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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Feb. 12, 2017



Florida education news always picks up when lawmakers get to Tallahassee, and this week is no exception. They debated testing and other key issues in another round of committee meetings. But there was so much more. The State Board of Education approved tiny Jefferson County to become Florida's first county charter school district, several leaders with ties to education won spots on the Constitution Revision Commission, and some Palm Beach children and parents learned what pressures they face when they decide to speak out against school district actions.

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

Florida officials propose pushing state testing to final three weeks of the school year, Kristen M. Clark
"Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores said lawmakers have ‘heard loud and clear from parents, from teachers, from students' about ‘overtesting and the overemphasis of testing,' so that's why she and Republican Reps. Manny Diaz Jr. of Hialeah and Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor want to shift all assessment tests to the final three weeks of the school year, starting in 2017-18."
WATCH: Video of the press conference

Florida senators question Gov. Rick Scott's teacher recruitment, retention plan, Kristen M. Clark
"Florida senators in charge of crafting the K-12 education budget for next year aren't sold on Gov. Rick Scott's ideas to incentivize future teachers so they enter and stay in the profession."

Florida Constitution Revision Commission membership to include state education leaders, Jeffrey S. Solochek
The membership of Florida's Constitution Revision Commission continued to shape up Wednesday, as Senate President Joe Negron announced his nine appointments to the panel. Among his choices were two people with strong influence in state K-12 education matters over the past several years, Patricia Levesque and Don Gaetz.
DOCUMENT: Sen. Negron's press release

Around the State

Betsy DeVos Sees Choice-Friendly Florida as a K-12 Model for the Nation, Education Week, Alyson Klein
"U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos may have helped to create the charter sector in her home state of Michigan. But in a recent interview she singled out another state-Florida-as offering a great blueprint for the country."

School leaders say 'personalized learning' may not be paying off, Daily Commercial, Livi Stanford
"Lake County Schools officials are considering not funding their experimental personalized learning efforts because it is not consistently producing results."

District officials, board chairman butt heads over student testing, Bradenton Herald, Ryan McKinnon
"Student testing took center stage during a School Board of Manatee County workshop Tuesday when board Chairman Charlie Kennedy's proposal to limit district-mandated testing was met with a vigorous defense of the district's policy from a number of school officials."

Pulled from class: How PBC public schools discourage public dissent, Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra
"Technically, anyone can speak during the public-comment portion of a school board meeting. But as Miguel would soon learn, when students plan to bring up sensitive topics in that public forum, the school district works hard to dissuade them."

Jefferson will become charter district, schools to consolidate, Tallahassee Democrat, Ryan Dailey
"The State Board of Education accepted Jefferson County's fourth proposed turnaround plan,  which will see the district's two schools consolidate and be under the day-to-day control of a charter school company."

Other Views

FL: Merit Pay (Still) Doesn't Work, Curmudgucation blog
"Yes, and in other news, the sun is expected to rise in the East tomorrow. So, Florida has a merit pay system. In fact, Florida has tried to implement merit pay for quite a while. Of course, there are issues."

Unintended Consequences of Test-Based Accountability, Education Next columnist Robert Pondiscio
"The bottom line: I'm pro-testing. I'm pro-accountability. It's test-driven accountability I'm not so sure about."

Guidance goes long way in shaping good teachers, Tallahassee Democrat guest columnist Bill Hoatson
"How to create a good teacher and what to do about a bad teacher are two sides of the same coin. Unfortunately, most school systems are at a loss to do either very well. Here is a helpful insight: nobody wants to be a ‘bad' teacher, least of all the bad teacher."

Blame Jeb's 'belly flop' for teacher shortage, Sun-Sentinel columnist Jac Wilder VerSteeg
"Florida lawmakers just can't seem to figure out why the state is losing so many teachers. Florida lawmakers sure are slow on the uptake. Florida lawmakers and Florida governors are the main reasons the state has been finding it hard to recruit and keep teachers."

Florida abuses teachers and can't figure out why there's a teacher shortage, Florida Politics columnist Florence Snyder
"At the rate Florida is hemorrhaging classroom teachers, it soon won't matter that we can't hire school bus drivers for $11.88 an hour, because there won't be any classrooms worth taking the kids to. Every week brings fresh reporting about Florida's teacher shortage; none of it is a surprise to parents or policymakers who have been paying even the slightest bit of attention."

Hurdles to school choice remain despite Florida's open enrollment law,, Erin Clark
"Florida's new open enrollment policies are still leaving students behind."

Reports of Note

Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year 2013-14 (Fiscal Year 2014), National Center for Education Statistics
"In FY 14 school districts received $54.2 billion from the federal government for public elementary and secondary education, which represents a decrease of 4.1 percent from the federal revenue received in FY 13 ($55.6 billion), after adjusting for inflation (tables 5 and D-5). In FY 14 Title I funds accounted for $13.9 billion or 25.7 percent of federal revenues for education, special education programs received $11.0 billion or 20.3 percent, child nutrition programs accounted for $14.5 billion or 26.9 percent, and Impact Aid funds accounted for $1.1 billion or 2.1 percent (percentages derived from table 5). Impact Aid funds decreased by 20.7 percent between FY13 ($1.4 billion) and FY 14 ($1.1 billion) after adjusting for inflation."
RELATED: Florida per-student funding remains well below average, national report shows

School choice: How parents select high schools - a look at Australia, summarized in Journalist's Resource
"When given a choice of public schools, middle-class parents choose those located in wealthier areas with fewer immigrants and fewer residents who practice minority religions such as Islam and Hinduism, a new study suggests."

Beyond the Classroom: The Implications of School Vouchers for Church Finances, National Bureau of Economic Resources Working Paper
"The meteoric growth of vouchers appears to offer financial stability for congregations while at the same time diminishing their religious activities."

Coming Up

Expect another busy week in Tallahassee as lawmakers push priority bills and discuss key issues, including the budget. On tap:

9 a.m. Feb. 21, Senate Education considers six bills, including ones about elementary school recess and charter school funding
4 p.m. Feb. 21, House Education considers one bill on federal funding
9 a.m. Feb. 22, Senate PreK-12 Appropriations reviews local funding requests
12:30 p.m. Feb. 22, Senate Higher Education Appropriations reviews local funding requests
3:30 p.m. Feb. 22, House Higher Education Appropriations takes up eight bills on university programs
9:30 a.m. Feb. 23, House PreK-12 Appropriations considers 10 program-related bills

On File

Florida lawmakers continue to file bills related to education as the 2017 session approaches. Some of the latest ones include:

HB 843, Public Meetings
HB 827, Teacher Bonuses
SB 902, Gardiner Scholarship Program
SJR 938, Minimum Teacher Salaries
SB 964, Student Testing

Gradebook: The Podcast

We're podcasting twice weekly, with newsmaker interviews and chats about the latest issues to crop up. Please take a listen, and send any thoughts, tips and ideas to

New this week:
Meet activist and blogger Sue Woltanski
Testing, recess and more
Find our past episodes on SoundCloud.

[Last modified: Friday, February 17, 2017 1:50pm]


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