bill is filed in the Florida Senate that would push most state-mandated testing to the end of the school year, but this one also calls for an end to five specific exams, state oversight of teacher evaluations and the rules that tie teacher evaluations to student test scores. It also wants a written alternative to computers and allow districts to use national tests like the ACT or SAT instead of the 10th-grade language arts section of the Florida Standards Assessments. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, and Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, would kill the ninth-grade language arts Florida Standards Assessments test and end-of-course exams in Algebra 2, civics, geometry and U.S. history. Orlando Sentinel.

House vs. feds: The Florida House Education Committee will consider a resolution Tuesday that asks Congress to “end all current, and prohibit any further, interference by the United States Department of Education with respect to public school governance.” The resolution also asks Congress to turn Title 1 funding for low-income children and IDEA Part B funding for disabled students into block grants controlled by the states. Gradebook.

Teacher evaluations: There are more than 2,800 teachers in the Manatee County School District, and only three received unsatisfactory evaluations. Two others were told they needed to improve. “Highly effective” was the evaluation 48.1 percent of the teachers received. Fifty percent were judged to be “effective” and 8 percent weren’t evaluated at all, according to Florida Department of Education statistics. Teachers with highly effective ratings in other state districts ranged from 97 percent in Okaloosa County to 6 percent in Putnam County. Teachers suggest the disparity in the numbers points to the pointlessness of the evaluation process. Bradenton Herald. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Testing reform, funding, incentives and more

Testing reforms: Under the proposed “Fewer, Better Tests” bills filed Wednesday in the Legislature, all K-12 assessment testing would take place in the final three weeks of the school year, starting in the 2017-2018. S.B. 926 and H.B. 773 would also require results be returned to teachers within a week of testing, and that an understandable report be sent to parents. It also directs the education commissioner to study the feasibility of replacing the Florida Standards Assessments with the SAT or ACT. If the changes are approved, the state would also have to renegotiate its contract with testing vendor American Institutes for Research. Bill sponsors Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami; Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah; and Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, say the goal of the bills is to reduce stress and anxiety among students, parents and teachers. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. News Service of Florida.

Per-student funding: Florida’s spending per student ranks well below the U.S. average among states, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics. In the 2013-2014 school year, Florida spent $8,714 per student. The U.S. average was $10,936. Miami-Dade County spent the most per student among districts, $9,106. Gradebook.

Teaching incentives: Senators on the Florida PreK-12 education budget committee react coolly to Gov. Rick Scott’s $58 million proposal for incentives to recruit and retain teachers. Specifically, senators criticized Scott’s proposal for $10 million in hiring bonuses for new teachers who score in the top 10 percent in their subject-area exam. “It concerns me that we continue to look for the best performers in college — and not the best teachers,” said Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze. Miami Herald.

Gun-free zones: Bills filed in the Legislature this week are aimed at ending gun-free zones in Florida – including at K-12 schools. Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, and Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, R-Villages, filed S.B. 908 and H.B. 803 to eliminate all restrictions on where people with concealed-carry permits can take their guns. Miami Herald. Continue Reading →

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Improving public education, by choice: Darryl Rouson, podcastED

Rouson

Florida State Sen. Darryl Rouson went to Catholic schools from first grade through college. He wants low-income families from his district to have the same opportunity. He’s sent his own children to public schools, so he wants Florida’s public school system to be as strong as possible.

During a podcast interview with Denisha Merriweather, a Florida school choice alum now studying to become a social worker, Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, explains how his life experience has informed his view that supporting school choice and supporting public education are not in conflict.

“I want a high-quality, fully funded public education, but at the same time, I do not believe that one size fits all,” he says.

Rouson joined the Senate after a narrow win in a hard-fought Democratic primary. Education issues figured prominently in the race. His district encompasses the segregated neighborhoods of South St. Petersburg, an area whose academic struggles were chronicled in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series by the Tampa Bay Times. Continue Reading →

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Scholarship helps student’s, parents’ smiles return

Maria and Marcos Verciano will never forget the anguish over their daughter’s struggles in third and fourth grade. That’s why they’re so grateful for the scholarship that changed their lives.

At first it was the D’s and F’s on Hadassa’s report cards that raised their concern. Then the poor progress reports, all of the meetings at their neighborhood school in Destin, Fla., being told Hadassa wasn’t on track to make the next grade level – it all added up to a serious strain on the family.

Hadassa’s ADHD diagnosis didn’t do much to change her path, either.

Hadassa Verciano, 12, has improved her academics at Rocky Bayou Christian School in Niceville, Fla. “It’s way easier to learn,” she said. “If you don’t understand something the teachers explain it really well.”

Hadassa Verciano, 12, has improved her academics at Rocky Bayou Christian School in Destin, Fla. “It’s way easier to learn,” she said. “If you don’t understand something the teachers explain it really well.”

“They just set her apart and gave her more time to do the tests, but nothing more than that,” Maria said. “It was so sad for me, for her dad and for her, because she felt different from the other students. She felt like she was not accepted.”

“It was kind of overwhelming to think that she wouldn’t make it to fourth and fifth grade, that this was going to be her life forever. It was a very bad feeling that she was always behind.”

When Hadassa’s normally bright spirit and enthusiasm for school turned to dejection, her parents knew they had to make a change.

A Step Up For Students scholarship empowered them to do it.

The couple had always dreamed of sending Hadassa to a private school, but with Marcos’ work installing pavers and Maria’s job managing a beach house, they could never afford it. At their small Brazilian church, they found out about Rocky Bayou Christian School, a place that caters to all manner of students with different educational needs.

At Rocky Bayou’s Destin campus, principal Joe Quilit told Maria about the Florida tax credit scholarship, which helps low-income families afford tuition. She applied, but it was too late in the school year. All of the scholarships had been awarded. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Bright Futures, capital funding, testing and more

Bright Futures: The proposed expansion of Bright Futures scholarships is moving in two directions within the Florida Senate. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, wants to expand the scholarships for high-achieving students to cover full tuition and fees, and to allow them to use the money for summer classes. S.B. 2, which incorporates those proposals and more, was passed Wednesday by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education. Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal would allow all students with Bright Futures scholarships to use the money for summer classes. It’s been endorsed by former Senate president Tom Lee, R-Brandon. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida. Florida Politics.

Capital funding: Public school superintendents and charter schools leaders share ideas with legislators on how to improve the way the state hands out capital funding. Both say more money is needed for infrastructure and repairs. Superintendents also are asking for more flexibility on how they use the available money, while charter leaders are lobbying for a more equitable and consistent share from the state. Politico Florida. redefinED.

Testing participation: The definition of testing participation could play a role in an appeal court’s decision on a lawsuit challenging the state’s retention policy for third-graders. The law on what constitutes student participation is not clearly spelled out, and those suing the state say that ambiguity is leading districts to formulate their own rules, resulting in unequal treatment of students across districts. Gradebook.

Testing questions: Members of the Florida House committee on school policy question whether the downside of frequent, standardized testing and giving schools grades outweigh the benefits of the testing. State Department of Education officials say stability in the testing and assessing school grades are crucial to accountability. “We can’t assess ourselves into greatness,” State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has said. “But we also won’t be great if we don’t know how our students are performing.” Sun-Sentinel. Continue Reading →

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Florida schools roundup: Education budget, charters, civics, DeVos and more

florida-roundup-logoEducation budget: Gov. Rick Scott’s $83.5 billion budget includes an expansion of the Bright Futures scholarship program to cover summer classes and a program that recruits, retains and rewards teachers. Scott’s $58 million plan would replace the existing teacher bonuses program. The $24 billion education budget would boost PreK-12 per-student spending to $7,421, up about $216 from this year. Sunshine State NewsMiami Herald. Orlando SentinelFlorida Times-Union. Gradebook. Associated PressPolitico FloridaBradenton Herald. Florida Trend. Tallahassee Democrat. News Service of Florida.

Charter schools: Florida needs to create more charter schools for low-income students, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, says during a media briefing. He said having only two – the collection of KIPP schools in Jacksonville and a public charter boarding school, SEED Miami – is unacceptable for the state. He has pledged to support funding changes that would encourage more nationally recognized charters to set up in low-income areas. redefinED. A report from a school choice advocacy group alleges that eight Florida school districts are shortchanging poor children in charter schools by spending less of federal Title I funding on them than they do in public schools. The districts are Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach, Duval, Polk and Osceola. Representatives from several of the districts deny the charge and say the data was manipulated in a way to support a pro-charter view. Politico Florida.

Civics lessons: House Education Committee chairman Michael Bileca, R-Miami, says the House is looking closely at changing the way Florida students learn about American government, history and the democratic system. The state already requires civics classes in middle and high schools, but Bileca says he wants to “inculcate a sense of civic understanding, appreciation for our institutions and what a republic stands for and have a fully informed and fully educated citizenry that’s able to participate in the democratic process.” Miami Herald.

DeVos approved: A Senate committee approves the nomination of Betsy DeVos to become U.S. education secretary on a 12-11, straight party vote. The nomination now goes to the full Senate. Orlando Sentinel. School choice in the United States under the leadership of Betsy DeVos could resemble what Florida has done by using tax credit scholarships to help students pay to go to private schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer that program. NPR. In 2014, Betsy DeVos donated $1,000 to a school choice supporter in a Volusia County School Board campaign. Melody Johnson, who raised just $5,000 more than the DeVos donation, won and is now the board chairwoman. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Continue Reading →

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