Archive | Teacher empowerment

Florida schools roundup: Teacher pay, funding formula, tax holiday and more

Teacher pay: Teachers at Memorial Middle School in Orlando will be paid $20,000 more this year as the Orange County School District tries to entice top teachers to turn around the persistently low-performing school. If a state grant can’t be obtained, the district will cover the extra costs. Officials say teachers at five other struggling schools also would get the extra pay if the district gets the grant. Only teachers rated effective or highly effective are eligible for the extra pay, and they’ll have to work an extra 30 minutes a day. Orlando Sentinel. Florida ranks 43rd among states and U.S. territories in average teacher pay at $47,256, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2016. The only states with lower pay than Florida are Arkansas, Idaho, West Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona, South Dakota, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Alaska is No. 1 at $74,122. Tallahassee Democrat.

Funding formula fight: Volusia County School Board chairwoman Melody Johnson makes a personal appeal to the Pasco County School Board to join the fight against the state’s district cost differential (DCD) portion of the school funding formula. She says 55 of the state’s 67 counties have lost money to the DCD, which gives urban districts more money to cover the higher costs of living. Johnson says Pasco has lost $53 million since 2003. Pasco board members asked Superintendent Kurt Browning to investigate and make a recommendation. Gradebook.

Back to school: The back-to-school sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 Friday and runs through 11:59 p.m. Sunday. The National Retail Federation says the average family with children in K-12 schools spends $687 on clothes and school supplies. News Service of Florida. Sunshine State NewsLakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. Keynoter. WFLA. WTSP. Florida schools open soon, and some new laws focused on school traffic are in effect. Palm Beach Post. Do school dress codes discriminate against girls? WFSU.

School branding: In an era of school choice, school branding is becoming increasingly important, say some school officials. Education Dive.

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Florida schools roundup: Funding formula, H.B. 7069, charters and more

School funding formula: Two Republican state senators are calling for a study of the Florida K-12 school funding formula. Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, and Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast, say the current formula shortchanges smaller districts because larger districts get a bigger portion of state funding to help make up the difference for a higher cost of living. The senators want the study to see if the formula should be “kept, modified or eliminated.” Volusia County, Hukill’s home district, has been pressing for changes. School officials there say the formula has cost the district $140 million since 2004. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: School boards in Lee, Volusia and Bay counties vote to join the lawsuit against the state over the new education bill, H.B. 7069. They join Broward and St. Lucie counties in the challenge over the bill, which forces districts to share local property tax revenue with charter schools and provides financial incentives for charter companies to set up schools in areas with persistently low-performing traditional public schools. The bill also strips local officials from approving charter schools in their districts. Other districts are considering joining the suit, which has not yet been filed. Palm Beach County is expected to file suit individually. Fort Myers News-Press. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Panama City News Herald. Naples Herald. The Miami-Dade County School Board could decide as early as today if it will join other districts in suing the state over the education bill. The district has already spent almost $10,000 researching the constitutionality of the bill. Miami Herald. The Polk County School Board is considering joining the suit. Board attorney Wes Hodges believes the bill is vulnerable because it violates the state’s constitutional single subject requirement for bills, but there could be a political backlash for those districts that sue. Lakeland Ledger.

Charter schools: Charter schools are in line to receive about $146 million this year from state and local governments, or twice as much as they received last year. They get about $50 million from the state, and they expect to collect about $96 million from local schools property taxes thanks to the new education law. Todd Ziebarth of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says Florida’s law is one of two major advancements toward funding equity for charter schools in the United States. redefinED. The NAACP is expected to release a report today calling for a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools. The report, to be released at the group’s national convention, says charter schools lead to segregation and divert money from traditional public schools. The 74.

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Florida schools roundup: Home-schooling, desegregation and more

Desegregation order: Indian River County School Board members renew their discussion about getting free from a court desegregation order, which it has been under since 1967. Board members feel the district has made progress toward fulfilling the court’s requirement of “having racially balanced schools taught by diverse staffs to establish an equitable education system for minority students.” The local NAACP chapter disagrees, saying the district still doesn’t have enough minority teachers or a success plan for minority students. TCPalm.

Home education: The number of Florida students being home-schooled increased by more than 4,000 from 2016 to 2017, according to the state Department of Education’s annual report. Since 2008, the number has increased by more than 30,000. redefinED.

Raising the bar: Florida and other states must continuously raise the standards for academic achievement, argues the CEO of the Foundation for Florida’s Future and the Foundation for Excellence in Education. “It is inevitable that when rigor is increased, student test scores and school summative grades initially will decline,” writes Patricia Levesque. “But once teachers and students adapt to the higher expectations, the scores will begin trending back up. This is how we drive better learning gains — through a continuous but realistic raising of the academic bar.” Politico Florida.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: Indian River County School Board members meet about joining a lawsuit against the newly signed state education bill, H.B. 7069, but make no decision. Several districts are committed to suing the state over the bill, which requires districts to share tax money with charter schools. TCPalm. Bay County School Board members will vote Tuesday on whether to join the lawsuit against the education bill. Superintendent Bill Husfelt and board members have complained about the bill and the secret manner in which it was put together. Ginger Littleton, board chair, calls the bill “slimy, underhanded, treacherous and very expensive for taxpayers.” Panama City News Herald. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Indoor recess, turnarounds, court challenge and more

Indoor recess: When Florida elementary schools reopen next month, they’ll be required to offer students at least 20 minutes of recess a day. But Florida Department of Education officials say recess could be held in classrooms, since there is no requirement that the time for free play be outdoors. Districts are required to report their compliance with the law by Sept. 1. Charter schools are exempt. Associated Press. Lake County School Superintendent Diane Kornegay says giving 20 minutes of school a day for recess leaves the district with 340 minutes a day of instructional time. The state requires at least 300 minutes. Each of the county’s 32 public elementary schools will arrange its own schedule. Daily Commercial.

Turnaround schools: The Florida Board of Education has ordered three school districts to revise turnaround plans for troubled schools. These are the first to fall under the new education law, which gives districts less time to turn around schools and offers three options if they don’t: close the schools, turn them into charters or bring in an outside “partner” to help run the schools. Gadsden County will bring in help for the coming school year, then search for a charter school company to take over Gadsden High in the 2018-2019 school year. Alachua County’s plan to turn around Hawthorne Middle/High School was rejected, and district officials will have to prepare a plan using one of the three options. Hamilton County will have to choose a charter company to take over Hamilton High before next spring. redefinED.

Education challenge: How do you measure if the state has a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools,” as required by the state constitution? That’s what First District Court of Appeal judges seemed to be wondering during a hearing Tuesday in the case challenging Florida’s education policies. A group known as Citizens for Strong Schools brought the suit, arguing troubling racial achievement gaps show the unconstitutionality of the system. The state argues that funding levels are sufficient, that Florida students’ achievements have improved significantly in the past 20 years, and that the constitutional language was political and not a literal standard that judges can interpret. The state won the first round in state court in May 2016. Miami Herald. News Service of FloridaWFSU. Associated Press. Sunshine State NewsPolitico Florida.

District spending: The Duval County School Board is asking district officials for details on how they spent $21 million more than they were budgeted to in the last fiscal year. Some of the causes are known: $3.4 million related to employees taking early retirement, $4.8 million in unbudgeted transportation costs, $1.4 million less from the state for per-student funding and $3.3 million for capital costs. Board members say they want to avoid repeating any mistakes the district may have made. Florida Times-Union. The Polk County School District is still waiting for numbers from the Florida Department of Education in order to present a proposed budget to the school board. District Chief Financial Officer Mike Perrone called the situation “unique,” with the districts typically getting the numbers by the second week in July. Lakeland Ledger. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Teacher of the year, Bright Futures, charters and more

Teacher of the year: Tammy Jerkins, who teaches pre-calculus at Leesburg High School in Lake County, is named Florida’s teacher of the year by the Florida Department of Education. In the letter supporting her nomination, principal Dennis Neal wrote: “I have never seen her give up on a student, no matter how tough and/or unmotivated the student was she always provides the consistent, tough love that is more like that of a mother than a teacher.” Jerkins, 58, who is a graduate of Leesburg High, wins $25,000, a trip for four to New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, a $1,000 wardrobe, $1,000 for her school, and a year out of the classroom to be an education ambassador for the state. The other finalists were Katelyn Fiori, an elementary school teacher from Indian River County; Diego Fuentes, who teaches children with disabilities in Marion County; Vanessa Ko, a middle school math teacher in Pinellas County; and Michael Miller, a 5th grade teacher in Osceola County. Each wins $17,535 and $1,000 for her or his school. Florida Department of Education. Orlando Sentinel. TCPalm. WKMG. Here are two profiles of Jerkins written earlier this year, when she was named one of three finalists for Lake County teacher of the year. Orlando Sentinel. Daily Commercial.

Bright Futures: In a letter this week to universities and colleges, the Florida Department of Education confirms that top award winners of Bright Futures scholarships will have full tuition and fees covered this year and next summer, and also receive $300 stipends for the fall and spring semesters. The state budget provided money for the upgrade, but it hadn’t been confirmed by the DOE until Wednesday. More than 40,000 students will benefit from the boost from about $3,000 last year to about $6,000 this year. Orlando Sentinel. Tallahassee Democrat.

Charters win a battle: An administrative law judge rules that the Palm Beach County School Board exceeded its authority by imposing several restrictions on charter schools. The judge says the district engaged in an “an invalid exercise” of their legal authority by requiring charter schools to prove they are innovative, can’t open near traditional schools and that charter school board members must be county residents. Palm Beach Post.

Board member sanctioned: A member of the Miami-Dade County School Board loses his Florida teaching license over an arrest in New Jersey in 2010. Steve Gallon, who was elected to the school board in November, was accused of using a false address to send his godsons to school in Plainfield, N.J., where he was superintendent. The charges were later dropped, but the New Jersey Department of Education revoked Gallon’s school administrator certificate in 2012. Thursday, the Florida Education Practices Commission revoked Gallon’s license and permanently barred him from reapplying for certification. The decision has no impact on his position on the school board. Miami Herald. Continue Reading →

The Compulsory Government Union

The National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and local allies such as the California Teachers Association are unions that teachers are required to join and support with dues in order to accept a job offer.

These are, in effect, government unions. That is, the teachers are employed by public school districts and soon protected by tenure from discharge.

The individual teachers may hate the union and all its works, but his or her paycheck is nicked each month in its support. The only exception is the cost of the union’s political activities, which is calculated and deducted for those who prefer. This exception was established by a decision of the Supreme Court four decades ago. It was deemed necessary to protect individual teachers’ speech rights under the First Amendment.

The accounting necessary is not so easy. The AFT used to give $200,000 each year to the United Farm Workers. In 1981, Cesar Chavez told me it kept him from supporting school vouchers. I wonder if Albert Shanker deducted this amount from the dues of resistant teachers. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Vouchers, immunizations, bonuses and more

Religious schools and vouchers: Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions this week could have implications for the constitutionality of vouchers for religious institutions. Monday, the court ruled that Missouri could not exclude private religious schools from a playground grant program. Tuesday, the court ordered the Colorado Supreme Court to reconsider a decision that the state’s Blaine Amendment prohibits public funding of religious institutions. redefinED. Education Week. Associated Press.

Voucher studies: Long-term studies in Louisiana and Indiana show that former public school students who keep private school vouchers for several years eventually catch up and sometimes pass their peers in reading and math tests. Earlier, shorter-term studies have shown that those students tend to lag behind their public school peers. redefinED.

Immunizations upheld: Parochial schools can require students to get immunizations to be admitted, the First District Court of Appeal rules. A parent filed the appeal after the Holy Spirit School in Jacksonville refused to admit his child without immunizations. News Service of Florida.

Teaching bonuses: The Manatee School for the Arts is offering bonuses of up to $3,000 fill two 6th-grade math teaching positions, plus higher than expected salaries. The district has sent recruitment letters to the most highly rated math teachers in school districts around the state. Bradenton Herald. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Cyberattacks on schools, education bill and more

Schools cyberattacked: A cyberattack launched last fall against the Miami-Dade County School District and three others ultimately failed, but it did show vulnerabilities of districts trying to protect the personal information of current and former students, their parents and school employees. Experts say school wifi networks are traditionally easy to connect to, and the proliferation of cell phones among students gives hackers opportunities to get access to those networks. Miami Herald.

Education law impact: Brevard County teachers worry that the new education law will put jeopardized promised raises, and school officials are concerned with the availability of money for capital projects. Florida Today. Some northwest Florida schools will benefit from the new law, and some could be negatively affected. WTXL. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, architect of the K-12 education bill, gets a hostile reception at an event in Tampa. Florida Politics. Corcoran may be the Legislature’s most interesting man, but he may also be the most contradictory. Miami Herald. In an interview, Corcoran defends the education bill. WFLA. Hillsborough County School Superintendent Jeff Eakins doesn’t expect an immediate increase in the number of charter schools – so-called “schools of hope” – moving into areas with persistently low-performing schools. Charter companies have to find locations, submit applications and build a staff, and the Legislature still hasn’t written the rules to be followed, he noted. Gradebook. State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, tries to explain how H.B. 7069 came about. GradebookPolitico Florida.

Civil rights queries: The U.S. Education Department says it is scaling back on civil rights investigations of public schools and universities. Officials say rules set during the Obama administration greatly increased the number of complaints about such things as disproportionate disciplining of minority students and the mishandling of sexual assaults claims. They expect the new policy will help the department more quickly resolve cases it does take. New York Times. Meanwhile, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says it will investigate the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies over their practices in enforcing civil rights laws. Education Week. Continue Reading →