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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Aug. 6, 2017



Students returned to school all across Florida, with more ready to start on Monday. With the new year came new ideas, from a different approach to campus safety to a more focused attack on academic performance. After a short break, state lawmakers also got back into the swing of things, starting to file bills with committee meetings just a month away.

Catch up on the week's highlights below. You can keep up 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

Top of the Times

Hillsborough wants more magnet schools, despite their cost, Marlene Sokol
"Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins looked at his network of magnet programs, including their $8.7 million busing cost, and came to this conclusion: Let's do more of it."

Pasco County schools, Sheriff's Office, unveil new approach to campus threats, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"In a change from past practice, Pasco County students and teachers will be taught how to fight back -- rather than simply hide in lockdown mode -- if their schools face an active violent threat such as a shooter."
DOCUMENTS: See a presentation on the response plan for more details

Civil rights groups urge Florida, other states to consider neediest children in ESSA plans, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"A coalition of civil rights organizations has asked the leaders of Florida and 33 other states that have yet to submit their new federal education accountability plans to strongly consider the needs of their poorest and most at-risk students when developing their proposals."

Florida lawmaker proposes unregulated school visits for Florida lawmakers, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"A key Florida lawmaker has filed legislation that would grant all state lawmakers unfettered access to public schools within their legislative districts. SB 118, filed by Senate Education chairwoman Dorothy Hukill, would allow representatives and senators to visit the schools ‘on any day and at any time at his or her pleasure.' Local school district officials ‘may not limit the duration or scope of the visit or direct the visiting individual to leave the premises,' the bill further directs."

Around the State

Duval County school district reassigns nearly 40 teachers just before start of year, Denise Amos, Florida Times-Union
"Several dozen Duval teachers learned Friday they won't be going back to their assigned schools Monday. Instead, the 35 teachers in eight ‘turnaround' schools got new, last-minute assignments to different schools or they were put onto the district's "surplus" list, a kind of waiting list to receive a new job assignment."

Agape Christian Academy kicked out of scholarship program, Annie Martin, Orlando Sentinel
"With just a week until the start of classes, more than 100 students at a private school in Pine Hills could be left scrambling to find a new school after the state abruptly terminated its eligibility for three voucher programs."

$100 donation to skip the lunch line fails the test with Lawton Chiles principal, Madison Fantozzi, The Ledger
"Parent Chris Stephenson posted the slip on his Facebook page Wednesday and said because of the fundraiser this will be the first year he will not give money to the PTSA. ‘The last thing middle schoolers need is establishing a food hierarchy. They have enough problems as it is,' he wrote."

Kornegay ramping up success by stripping away distractions, Carlos E. Medina, The Daily Commercial
"‘No new initiatives. We want (teachers) to focus on fewer things. We are narrowing our focus instead of launching any new initiatives,' [Lake County superintendent Diane] Kornegay said."

Other Views

Money is following for-profit schools, not students, Fort Myers News-Press guest column, Lee County teachers association president Mark Castellano
"The Republican leadership has come up with a new catchphrase to attempt to justify their blatant taxpayer funded giveaway to for-profit charter school corporations: the money should ‘follow the student.' Except it doesn't; it ends up in for-profit corporate accounts, while public school districts must subsidize charters in new and unprecedented ways beyond just student funding."

How Charter Schools Buy Political Support, Huffington Post column, Hofstra University educator Alan Singer
"In Florida, the Miami Herald calls state ethics laws a ‘joke' for "failing to protect Floridians from legislators who profit from the charter-school industry in private life and have been actively involved in pushing - and successfully passing - legislation to fund for-profit private schools at the expense of public education." The Herald names names."

A Polk Perspective: Music is fundamental to children's education, not a wish, Ledger guest column, Polk County middle school choir director Megan Yingst
"During my senior year of high school, my former middle school's program was discontinued due to budget cuts. After appealing to the School Board and administration alone, I kept getting the same answer: ‘There is nothing we can do.' This was a turning point for me."

Parents have ‘back to school' responsibilities, Florida Courier guest column, author James Hankins
"Some parents never meet their children's teachers, attend PTA meetings, monitor homework assignments, discuss report cards, or monitor what their children wear to school. They don't know how many credits are needed to graduate or how many their children have. They also leave too many important future planning decisions up to the school system and their children."

Join the 7069 lawsuit, part 1: an elegant fight for good faith in state government, Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend's blog
"In short, our corrupt legislators created an unvetted, haphazard buffet of hooey - and called it a meal. They did it at the 11th hour of the session. They gave no thought to implementing it. And they were completely indifferent to the opinions and observations of the officials elected by their communities to oversee education. Even more importantly, they were indifferent to the human experience of the people who must execute and learn on the ground. To state the obvious: that is not how a good faith partner behaves. That's how an abusive spouse behaves. The 7069 suit is the governmental equivalent of a restraining order."

Reports of Note

Hiding in Plain Sight, Chiefs for Change
"For historical and political reasons, however, curriculum has often been considered a third rail in American education policy, one dismissed despite extensive efforts to develop clear standards, aligned assessments, and robust accountability systems. Nevertheless, leading states and districts - from New York to Louisiana to Washington, D.C. - are showing how smart strategies can be used to ensure that high-quality standards are matched with high-quality instructional materials, leading to strong student outcomes - without trampling on local control of education."

Globally Mobile Youth: Trends in International Secondary Students in the United States, 2013-2016, Christine Farrugia, Ph.D.
"International secondary student numbers continue to grow, but at a slower rate. International secondary student numbers more than tripled from 2004 to 2016, but the growth has been slowing in recent years. The annual growth rate of F-1 diploma-seeking students was 8 percent from fall 2013 to fall 2014, followed by 3 percent growth in fall 2015 and 1 percent growth in fall 2016."

Characteristics of Public Elementary and Secondary School Principals in the United States: Results From the 2015-16 National Teacher and Principal Survey, National Center for Education Statistics
"Public school principals spent an average of 58.6 hours per week on all school-related activities. On average, principals spent about 30 percent of their time on internal administrative tasks, 30 percent of their time on curriculum and teaching-related tasks, 23 percent of their time on student interactions, and 14 percent of their time on parent interactions."

Coming Up

Schools resume in Hernando and Pasco counties on Aug. 14.

The Florida Board of Education meets at 10 a.m. Aug. 16 via conference call. Call-in number: 1-888-419-5570, Passcode: 807 169 24

The Florida Legislature returns to Tallahassee for committee meetings beginning Sept. 12. See the schedule here.

Gradebook: The Podcast

We're podcasting, with newsmaker interviews and chats about the latest issues to crop up. Please take a listen, and send any thoughts, tips and ideas to jsolochek@tampabay.comThe latest:

Is Florida's funding formula 'educational welfare'?

Back to school, and legislative session, in the Sunshine State

Find our past episodes on SoundCloud.

[Last modified: Friday, August 11, 2017 2:35pm]


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