Archive | vouchers

Florida schools roundup: March, walkouts, Cruz’s brother, votes and more

March For Our Lives: More than 1 million people are expected to attend March For Our Lives rallies Saturday in Washington, D.C., and at least 800 other sites around the world, according to the students who have organized the rallies in response to the school shootings in Parkland on Feb. 14 that killed 17. They are calling for stricter gun regulations. “It just shows that the youth are tired of being the generation where we’re locked in closets and waiting for police to come in case of a shooter,” says Alex Wind, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Associated Press.

Board member rips walkout: Marion County School Board member Nancy Stacy says Superintendent Heidi Maier’s plan to allow student walkouts on campuses April 20 is “pure liberal fascism at its finest.” Stacy says Maier is being used by the “political idiots of the left.” In a series of emails to the superintendent, Stacy also wrote that: “We all know the students didn’t arrange a thing here or Tallahassee or nationwide. This is another example of why we need (school) vouchers for parents to escape this abusive manipulation of their children’s minds.” Ocala Star-Banner.

Cruz’s brother arrested: The brother of accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is arrested after deputies say he trespassed onto the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School campus. Zachary Cruz, 18, had been warned to stay away from the school. He said he went to the school to “reflect on the shooting and to soak it in …” Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. Associated Press.

School tax votes today: Voters in Sarasota and Manatee counties go to the polls today to vote on increasing property taxes by 1 mill for schools. A yes vote would increase revenue for schools in Sarasota County by about $55 million a year, and by about $33 million a year in Manatee. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton Herald. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Death penalty, walkout, school safety, tests and more

Death penalty proposed: Broward County prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against accused Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz. Cruz, 19, is accused of murdering 17 people at the school on Feb. 14, and wounding 17 others. Cruz’s public defender says he will not contest guilt, but will focus on his troubled past to try to convince jurors to spare his life. Miami Herald. Associated Press. Palm Beach Post. CNN. An attorney for Stoneman Douglas High student Anthony Borges, who was gravely wounded in the shooting, wants both the prosecutors and public defenders off the Cruz case because they endorsed a program in 2016 to “eliminate the school to prison pipeline.” Sun-Sentinel.

National School Walkout: Students at about 3,000 U.S. schools are expected to join the National School Walkout today to protest gun violence. The protest comes one month after the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Time. Associated Press. The 74. Education Week. Vox. Students around the state plan to participate in the walkout, and schools are deciding how they will deal with it. Palm Beach PostOrlando Weekly. Tampa Bay Times. Pensacola News Journal. Florida Today. Fort Myers News-Press. WLRN. WFTV. WJAX. WFLA. The Florida ACLU is urging superintendents not to interfere with students or punish them if they participate in the walkout. Gradebook. How young is too young to participate in today’s walkout? New York Times. A Lake County School Board member apologizes for calling a Stoneman Douglas student a “crisis actor.” Daily Commercial.

School safety plans: School superintendents are lobbying members of Congress to revise the STOP School Violence Act so it won’t be extended to private schools. “We support a revision to ensure that any resources made available to non-public school settings be funneled through an ‘equitable services’ provision, already in place through the Every Student Succeeds Act,” according to a letter from the American Association of School Administrators. Politico Florida. U.S. House Democrats will hold a forum next week to review ways to prevent violence in schools. Politico Florida. Teachers can already carry guns in 14 states. USA Today. Parents of students murdered at Parkland urge the Constitution Revision Commission to let Florida voters decide on a three-day waiting period and on raising the age limit to buy guns. In Lakeland, the father of another murdered Parkland student asks the Polk County School Board to approve a plan to arm some school employees. Tampa Bay Times. GateHouse. Lakeland Ledger. Members of the public urge the Bay County School Board not to arm school employees. Panama City News Herald. A majority of the St. Johns County School Board members oppose arming school workers. St. Augustine Record. The Citrus County School Board is asking the sheriff to split the cost of adding five resource officers to schools for the rest of the school year. Citrus County Chronicle. Pinellas County School Board members vote to not arm any school workers other than law enforcement officers. Gradebook. Continue Reading →


Does parental authority ‘work’?

A friend has sent me a long article from The Wall Street Journal of Jan. 29. It was a report on the Milwaukee school voucher program, now approaching middle age. Roughly 25 percent of the districts’ children attend private schools, most with public help in the form of vouchers for low-income families seeking transfer from their assigned “public” school. The article’s declared intention was to determine the system’s success, bearing the end-all headline: “Do Vouchers Work?”

The answer, we are told, would depend solely upon the test scores of children in chosen private schools compared to one another and to assigned government schools. No other measured success was even suggested. Citing various reports, the authors conclusion was that scores among chosen voucher schools correlate with the degree of social class mix in the student body. That is, they go up when the proportion of a school’s pupils from poor families stays below some level, elusive but real; when disadvantaged kids dominate the scene, scores tend to drop.

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Florida schools roundup: Education and school safety bills, Parkland and more

Education bills: Both legislative chambers approve a sweeping K-12 education bill. If signed by Gov. Rick Scott, the bill would create the Hope Scholarship for students who are bullied or the victims of violence, give money to 3rd-graders to pay for tutors to help them pass the state reading test, require every school to prominently display the state motto “In God We Trust,” decertify teachers unions when membership falls below 50 percent of eligible employees, place restrictions on local school districts’ ability to close charter schools, and use sales taxes from commercial properties to expand the Gardiner and tax credit scholarship programs, among other things. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the Gardiner and tax credit scholarship programs. Associated PressNews Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando SentinelredefinED. Gainesville Sun. Politico Florida. GateHouse. Here’s a breakdown of what’s in the nearly 200-page education bill. redefinED. Both chambers also pass the higher education bill, which permanently boosts the amounts students can receive if they qualify for Bright Futures scholarships, among other provisions. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. GateHouse. Other school choice issues are up for votes this week. redefinED.

School safety bill: The Florida Senate narrowly passes the school safety bill, but only after senators strip the provision to arm teachers. Instead, districts that choose to participate in the $67 million marshals program can have other personnel – such as custodians or principals – trained and armed. Another $97 million would be set aside for more school resource officers. Overall, the bill provides $400 million for school safety, including $69 million for mental health assistance.into mental health and school safety programs, $18.3 million for mobile crisis teams working with the Department of Children and Families and the schools and $500,000 for mental health first aid training. The bill also bans the sale of bump stocks, raises the legal age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21, and imposes a three-day waiting period on the purchase of all rifles and shotguns. Miami HeraldPalm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel. GateHouse. Tallahassee Democrat. Associated Press. WLRN. House leaders express disappointment over the Senate’s decision to not arm teachers. Politico Florida. Sheriffs say the amount set aside for arming school personnel is too much, and the amount for more school officers is too little. Tampa Bay Times. The Broward County School Board is expected to approve an agreement today to add school resource officers at four more schools. Sun-Sentinel. Monday is the first day for every Manatee school to have a resource officer. Bradenton Herald. Bay County School Superintendent Bill Husfelt says everything the Legislature is talking about is for next year. “I’m worried about today,” he says. “I have called the governor’s office several times and suggested they put the National Guard out in front of schools that don’t have armed security, since they’re already being paid.” Panama City News Herald. Continue Reading →


School vouchers: Cost-effective college enrollment boost; grad rates remain low

School vouchers and tax credit scholarships may not always improve participants’ standardized test performance, but a growing crop of studies suggest they are cost-effective when it comes to encouraging economically disadvantaged students to pursue a college education.

Two recent Urban Institute studies, one on Milwaukee and the other on Washington, D.C., continue that trend. The reports follow similar results from a 2017 Urban Institute study of Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program.

Students in Milwaukee using vouchers to attend private schools were more likely to attend college, while students in Washington were no more or less likely, to attend college than their public-school peers. Past Urban Institute research in Florida showed modest positive college attendance and associate degree gains among school choice participants.

Researchers Patrick Wolf, John Witte and Brian Kisida found Milwaukee voucher students were 6 percentage points more likely to attend a four-year college than their public school peers. Milwaukee choice students were 1-2 percentage points more likely to graduate college, but that difference was not statistically significant.

The researchers conclude, “students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program tend to have higher levels of many measures of educational attainment than a carefully matched comparison of Milwaukee Public School students.”

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Fla. lawmakers eye reducing barriers to McKay scholarships


Florida lawmakers are taking steps to make it easier for parents to enroll in the state’s voucher program for children with special needs.

Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, spoke passionately about the proposal before the House K-12 Innovation Subcommittee gave it a green-light Tuesday.

Right now, the law requires children to enroll in public schools for at least a year before they can receive a McKay Scholarship. Plasencia is the sponsor of HB 829, which would cut that waiting period down to one semester.

He said the public-school attendance requirement has kept some students with the most complex disabilities from getting scholarships. His wife works with some of those students. Advocates have pushed for years to go further than Plasencia’s bill, and eliminate the public-school attendance requirement entirely.

“It doesn’t necessarily solve all the issues we have, but it is a step in the right direction,” he said. Continue Reading →

Bill would help parents adjust funding for Fla. special needs scholarships

Florida lawmakers are advancing bills that would make it easier for parents of special needs children who use vouchers to attend private schools to update their evaluations.

Funding for students who receive McKay Scholarships is tied to the evaluations students can receive from school districts every three years. But state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, said sometimes students who use the scholarships need to update their evaluations more often.

For example, if students participate in a school district hospital/homebound program, and then want to move to a private school using a voucher, they could receive McKay Scholarships worth just a few thousand dollars. That’s because per-pupil funding for hospital/homebound is typically a fraction of the funding public schools would receive to educate the same children. As a result, scholarships for those students may be less likely to cover the cost of private school tuition. Continue Reading →

Appeals court rejects education lawsuit, upholds Florida special needs vouchers

A three-judge panel on a Florida appellate court has tossed an 8-year-old lawsuit taking aim at 20 years of state education policy.

Today’s ruling upholds an earlier trial court decision hailed as a victory for education reformers who defended school choice, testing and other policies targeted by the lawsuit.

It also adds to the ledger of lawsuits around the country that hit roadblocks trying to force states to increase public school funding.

The First District Court of Appeal’s decision is noteworthy for another reason. It finds a 2006 state Supreme Court ruling that found private school vouchers violate the Florida constitution does not threaten vouchers for children with special needs.

Judge Bradford Thomas writes that when the high court struck down Opportunity Scholarships for private schools in Bush v. Holmes, justices left the door open to reach different conclusions about the constitutionality of other school choice programs.

And McKay Scholarships, he writes, are different. About 30,000 students with special needs, less than 1 percent of Florida’s K-12 students, currently use the scholarships to attend private schools. Continue Reading →