Archive | vouchers

Florida schools roundup: Opt-out ruling, Legislature, scholarships and more

Opt-out ruling overturned: An appeals court overturns a ruling that some state school districts improperly retained third-graders who had opted out of the Florida Standards Assessment language arts test. The appeals court concluded that lawsuits against the state over the retention policy should have been heard in local courts instead of a circuit court in Tallahassee. In August, the Leon County judge ruled largely in favor of 14 parents from several districts who refused to let their children take the tests, then sued districts that held back those students. “The test can only achieve that laudable purpose (assessing reading skills to determine promotions) if the student meaningfully takes part in the test by attempting to answer all of its questions to the best of the student’s ability,” the appeals judges wrote in their opinion. “Anything less is a disservice to the student — and the public.” Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. News Service of FloridaWUSF. Associated Press.

State of the state: In his State of the State address to open the 2017 legislative session, Gov. Rick Scott urges lawmakers to approve his increase in education funding for K-12 schools and colleges and universities while also cutting taxes. Sunshine State News. Florida Politics. Associated Press. The transcript of the speech. News Service of Florida.

Leaders’ priorities: Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, expands his priorities for the Legislature’s session to include the bill that protects students’ religious expression in schools. “I think it’s very important that students of any faith or no faith” have a right to free speech, Negron said in his speech on the opening day of the 60-day legislative session. Miami Herald. Negron also says charter schools should get a fair share of state funding for construction and maintenance. Politico Florida. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, says his top budget priority for the legislative session is to put an end to the state’s so-called “failure factories,” or underperforming public schools. While Corcoran has not detailed how he’d do that, he’s hinted that adding charter schools is part of the solution. Politico Florida.

Scholarships expansion: A Florida House education subcommittee approves a bill that expands scholarship programs for low-income and disabled students. The amount available for disabled students under the Gardiner and McKay scholarships would jump from $73 million to $200 million, and the number of disabilities covered would be expanded. The bill also increases the per-pupil amount for low-income students who qualify for the tax credit scholarship program. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the Gardiner and tax credit scholarship programs. Orlando Sentinel. redefinED. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Legislative issues, Trump’s visit and more

Legislative session: Vouchers, recess and capital funding for charter schools are among the hot education topics in this year’s legislative session, which begins Tuesday. Sunshine State News. School testing will again be a prominent issue during the session. Several bills have been filed to cut back on the number of tests, and to give options to the Florida Standards Assessments. News Service of Florida. Teacher bonuses are among the key education issues that will be debated by the Legislature. Tallahassee Democrat. The way the state calculates school funding may get another look from lawmakers this year. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Lake County school leaders say they oppose school vouchers, worry about recruiting and retaining teachers and don’t like the state’s current standardized testing process. Superintendent Diane Kornegay, school board member Kristi Burns and teachers union president Stuart Klatte made the remarks at an education forum last week. Daily Commercial. The Polk County School District is asking legislators to close the gap in per-student funding among districts. Polk ranked 64th out of 67 in per-student funding from the state this school year. Winter Haven News Chief. Senate and House leaders come to an agreement on the rules for the budget-making process for the legislative session. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida.

Trump’s visit: President Donald Trump praises students and educators at St. Andrew Catholic School during a visit Friday. Trump used the stop to promote school choice, and urged members of Congress to pass a bill to fund school choice for disadvantaged young people, including minority children. Orlando SentinelCatholic News Agency. Associated Press. WCSI. WFTV. Fox News. New York Times. News 13. redefinED. A profile of Denisha Merriweather, the University of South Florida graduate student who was held up by the president as an example of how school choice can help struggling students succeed. Washington Post.

Commission choices: Gov. Rick Scott appoints 14 people to the state Constitution Revision Commission. Several of the appointees have ties to education: Pam Stewart, Florida education commissioner; Marva Johnson, state Board of Education chairwoman; Nicole Washington, a trustee at Florida A&M University; Belinda Keiser, vice chancellor of Keiser University; Darlene Jordan, a member of the state university system’s Board of Governors; and Jose “Pepe” Armas, a trustee for Florida International University. Politico Florida. Gradebook. Orlando Sentinel. News Service of Florida. Miami Herald. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Trump and choice, testing, vouchers and more

Trump and choice: President Donald Trump called education “the civil rights issue of our time” during his speech to Congress Tuesday. He urged legislators to “pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious, or home school that is right for them.” Education Week. Los Angeles Times. Florida’s Denisha Merriweather is cited during Trump’s speech as someone whose life was turned around because of school choice. redefinED. The 74. President Trump will visit Saint Andrew Catholic School in Orlando Friday, where he is expected to talk about school choice. Saint Andrew has 295 students who use the tax credit scholarship. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarship. Orlando Sentinel.

Testing debate: Standardized testing will again be a focus of the legislative session that begins Tuesday. Critics want to cut back on the exams, or give students the option of taking different tests. Others think the testing system in place is necessary and needs to be preserved in some form. News Service of Florida.

Voucher study: A new study finds little evidence that school voucher programs significantly improve student achievement or school district performance. The study, written by Martin Carnoy, a Stanford University professor and research associate at the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute, included evaluations of Florida programs. He wrote that the lack of evidence “suggests that an ideological preference for education markets over equity and public accountability is what is driving the push to expand voucher programs.” Washington Post.

Teachers honored: Evangeline Aguirre, who teaches in the English for Speakers of Other Languages program at Palm Beach Central High in Wellington, is named the Palm Beach County School District’s teacher of the year. Palm Beach PostSun-Sentinel. Maria Torres-Crosby, a sixth-grade English teacher at Memorial Middle School. is named the Hillsborough County School District’s teacher of the year. Tampa Bay Times. Continue Reading →


Annotating Think Progress

Today we are trying something new: annotating an article from a different blog, using Genius. Click on the highlighted portions below to read our comments on the article. You may need to have pop up blockers turned off to view the content. We these offer comments to correct the record. The original post can be read here.

Why the racist history of school vouchers matters today

By Casey Quinlan
Policy reporter at Think Progress

President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with his pick for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos during a rally, in Grand Rapids, Mich., Friday, Dec. 9, 2016 CREDIT: Paul Sancya

President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with his pick for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos during a rally, in Grand Rapids, Mich., Friday, Dec. 9, 2016 CREDIT: Paul Sancya

On Monday, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote a scathing letter to President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, questioning whether she had the expertise to run the department. Among Warren’s many criticisms of DeVos’ record — her unknown views on many aspects of higher education and civil rights issues, for example — Warren also mentioned the “racially charged history” of voucher programs.

Warren wrote:

 After Brown v. Board of Education and the court-ordered segregation of public schools, many Southern states established voucher schemes to allow white students to leave the education system and take taxpayer dollars with them, decimating the budgets of the public school districts. Today’s voucher schemes can be just as harmful to public school district budgets, because they often leave school districts with less funding to teach the most disadvantaged students, while funneling private dollars to unaccountable private schools that are not held to the same academic or civil rights standards as public schools.” Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Extra pay, middle school marriage and more

florida-roundup-logoPayment questioned: A Broward County School District audit reveals that the district paid a former district police employee about $23,000 over her approved salary in 2015. Jillian Haring was a special assistant to the district police chief, making $60,664. But she was also being paid for other duties that the district did not need, according to the audit. Haring now works in the district’s special education department. Sun-Sentinel.

Middle school marriage: The Bonita Middle School student had an arranged marriage at 13 and was a mother at 14. Now she’s 20, and her 31-year-old husband has been arrested and faces charges of lewd and lascivious behavior. And Lee County school officials are left to wonder how the situation could have gone unnoticed for so long. Fort Myers News-Press.

School choice: At its quarterly meeting, the Florida NAACP debates the role of charter schools. The national NAACP recently passed a resolution calling for “a moratorium on charter school expansion and for the strengthening of oversight in governance and practice.” But there is dissent in the ranks about the issue. WOFL. redefinED.

Magnet programs: While Alachua County’s magnet school programs offer great opportunities for high-achieving students, critics say there are too many barriers for entry for students of different academic backgrounds. School officials say they are working hard to identify and encourage students of all backgrounds to apply. Gainesville Sun.

Legislative priorities: Common Ground, a group of organizations that has called for the end of Common Core standards, now says it wants the Legislature to end the Common Core-aligned Florida Standards Assessments in both English and math. Sunshine State News.

Religion in schools: State Rep. Kim Daniels, D-Jacksonville, writes on her Facebook page that the motivation for filing a bill to protect religious expression in schools is to get prayer back in schools. Daniels is a minister and founder of Kimberly Daniels Ministries International. Florida Politics. Continue Reading →

How Florida stacks up on private school choice

Florida is home to one in six of the nation’s students using a voucher to attend a private school, more than a third of those using tax credit scholarships, and just shy of 70 percent of all students using education savings accounts.

Those stats come from The ABCs of School Choice, the most comprehensive rundown of private educational options in the country.

EdChoice released the latest version of its annual report Tuesday, and it shows Florida remains one of the national leaders in private school —choice  especially for low-income and economically disadvantaged students.

Serving more than 30,000 students with special needs, McKay Scholarships are the nation’s second-largest voucher program. They were recently overtaken by Indiana’s means-tested voucher program.

Graph via EdChoice

Graph via EdChoice

Florida’s Gardiner Scholarships*, also for students with special needs, comprise the nation’s largest education savings account program. A potent rival — Nevada’s ESAs, which could soon be available to nearly all students — was sidelined by a court challenge and remains in legislative limbo. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Choice lawsuit dismissed, charter law upheld and more

florida-roundup-logoChoice lawsuit dismissed: The Florida Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal by several groups that were challenging the constitutionality of the state’s tax credit scholarship program. The vote was 4-1. The decision upholds an appeals court ruling that the plaintiffs, including the Florida Education Association and the Florida NAACP, did not have standing to file the suit. About 98,000 low-income children are attending private schools with the help of the scholarships, which are funded by a law that permits corporations to donate money to the program and get a tax credit. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarships. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Tallahassee DemocratGradebook. Associated Press. News Service of FloridaPolitico FloridaredefinED. Florida Politics. Sunshine State News. Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association, wonders who can challenge the Legislature on the tax credit scholarship program. “This ruling, and the decisions by the lower court, doesn’t answer that question,” she said in a statement. “We still believe that the tax credit vouchers are unconstitutional, but we haven’t had the opportunity to argue our case in court.” Florida Politics.

Charter law upheld: An appeals court upholds a Florida law that allows the Board of Education to overturn a local district’s denial of a charter school application. The Palm Beach County School claimed in its suit that the law was unconstitutional because it infringed on local boards’ power to approve or deny charter schools. The Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled that the Florida Constitution creates a hierarchy that gives boards local control, but gives the state board supervisory authority. The court also ordered the state’s appeal commission to re-examine the case and send its justification for denial to the state Board of Education for another review. News Service of Florida. Palm Beach Post.

The Trump effect: The Brevard County School District is trying to prepare for the effect President-elect Donald Trump may have on local schools, but say it’s hard to know exactly what it will be. “I’m just very unsure, very, very unsure what the presidential election means to the educational lives of next year’s kindergartners,” says Superintendent Desmond Blackburn. Some of Trump’s stated goals are similar to what the district already does or is moving toward, but few details of how Trump’s plan will be enacted have been released. Florida Today. Teachers unions in Florida and around the country are demonstrating in protests today against the Trump education agenda and the nominated education secretary, Betsy DeVos. Politico Florida.

Metric measurements: Florida high schools will become the first in the United States to use metric measurements for throwing and jumping events in track meets. Metrics have been used for all state high school running events since 1990. The change begins next month, and will be mandatory in 2018, according to the Florida High School Athletic Association. New York Times. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: DeVos, union election, teachers honored and more

florida-roundup-logoSupport for DeVos: Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Jeb Bush lobby for support for Betsy DeVos, whose confirmation hearing to become U.S. education secretary is today. Both call her a champion for school choice and for families. Democrats and teachers unions oppose DeVos, with one union official calling her severely underqualified and the “most anti-public education nominee in the history of the department.” Sunshine State News. Tampa Bay Times. Associated Press.

Union election: A Palm Beach County teacher has been told he cannot run for the union presidency because he let his union membership lapse while taking a semester leave to care for a dying relative. Justin Katz, a 32-year-old social studies teacher at Park Vista High, renewed his membership when he returned to the classroom, but says he was told by the union that the lapse makes him ineligible because the union rules require two consecutive years of membership prior to running.. The union’s outgoing president, Kathi Gundlach, declined to comment. Palm Beach Post.

Teachers honored: Four finalists are named for Miami-Dade County teacher of the year. They are: Nadia German, Ojus Elementary; Rodolfo Diaz, Miami Senior High; Laura Ortiz, Robert Morgan Educational Center & Technical College; and Alfreida Dianne Joseph-Goins, Dorothy M. Wallace C.O.P.E. Center. The winner, and the winner for rookie teacher of the year, will be announced Jan. 26. Miami Herald. Longtime Bay County educator Daurhice Gibson is the winner of the first teacher of a lifetime award from the district. She retired in 2003 after 40 years of teaching. Panama City New Herald.

School boundaries: Despite facing intensive lobbying from parents, Pasco County school officials are not changing the recommendations for the rezoning of two school attendance zones. “While I wish there was a perfect solution, I have not seen one yet,” says school board chairman Allen Altman. The board will hold public hearings on the proposed changes to middle and high schools attendance zones tonight. Tampa Bay Times. Continue Reading →