It's been crazy season in the Florida Legislature, with education policy and funding again becoming the 800-pound gorilla dominating discussion. But there's more going on in Florida education news, from a prominent superintendent's shock resignation to a rapper's surprise visit to a Miami school • Don't miss our weekly highlights of the news, views, reports and more. You can keep up daily with our conversation on Facebook, hear our podcast, and follow our blog to get all the latest Florida education news. All tips, comments and ideas welcome. Know anyone else who'd like to get this weekly roundup or other email updates? Have them send a note to [email protected].
Top of the Times
Reading, writing and bank accounts: Should Florida require a high school course on money matters?, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Sophia Lam is not ashamed to admit it. She's approaching her high school graduation, with college loans, tax payments, credit cards and more in the offing. Yet she's not sure how to deal with that financial reality."
Florida House and Senate pass similar-sized budgets, but fights are ahead, Lawrence Mower
"Florida's House and Senate both passed competing budgets on Thursday that, while not far apart on the money, are philosophically opposed about how to pay for schools, hospitals and affordable housing. The House passed its $87.2 billion budget on a vote of 85-27 after a highly-charged partisan debate that foreshadowed bigger election-year battles ahead, mostly on education."
Should teachers go to prison for romances with students? State lawmakers think so., Emily Mahoney and Kyra Gurney
"A proposal under consideration in the Legislature would make it a second-degree felony for teachers and other school employees to have romantic relationships with students, regardless of the student's age. The bills would prohibit any adult working or volunteering at a school from soliciting or engaging in sexual conduct, lewd conduct or a romantic relationship with a student."
As USF raises its standards, can a B student still get in?, Claire McNeill
"There was a time when it would have been unusual, maybe even unthinkable, that the University of South Florida — let alone the welcoming USF St. Petersburg — would reject a solid B student. But the USF System has honed its focus since those open-door days, seeking and attracting sharper applicants and climbing in prestige. That evolution will soon accelerate as admissions standards rise at all three USF institutions."
After lashing by state officials, Hillsborough puts new principals in four struggling schools, Marlene Sokol
"Criticized by a state board for delaying leadership changes at four D-rated elementary schools, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins made good on that promise this week with four principals who have strong track records."
Pasco schools find success letting students make more choices, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"'We can do it the way we want,' Jacob explained. 'We just have to follow the rules.' That's the way classes look throughout Chester Taylor Elementary School, which uses a 'learner-activated, technology-infused' approach to almost all its instruction. It's proven so successful and popular that other schools in the Pasco County school district are adopting it, too."
Around the State
State Education Officials Scold Broward District For Delaying Payments To Charter Schools, WLRN, Jessica Bakeman
"It's been a week since Florida's public school districts were supposed to distribute about $91 million in local construction funding to privately-run charter schools in their counties under a controversial new law. But Broward County Public Schools hasn't yet handed over its $11.5 million share to the 86 charter schools in that district — prompting an admonishment from the state Department of Education."
Drake made a surprise appearance at one Miami school. Then he did it again at another., Miami Herald, Kyra Gurney
"It's not every day a famous rapper shows up at a high school to film a music video."
PBC schools superintendent Robert Avossa to resign for publishing gig, Palm Beach Post, Sonja Isger and Andrew Marra
"Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa will resign in June to take a position at a Palm Beach Gardens publishing company, a move that he said will allow him more time to spend with family. … The move stunned educators and sent school board members scrambling to make plans to find a replacement."
South Florida teachers urge evaluation changes, Sun-Sentinel, Lois K. Solomon
"Half of the teachers in Palm Beach County schools get the highest rating on their performance evaluations — a bigger percentage than anywhere else in South Florida. A third of the teachers in Miami-Dade Schools get the highest score, and 18 percent in Broward get the coveted rating. The differences have led teachers unions to demand assessments they say will allow them a fair shot at the highest ratings, which bring bigger pay increases and bonuses from the state."
He can't vote yet, but he's running for office, Ocala Star-Banner, Joe Callahan
"While most high school sophomores are excited about getting their driver's license and finding a date for the school dance, 17-year-old Colton Sawyer Smith is excited to launch his political career. With 30 months still to go before the primary election in 2020, the North Marion High School student has pre-filed to run as a Republican for superintendent of schools, the post Heidi Maier has held since November 2016."
A more important debate for Richard Corcoran to have, Florida Politics columnist Joe Henderson
"As much as I'm anticipating the Great Debate next Tuesday between House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Tallahassee Mayor (and gubernatorial candidate) Andrew Gillum, there is another showdown I would like to see more. A faceoff between Corcoran and Florida Education Association president Joanne McCall could be one of the great confrontations in state political history."
Trainwreck, teacher Ryan Haczynski's Teacher Voice blog
"For those who haven't been keeping up with the latest Tallahassee shenanigans since the start of committee work back in September, there is one theme that is running through many of this year's bills—subvert the Florida Constitution by legislating around it. Two strong examples are the proliferation of vouchers and attack on teachers' unions."
The BIG Questions: What Choice Really Means, LWV Education Issues
"The Florida House and Senate will negotiate over how school systems can be either publicly or privately run or a combination of the two. They call this 'district flexibility', and it raises four BIG questions."
Campus 'Free Speech' Bill: Litigation Nightmare in the Making, Sunshine State News columnist Nancy Smith
"Talk about a misnomer. The inappropriately named 'Campus Free Expression Act,' approved Tuesday by a 7-4 vote of the Florida Senate Education Committee, would offer students about as much freedom as a prison yard. Exactly what the bill is trying to prevent."
Could casinos help fund 'Schools of Hope?', Redefined, Travis Pillow
"But no matter how lawmakers resolve their short-term spending plans, charter school operators would likely want some confidence that the startup loans and operating grants will be around for years to come. That's where gambling legislation might come into play."
Banish 'just a theory' dunces with sound science education, Tallahassee Democrat guest column, Brandon Haught of Florida Citizens for Science
"Science education is facing an unprecedented attack not seen since 2008, when state board of education members and lawmakers tried to override science education experts' revision of state science standards. Prominent scientists, science associations and educators rallied behind the accurate standards that included evolution as a required topic. They barely squeaked out a win on behalf of our state's students against the 'just a theory' mob. And here we are a decade later, fighting the same old battles. It's embarrassing."
Reports of Note
State-by-State Student-to-Counselor Ratio Report: Ten Year Trends, National Association for College Admission Counseling
"School counselors in American public schools currently serve an average of 482 students, a caseload nearly twice the recommended maximum of 250."
Money and Freedom: The Impact of California's School Finance Reform, Learning Policy Institute
"The country is watching as it is anticipated that, if successful, the new school finance measure may lead other states to adopt similar legislation. Time will tell. In the interim, this new research evidence suggests that money targeted to the needs of students, and allocated by local districts to meet those needs, can make a difference in student outcomes."
Initiatives From Preschool to Third Grade, Education Commission of the States
"The lack of coordination between education programs that serve children until age 5 and the K-12 education system is becoming apparent to education policymakers. States will need to employ strong leadership to set a vision for programs, transitions, governance and funding coordination to address gaps in early learning — setting children on a path toward third-grade success and ultimately, high school graduation."
Feb. 12: Senate Education, 3:30 p.m.
Feb. 13: House Higher Education Appropriations, 9:30 a.m. • House PreK-12 Appropriations, 12:30 p.m.
Feb. 15: House Education, 9 a.m. • Senate Appropriations, 1 p.m. • House session, 1:30 p.m.
Feb. 19: Florida Constitution Revision Commission, public hearing, Melbourne, 1 p.m.
Feb. 20: Florida Constitution Revision Commission, public hearing, Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Feb. 22: Florida Board of Governors, conference call
Feb. 27: Florida Constitution Revision Commission, public hearing, Pensacola, 1 p.m.
March 13: Florida Constitution Revision Commission, public hearing, St. Petersburg, 1 p.m.
March 21: Florida Board of Education, Hendry County
*NOTE: All legislative meetings appear on the chamber calendars, but might not take place. Several committees have canceled meetings already this session.
The bills are moving in the Florida Legislature. Among those passing at least one committee:
HB 5001, House General Appropriations (passed House 85-27, Senate refused to adopt as written, called for conference)
SB 2500, Senate General Appropriations
HB 7055, Education Omnibus, budget conforming (passed House 66-43, Senate refused to include in appropriations conference)
HB 1 / SB 1172, Tax Credit Scholarships for Bullied Students (differing versions)
SB 732, Home Schooling
SB 1056, Computer Science Instruction
SB 1756, Accountability for Private Schools Accepting Tax Credit Scholarships
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