Archive | vouchers

Florida schools roundup: Hope Scholarship, Kavanaugh and more

Hope Scholarship delays: While the new state scholarship for bullied students technically begins when school resumes in August, funds for the Hope Scholarships won’t be available until after Oct. 1 and possibly not until later in November. The scholarships will be funded through voluntary donations of the $105 from the sales tax that drivers pay for vehicle transactions. The collections do not begin until Oct. 1 and car dealers have 20 days to report their previous month’s tax collections, which could delay the money being available until Nov. 20 or later. The scholarships are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and state analysts project a demand of about $27 million in the first year. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, will help administer the program. News Service of Florida.

Kavanaugh and education: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has defended then-Gov. Jeb Bush’s Florida school vouchers program against a constitutional challenge in 2000, publicly praised attempts to break down the barriers between religious schools participating in programs financed with public funds, and supported the use of public address systems for student-led prayers at public school events in Texas. The 74. Miami Herald. Politico. Sun-Sentinel. Education Week. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Framers may file brief, lawsuit threat, bond projects and more

Framers may weigh in: The so-called “framers” of the 1998 constitutional amendment that requires the state to provide high-quality public schools will be allowed to file a brief in a court challenge of a state education law, the Florida Supreme Court rules. The group Citizens for Strong Schools is suing the state, claiming it is not fulfilling its obligation to provide a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system” of public schools. Ten of the members of the 1998 Constitution Revision Commission had asked to be allowed to file a brief on their intent in the phrasing of the amendment, in support of the suit. The state objected, and will still be allowed to challenge the brief. News Service of Florida.

Union threatens lawsuit: The Florida Education Association says it will file suit today against the portion of H.B. 7055 that allows teachers unions to be decertified if they can’t maintain more than half the eligible membership. “This is about equity and fairness, and being targeted and singled out,” says FEA president Joanne McCall, who says the law applies only to teachers unions. Gradebook.

Broward bond projects: A watchdog group says it’s time for the Broward County School District to outline a plan for fixing decaying schools or admitting it can’t be done before the deadline it set. Florida TaxWatch, which was hired by the district to monitor the progress of the work scheduled under an $800 million bond referendum approved in 2014, found that only 10 percent of the identified projects have been completed and only 12 percent are under construction. “We are desperately behind and we need to know why,” says board member Heather Brinkworth. Sun-Sentinel. A timeline of the bond program. Sun-Sentinel. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Investigation on testing urged, security deal and more

Testing investigation: Six conservative legislators are calling on the Florida Department of Education to investigate whether three school districts deliberately limited the number of low-performing 7th-graders taking the state end-of-course civics exam in order to earn better school grades from the state. Sen. Dennis Baxley and Reps. Jason Fischer, Michael Bileca,  James Grant, Bob Rommel and Jennifer Sullivan, all Republicans, and the Florida Coalition of School Board Members suggest that the Duval, Manatee and Polk districts limited the number of struggling students taking the test in order to boost the grades of schools and keep charter schools from moving in under the Schools of Hope law. District officials say they are simply having many of the struggling students take the test as 8th-graders, when they might be better prepared, which state law allows them to do. Gradebook. redefinED.

School security: A school safety agreement is reached between the Sarasota County School Board and Sheriff Tom Knight. The district will pay 80 percent and the sheriff 20 percent of the $1.6 million for 11 deputies to cover 10 schools, plus a lieutenant and two sergeants. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. More than 100 people have applied to become armed guardians to protect Manatee County schools. Most have law enforcement or military backgrounds, officials say. About 40 will be hired. Bradenton Herald. The city of Clermont agrees to provide resource officers for three elementary schools and a K-8 charter school. The Lake County School District will pay the city $279,653 for the officers, and a one-time fee of $211,280 for equipment, including new police cars. Daily Commercial. A coalition of law enforcement groups is looking at ways to make schools safer. The initiative is led by Max Schachter, whose son Alex died in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting Feb. 14. Schachter’s group, Safe Schools for Alex Foundation, organized the meeting of the eight groups after he discovered there is no nationally recognized list of recommendations to improve school security. Sun-Sentinel. As individual districts work to meet the state mandate for an armed guard in every school, the Florida Department of Education is working to finish setting up its Office of Safe Schools to coordinate the security efforts. Damien Kelly, formerly a public corruption inspector for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, is its director. WFSUContinue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Armed guards, training, amendment support and more

School security: Broward County School Board members express support for the hiring of armed “guardians” to protect schools that don’t have sworn resource officers. Board members say they would prefer the guardians to be retired police officers or military veterans. Most would be stationed in elementary schools. Sun-Sentinel. The Lake County School Board approves a security plan that will put a resource officer in every school and arm some school administrators. Daily Commercial. The Volusia County School District has paid 100 percent of the cost for having deputies at middle and high schools since 2008. But with the law now requiring an armed guard in every school, school officials are asking the county for help to hire armed guardians to cover elementary schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has begun training more than 100 applicants to become armed guardians. Training includes handgun and rifle handling, how to engage active shooters and written tests. WFTS. WKMG. Lakeland Ledger. The Manatee County School Board is considering several changes to its student conduct code that are required by new state laws. The proposals revise the situations in which the district can send students to mental health agencies, when it can remove students through the Baker or Marchman acts, would broaden the definition of a threat to any of its schools, and would prohibit firearms from being stored in students’ vehicles. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota County school leaders meet with law enforcement officials today to discuss school security and the district’s proposal to start its own police force. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Northwest Florida school and law enforcement officials meet to share ideas on how to provide school security. Panama City News Herald.

Amendments support: Only four of the 13 constitutional amendments that will be on November’s ballot have the support needed to pass, according to a poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce. One of of the four is Amendment 8, which would limit school board members’ terms to eight years, require the teaching of civic literacy in public schools and establish an alternative path to approval for public and charter schools that does not involve local school districts. The poll indicated 75 percent support for Amendment 8. Sixty percent is required for passage. News Service of Florida.

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Florida schools roundup: School crime reporting, scholarships, suit and more

School crime reporting: The Broward County School District has failed to report many students’ crimes to the state as required by state law, according to records from the Broward Sheriff’s Office. For example, the district reported 193 weapons were found in schools during the 2016-2017 school year, but officials acknowledge they no longer were counting such things as ammunition, small knives, throwing blades, nunchucks, BB guns and combustible materials. District spokeswoman Cathleen Brennan says the data sent to the state is meant only to capture “the most serious of incidents, while other incidents are recorded and addressed locally.” Lisa Maxwell, executive director of the Broward Principals and Assistants’ Association, adds, “The state statute is really kind of unclear and open to interpretation, so it leads to subjective decisions.” Sun-Sentinel.

Scholarship oversight: Several legislators say they want to standardize education curriculum for all state schools. Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, was among those calling for the change after a newspaper report detailing some of the materials used by some private schools that enroll students who get scholarships from the state. Among those lessons: people and dinosaurs lived on Earth at the same time, slaves who “knew Christ” were better off than free men who did not, and God intervened to prevent Catholics from controlling North America. The state doesn’t track curriculum used by private schools with scholarship students, and bars the Florida Education Department from regulating academics at those schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer two scholarship programs students use to attend private schools. Orlando Sentinel.

One lawsuit on hold: Leon County Circuit Court Judge James Shelfer rules that the Palm Beach County School Board’s challenge of the Legislature’s 2017 education law, H.B. 7069, is on hold until an appeal on a broader lawsuit against the law is settled. Palm Beach is challenging only the part of the law that requires the district to share local property tax revenue with charter schools it authorizes. The other lawsuit, brought by several districts, claims the law is unconstitutional because it has “encroached on the authority vested by the Florida Constitution in locally elected district school boards to operate, control, and supervise the local public schools located in their respective jurisdictions.” redefinED. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Hope Scholarship rules, security and more

Hope Scholarship rules: Florida school districts are asking the state to clarify the rules to determine how bullied students can qualify for Hope Scholarships to attend private schools. “The way the statute reads, we would have to make the scholarship [notification] available even if the allegations were not merited,” Santa Rosa County assistant superintendent Bill Emerson said during a conference call with Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice officials. Those officials did not disagree with the interpretation. Local school officials have expressed concerns that the rules could be abused by parents who are more interested in getting the scholarship money than protecting a child. News Service of FloridaGradebook.

School security: The city of Miami Beach agrees to place police officers at the six schools in the city, starting in August. It’s the first city in the county to come to such an agreement with the Miami-Dade County School Board. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says he expects to reach similar agreements with other municipalities in the next few weeks. Miami Herald. WPLG. Two Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School security watchmen have been barred from campus and reassigned after reports that they saw confessed school shooter Nikolas Cruz come on campus Feb. 14 but did nothing to intervene. Sun-Sentinel. Broward County parents are offering to buy metal detectors for Stoneman Douglas High and nearby J.P. Taravella High School. The detectors cost about $3,500 each. Sun-Sentinel. The NRA sends questionnaires to politicians asking if they will repeal the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act passed by the Legislature after the Parkland shooting. The law created a three-day waiting period to buy guns and raised the legal gun-buying age from 18 to 21. Sun-SentinelTampa Bay Times. St. Johns County officials seem receptive to Superintendent Tim Forson’s proposal to have the school board pay for resource officers and armed security guards for schools, and the county pay for the SROs’ cars and equipment. St. Augustine Record. WJAX. WJXT. The Gulf County School Board rejects Superintendent Jim Norton’s recommendation that the district participate in the state program to arm school employees. Port St. Joe Star. The Green Cove Springs City Council approves an agreement with the Clay County School Board to supply resource officers for the two schools in the city, with the board paying the $143,000 cost. WJXT. An active shooter training exercise at Bayshore High School in Manatee County convinces at least two school board members that there should be a sworn officer in every school, instead of the current plan for a mix of armed guards and sworn officers. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A study by the Police Executive Research Forum, commissioned by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, suggesting that the sheriff’s office and school district’s force should merge is rejected by both. The consultant’s report also concludes that the first officer to arrive at a mass shooting should move in to confront the shooter before backup arrives. Palm Beach Post.

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Research brings positive news for vouchers in North Carolina

New research from North Carolina State University breaks a streak of widely publicized negative test results for voucher students. It shows modest to strong positive effects for low-income students who use North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program.

The study, “An Impact Analysis of North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program on Student Achievement,” by Anna Egalite, D.T. Stallings and Stephen R. Porter, is the first statewide voucher study in several years to show immediate and strong positive effects right out of the gate.

“The effects sizes observed are positive, large, and statistically significant,” the researchers wrote.

The report comes after several studies over the last two years have shown negative impacts in Louisiana, Ohio, Indiana and D.C. Overall the research still trends modestly positive for voucher recipients with eight of the 15 “gold-standard” random-assignment studies showing positive effects. Only three show negative effects.

North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship program was launched in 2013 to low-income students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. It offers scholarships worth up to $4,200 to attend private schools. Participating private schools do not have to use the same state curriculum or standardized test as public schools. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Task force findings, cop talks, term limits and more

Security task force: Almost four months after 17 people were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a Broward County school safety task force recommends 100 ways to improve security for schools. Among them: installing portable metal detectors at Stoneman Douglas this fall and considering them for all schools, putting coverings over windows in doors, keeping classroom doors locked at all times, increasing the height of all outdoor fences, requiring ID badges for all students and staff, and reviewing the Promise program, which was created in 2013 as a way to offer alternatives to arresting students. The committee members also joined local officials in calling on the Legislature to boost funding for school safety. Sun-Sentinel. Miami HeraldWSVN. Politico Florida. WLRN.

A cop reflects: Scot Peterson, a Stoneman Douglas resource officer who did not enter the building where confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz was killing 17 people on Feb. 14, is haunted by that day, at times justifying his decisions (“How can they keep saying I did nothing?”) and at times questioning them (“Why didn’t I know to go in?”). He has considered changing his name or moving out of state, but knows there’s no escaping the infamy. “It’s haunting,” Peterson says. “I’ve cut that day up a thousand ways with a million different what-if scenarios, but the bottom line is I was there to protect, and I lost 17.” Still, he believes there is little or nothing more he could have done. Washington Post. Parents of students killed at Stoneman Douglas express outrage at Peterson’s comments. “I’m tired of him trying to paint himself as the victim,” says one, Fred Guttenberg, the father of 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg. “He is not a victim. He created victims. He keeps referring to them as his kids. They are not your kids, Scot Peterson! You let them die!” Miami Herald. Continue Reading →