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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

While you were watching the parent trigger legislation ...



The Florida Legislature may not have given parents the right to turn their failing schools into charters. But it did take other steps that supporters of the traditional schools have contended will further erode the system.

It's not necessarily surprising at this point, given that such actions occur annually in Tallahassee. But they're still worth noting.

HB 859 increases the cap for corporations that want to get tax writeoffs for contributing to scholarships (vouchers) for low-income students to attend private schools. Rep. Richard Corcoran, the bill sponsor, argued that the increase was needed to help alleviate a lengthy waiting list of families wishing to participate. Plus, he added, the program saves money for the state because it gives less to the private schools than the amount public schools receive for per-student funding. New language permitting the private schools to use the FCAT to assess student performance, a move those seeking accountability had in the past suggested, did nothing to win over the opponents to this bill.

HB 7127 put into law the rules state education officials said were needed to codify Florida's waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law. That includes provisions to change school grades, which appear likely to plummet along with the State Board of Education's new rules that accompany this law. Sen. David Simmons, the Senate PreK-12 education budget chairman, tried to put language into the budget bills delaying the grading system but removed it after Gov. Rick Scott offered assurances he help deal with mounting concerns. Meanwhile, the FDOE has created a task force to examine how it will best incorporate students of ESE and ELL into the grading system.

HB 7063 further expands access to Florida Virtual School and district virtual instruction programs, even amid reports that the virtual schools have questionable results. 

Education commissioner Gerard Robinson issued a statement this week praising the Legislature for adopting priorities of the governor and the State Board of Education:

"I want to thank the members of the Florida Legislature for their hard work to ensure that our children continue to have the opportunity to compete on a global level. The State Board of Education agrees with Florida’s parents, teachers, and taxpayers that improving education must be a high priority, and I commend our senators and representatives for their support of public education for the next generation of students. With this increase in funding and a streamlined accountability system, we will remain on the path of intelligent reform so that Florida may continue to lead the nation."

What's your take on the outcome of the session for public education?

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 8:31am]


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