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Florida schools roundup: Education spending deal, H.B. 7069 and more

Special session: A last-minute deal was struck on increasing per-pupil K-12 spending and providing more money for economic development and tourism, and the Legislature adjourned as scheduled Friday after a three-day special session. Per-pupil spending will go up about $100. Gov. Rick Scott says he’s still deciding whether to sign two other education measures: H.B. 7069, a bill that broadens school choice and funding for charter schools, and a higher education bill that would expand Bright Futures scholarships. Tampa Bay Times and Miami HeraldNews Service of Florida. Associated PressSun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Naples Daily News. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSUPolitico Florida. When the Legislature couldn’t agree on key legislation, Gov. Scott swooped in to take advantage. Mary Ellen Klas, Miami Herald. Was the education budget agreement a hollow victory? Many education advocates say the increased spending still isn’t enough. Miami Herald.

Bills signed: Gov. Scott signs 16 bills into law, including one that strengthens the right to religious expression for students and staff in K-12 schools. Miami Herald. Gradebook.

Testing results: Here are more reports on the results of Florida Standards Assessments testing from districts around the state. Miami HeraldNorthwest Florida Daily News. TCPalm. Space Coast Daily. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Bridge to Tomorrow. Sarasota school officials are encouraged by improvements made by students in testing, and hope they’re enough to maintain the A grade the district has received every year since grades were first given in 2004. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Budget deal, special session, vetoes and more

Budget deal, special session: Gov. Rick Scott and leaders of the Senate and House reach an agreement on the state budget, and legislators will return to Tallahassee Wednesday through Friday for a special session to vote on the deal. The agreement will boost spending on public education by about $200 million and put $165 million into the economic development agencies Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida. Both were goals of Scott’s. In return, Scott will sign an education bill that sets aside more money for the charter school industry, which was a priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, and more money for higher education, which was a priority for Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart. Miami Herald and Tampa Bay TimesredefinED. Sunshine State News. Tallahassee Democrat. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. One of the 33 bills signed by Gov. Scott approves payments to two former Palm Beach County students injured at school activities. Palm Beach Post.

Reactions to deal: Advocates of public schools say the budget agreement is half good. They like the additional money for education, but remain opposed to the funding gains for charter schools. Miami HeraldGradebook. School officials and the state’s largest teachers union, the Florida Education Association, say the agreement still doesn’t provide enough money for education. Miami HeraldFlorida Politics. Florida’s Democratic lawmakers condemn Scott’s agreement with the legislative leaders, calling it “backroom politics at its worst.” Florida Politics. Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times. St. Johns County school officials worry that state financial support for charter schools means less money for their traditional public schools. The county has no charter schools. St. Augustine Record. Seven struggling schools in Indian River and St. Lucie counties could be competing with charter schools for students under to so-called “schools of hope” provision in the education bill. The bill offers charter companies incentives to move into areas with persistently low-performing schools. TCPalm.

Budget vetoes: Gov. Scott vetoes more than $400 million in programs from the state budget. Among them: $11.4 billion as the state’s portion for the public-school financing program, which is known as the Florida education finance program; $14 million for a school uniform program; $500,000 for the Florida Orchestra to work with schools and community orchestras; and $100,000 for a statewide study about the cost-of-living disparities in Florida school districts. Miami Herald. Tampa Bay TimesNews Service of Florida. Gradebook.

Boost in black teachers: The Pinellas County School District sets a goal of 18 percent black teachers and administrators within 10 years. The number is now 11 percent, and district officials hope to boost it by a percentage point every year. Superintendent Mike Grego said principals “want people in front of students who are in the same diversity of their student population.” Tampa Bay Times. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Budget talks, spelling bee, extra testing and more

Budget negotiations: The backstage maneuvering on the state budget is intensifying, and some Tallahassee insiders think a deal can be struck that keeps House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s education budget largely intact if more money can be found for Gov. Rick Scott’s economic development agency Enterprise Florida. Steve Bousquet, Tampa Bay Times. Sunshine State News.

National Spelling Bee: Ananya Vinay, a 12-year-old girl from Fresno, Calif., wins the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee in the 36th round. Sreeniketh Vogoti, an eighth-grader from St. Johns County, had the best performance for a Floridian. He was one of 15 finalists, but was eliminated in the eighth round. Associated PressWashington Post. National Spelling Bee. Florida Times-UnionOrlando Sentinel. Associated Press. Palm Beach Post. Naples Daily News.

Extra testing: Many Florida high schools try to convince students to take two end-of-course exams for the same subject as a way to bolster the schools’ grades from the state. Palm Beach Post.

School honor code: Sunlake High School is planning to institute an honor code this fall for students in its Advanced Placement courses. A recent instance of test-sharing prompted the move, which will have students signing a pledge to neither give nor receive unauthorized help on tests, or to tolerate others’ use of such unapproved help. Gradebook. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Budget bill, textbooks suit, spelling bee and more

Scott gets budget: The Legislature has sent the $82.4 billion state budget to Gov. Rick Scott, who has until June 15 to decide if he will sign it, or veto all of it or parts of it. Scott has been especially critical of the education spending and cuts to his economic development agency Enterprise Florida and the tourism marketing agency Visit Florida. Scott has vetoed $1.9 billion in spending in his six years as governor. Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. News Service of Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. Sunshine State News.

District sued over textbooks: Three parents are suing the Collier County School Board over textbooks that they say have errors and omissions and were selected “behind closed doors to the exclusion of the public.” The suit asks for an emergency injunction against the textbooks and in the district’s selection process. Naples Daily News.

National Spelling Bee: Following the performances of the 15 Florida students competing in the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. National Spelling Bee. Florida Times-Union. TCPalm. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. Naples Daily News. Tallahassee Democrat. Associated Press.

Zero tolerance: The Miami Beach Committee for Quality Education votes to lobby the Miami-Dade County School District to bring back a zero-tolerance drug policies for Miami Beach Senior High School and its feeder schools. The district phased out zero-tolerance policies years ago. Miami New Times. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: School sales tax holiday, education bill and more

Sales tax holiday: Gov. Rick Scott approves a three-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers. It’s Aug. 4-6, and gives shoppers a tax break on clothes, school supplies, computers and computer accessories. Scott also approves a three-day sales tax holiday to buy hurricane supplies. In signing the bill, Scott again criticizes the Legislature’s budget and education bills, but gave no indication of whether he would veto either. Palm Beach PostGradebook. News Service of Florida.

Education bill: Parents of Gardiner scholarship students are lobbying Gov. Scott to sign the education bill, which would greatly expand the program that benefits children with special needs. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the Gardiner scholarships redefinED.

Interim’s goals: Patricia Willis, the interim superintendent for the Duval County School District, says she will focus on improving third-grade reading and graduation rates. Willis, a former deputy superintendent for the district, will run the system until the school board finds a permanent replacement for Nikolai Vitti, who left last week to lead the Detroit school system. Florida Times-Union.

Reading test results: School districts in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties all show gains in the Florida Standards Assessments reading test for third-graders. Fort Myers News-Press. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Pre-K report, resegregation, private schools and more

Pre-K access, funding: Florida ranks second in the nation in providing access to pre-kindergarten programs, but just 40th in per-student funding, according to a report from the National Institute for Early Education Research. Florida enrolled about 76 percent of all eligible 4-year-olds, trailing only the District of Columbia, but its per-student funding amount of $2,353 is less than half the national average. Florida also meets just three of the 10 quality measures, the report concludes. Gradebook.

School resegregation: A study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA contends that the proliferation of school choice programs is contributing to the resegregation of public schools in Florida and the rest of the South. The report says 34.6 percent of Florida’s black students and 32.1 percent of Hispanic students attended schools with 90 percent or more minorities in 2014, when the overall student population was 22.3 percent black and 30.9 percent Hispanic. Florida has one of the highest charter school expansion rates, according to the report. Gradebook.

Private school changes: Historically, private schools were often places where white students went to get away from public schools. Increasingly, that is changing, with many private schools now filled with low-income or disabled students who use scholarships from the state to attend. “The historically unfavored are now being favored, are now being accepted,” says Vernard Grant, director of the ACE Student Success Center with the Association of Christian Schools International. redefinED.

Education bill feedback: A slight majority of Floridians is now urging Gov. Rick Scott to sign the education bill. A week ago, about 75 percent of those who had contacted the governor wanted him to veto H.B. 7069. The change of sentiment is widely thought to be attributed to organized campaigns by school choice advocates. Miami Herald. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Education bill, teacher certification, aid and more

Education bill: Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t announced whether he intends to veto all or parts of the budget or education bills, but some Republicans close to him think he will veto the education bill to force the Legislature to renegotiate education spending and cuts made in tourism marketing. Politico Florida. More educators from around the state are urging Scott to veto the education and budget bills. Miami HeraldOrlando SentinelDaily Commercial. Public News Service. WTVJ.

Teacher certification: The Florida Department of Education’s proposed changes in teacher certification are being put on hold at least until the 2018-2019 school year. Implementing the changes for next school year could have put hundreds of teachers into the “out of field” category. The delay allows districts time to help those teachers qualify for “subject matter expert” certification. Gradebook.

Financial aid boost: State and federal governments have approved increases in financial aid for students going to or already in college. At the state level, the Legislature bumped up the funds available for the Bright Futures Scholarships, and students can now use them for summer classes. Pell grants for college students will also be available for the first time for summer classes. News Service of Florida.

Interim superintendent: The Duval County School Board cuts a potential field of interim superintendents from seven to three, and will conduct interviews Wednesday. Those being considered are Earl Lennard, who was Hillsborough County superintendent from 1996-2005; Pearl Roziers, assistant superintendent in Duval and head of the district’s school choice program; and Patricia Willis, who was a Duval deputy superintendent from 2007-2012. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti leaves next week to become head of the Detroit school system. Florida Times-UnionWJXT. WKOV. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Selling the bill, Title I troubles, a top teacher and more

Selling the bill: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, posts a cartoon on YouTube to explain and defend the education bill that was passed last week. Corcoran calls it “#toontruth for anyone who likes the truth in animated video format.” Orlando Sentinel. How the education bills passed in Tallahassee on recess, testing and charter schools could affect St. Johns County schools. St. Augustine Record. Teacher bonuses would be smaller and many more teachers would earn them under the new education bill. Bridge to Tomorrow. The school choice movement is breaking into two camps: one that wants to use choice to improve public schools, and one that wants greatly expand choice by using tax money. Associated Press.

Title I, Medicaid concerns: The Legislature’s decision to distribute federal Title I funding directly to schools and spread it to more schools could have devastating long-term effects on poor students, say district officials. Districts will be forced to cut special programs for low-income students, including after-school and summer school, or shift money from other programs to make up the difference. “A number of our community members and parents are aware of the services we provide in our 63 Title I schools,” said Felita Grant, Title I director for Pinellas County schools. “It would be a shock to them, if this bill goes through, the number of services we would have to cut back on.” Tampa Bay Times. School districts around the country say proposed cuts in the Medicaid program will have a significant impact in schools. Associated Press.

Teachers honored: Diego Fuentes, who teaches music to students with severe disabilities at the Hillcrest School in Ocala, is chosen as one of five finalists for the Department of Education’s 2018 Florida teacher of the year award. Fuentes was awarded $5,000. The winner will be announced July 13. Ocala Star Banner. Palm Beach County’s teacher of the year and school-related employee of the year are surprised with free, two-year leases of BMWs. Palm Beach Post.

Teaching incentives: Experienced teachers are being offered up to $70,000 in incentive pay over three years to work at struggling Carver Middle School in Orlando. More than 100 teachers have already applied, school officials say. Those hired will get an extra $20,000 for the 2017-2018 school year, and $25,000 in each of the next two years. Carver has received two Fs and a D in school grades in the past three years, and nearly 80 percent of its students failed their Florida Standards Assessment exams. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →