ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Dec. 11, 2016
Students across Florida sat for their semester exams this week, as they prepared for a two-week winter break. Outside the classrooms, debate -- sometimes heated -- continued on education policy matters including class size, mandatory recess and even medical marijuana dispensary locations. Florida education news might become sparse in the run up to 2017, but it remained plentiful over the past seven days. Keep up to date with the latest on the Gradebook. Send tips, ideas and opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top of the Times
Florida's class size violations continue to shrink as reliance on 'choice' loophole grows, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Violations of Florida's class size rules continued their steep decline this fall, as school districts increasingly took advantage of a three-year-old legislative loophole, Department of Education records indicate."
Hillsborough to keep controversial SpringBoard textbooks, citing replacement costs, Marlene Sokol
"SpringBoard, the much-maligned math and English textbooks, have endured more than a year of loud complaints from teachers and students in the Hillsborough County schools. But instead of replacing them all, district officials promised at a School Board workshop Tuesday to make sure teachers have the training and, in some cases, supplemental materials they need to use the English lessons and texts more effectively."
High teacher turnover adds to problems at Moton Elementary School in Brooksville, Dan DeWitt
"Denise Rance said she had several reasons for resigning from her job as a second-grade teacher at troubled Moton Elementary School last month, including the need to devote more time to her family's business. But mostly, Rance said, she left because of the increased demands the school district and the school placed on teachers without adequate support or encouragement. ‘It was the complete and utter disrespect shown for educators in Hernando County,' said Rance."
Pasco parents offer alternative ideas to district's existing school boundary process, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"It's one thing to criticize the Pasco County school district's attendance boundary revision process, as many parents have done. It's another to come up with some possible replacements. Some parents have done that, too."
RELATED: Browning takes the helm in Pasco school rezoning process, and feels the heat
Around the State
Republican lawmakers have big plans for Florida's unique process to revise Constitution, Miami Herald, Mary Ellen Klas
"For the first time in 20 years, Florida embarks on a constitutionally mandated update of the state Constitution next year and, if Florida's top Republican officials have their way, they will use the process to overturn the most controversial rulings of the state's high court - on education spending, private school vouchers and political redistricting."
High costs, few benefits to longer days at struggling PBC schools, Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra
"Palm Beach County's public school system is spending millions of dollars a year to extend the school day at its worst-performing elementary campuses, but a district study indicates the investment often does little to benefit students."
District hopes change lures more substitute teachers, Herald-Tribune, Billy Cox
"The Sarasota County Schools system hopes its recent relaxation of screening requirements for substitute teachers will help plug gaps in the classroom."
School Board wants to keep marijuana that looks like candy away from kids, Miami Herald, Kyra Gurney
"As Florida prepares for the arrival of medical marijuana, the Miami-Dade School Board is urging lawmakers to keep cannabis away from school children - unless they have a prescription. At a meeting on Wednesday, the board voted unanimously to call on the Florida Legislature to ban medical marijuana dispensaries within 2,500 feet of schools if they sell anything other than the drug, such as pipes and other paraphernalia, and to prohibit medical marijuana products made to look like candy."
Orange County elementary students will get 20 minutes of daily recess, Orlando Sentinel, Annie Martin
"Orange County elementary school students will get 20 minutes of daily recess, according to changes to the district wellness policy approved by board members Tuesday night. The district recommended recess last year, but now it's nearly required. The policy allows teachers to schedule recess at their discretion and to cancel it if in their "professional judgment" it's not possible."
Probe of address fraud at Calusa Elementary in Boca Raton nears completion, Sun-Sentinel, Lois K. Solomon
"The Palm Beach County School District's investigation of possible address fraud among students at Calusa Elementary School in Boca Raton - the county's most crowded campus - is nearly complete. Parents at the 1,237-student school, built for only 836, have been protesting a proposed attendance zone change that would move 372 Calusa students to different schools next year. They say they don't want to leave the popular, A-rated campus, and many are convinced that boundary fraud is rampant."
Florida senators raise voices for public schools, Tampa Bay Times editorial
"A bipartisan group of state senators recently struck a constructive tone on education priorities, vowing support for increased teacher pay and less testing among other commonsense approaches. Championing public schools shouldn't be a controversial or partisan issue, but too many school choice supporters have framed the future of education as an either/or proposition. That's a terrible way to craft education policy, and it harms traditional public schools where most of the teaching and learning still take place. And that's why it's so helpful for senators to pledge they will be strong, vocal advocates for the system that serves Florida's 2.7 million public school students."
Charter schools have benefits, challenges, Gainesville Sun guest column, retired UF economics professor David Denslow
"More charter schools are on the way, especially in Florida. That's how the political winds are blowing. That will bring challenges. One is uncertainty about facilities, the number of administrative personnel needed and abruptly absorbing students from a failed charter school. Another is the threat of having to fund debts, pensions and high pay for senior teachers in the face of slowing enrollment growth in traditional schools as charters remove students and resources. And then, the grifters."
$640,000, no questions asked: School Board invites abuse, Orlando Sentinel editorial
"Worried about stretching your budget to cover everyone on your gift list? Just think how much easier life would be if you could play Santa Claus with other people's money. That's a privilege enjoyed by Orange County School Board members."
As predicted, appeals court slams Lake School Board, Orlando Sentinel columnist Lauren Ritchie
"Too bad it took a federal appeals court to smack the Lake County school district with what sensible people already knew: Letting kids at Carver Middle School in Leesburg form a gay-straight-alliance club is a non-issue."
Lawsuit to kill scholarship program will hurt Pine Hills, Orlando Advocate guest column, Latrina Peters-Gipson, Principal Saint Andrew Catholic School
"Saint Andrew Catholic School in the Pine Hills neighborhood was on the verge of closure a few years ago. The neighborhood had changed dramatically over time, and the school lost its connection with the community. Though parents wanted educational alternatives, they viewed the school as unaffordable. The educators and leaders of Saint Andrew rallied and worked to become part of the community again. With the help of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, we proved to the parents of Pine Hills that a private education was indeed within their reach."
Reports of Note
50-State Comparison: Civic Education, Education Commission of the States
"While every state addresses civic education in some way, 47 states and D.C. address civic education in statute generated through legislative action. However, laws vary considerably from state to state in the degree to which statutes mandate civic learning goals, curriculum and assessment. Civic learning and engagement policies are typically incorporated into social studies or character education statutes."
Recalibrating Accountability: Education Savings Accounts as Vehicles of Choice and Innovation, The Heritage Foundation
"Price controls likely also play a role in reducing the incentive of participating private schools to expand enrollment. According to the AEI survey, most private schools participating in school choice programs in Florida (59 percent) and Indiana (57 percent) reported that they were planning to increase their enrollment, but in Louisiana, 65 percent of LSP-accepting schools planned to maintain their current level of enrollment and 13 percent planned to decrease enrollment. By contrast, only 2 percent of participating private schools in Florida and Indiana planned to decrease their enrollment."
Winter break is upon us for the next few weeks. But with January comes renewed activity in the Florida education world. The Florida Senate has scheduled another round of committee meetings the week of Jan. 9-12, with the Education Committee convening Monday and the PreK-12 and Higher Ed Appropriations subcommittees gathering Wednesday. The Florida Board of Education is set to meet Jan. 18 in Stuart, while the university system Board of Governors is on tap for Jan. 25-26 in Lakeland.