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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Feb. 5, 2017

11

February

This week in Florida education news found officials tackling some of Florida's big issues,  third-grade retention, public school funding sources, open enrollment among them. Other topics included school bus safety, play time for elementary students and guns on campus. You can keep up with these and other stories daily with the Gradebook.  You can also join our conversation on Facebook and listen to our new podcast for other views. All tips, comments and ideas welcome. Know anyone who'd like to get this weekly roundup or other email updates? Send a note to jsolochek@tampabay.com.

Top of the Times

Judges question parent positions in challenge to Florida's third-grade retention law, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"A panel of appellate judges on Tuesday appeared to lean in favor of the state and against a group of parents who are challenging the Florida law that keeps many third graders from moving to fourth grade if they do poorly on the state reading exam. The judges from the 1st District Court of Appeal have yet to make a ruling, but through questioning they suggested that the parents' lawsuit might have been more appropriately handled in local courts or through an administrative procedures complaint. One of the panel said the parents seemed intent on subverting Florida law when they told their children last spring to sign their names to the reading exam but answer no questions."
RELATED: What does 'participation' mean in Florida testing law?
WATCH: The Florida Opt-Out Network posted video of most of the oral arguments

Florida House members stay firm in tax stance while talking education spending, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"According to plan, Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee members on Thursday offered their ideas for cutting public education funding if revenue declines as projected. Some targets had broad bipartisan agreement, such as a $14 million incentive fund for school districts that adopt mandatory student uniforms. Other items on the table included district-level administrative funds, money for class size reduction and support for public broadcasting.... When it came to the bottom line, though, the House Republican position on property taxes held firm sway."
WATCH: See the archived video of the subcommittee meeting

School on Saturday? Pinellas sees it as another way to reach struggling students, Cara Fitzpatrick
"More than two dozen Pinellas County schools are offering Saturday classes this year in an effort to give students more opportunities to catch up, or even get ahead in their schoolwork. Students aren't required to attend, and most sessions last only a few hours. But the programs fit into superintendent Mike Grego's vision of expanding school hours for students who need it the most."

New Florida law tried - and failed - to make it easier for kids to go to school across county lines, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Students in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are anxiously waiting to find out whether they've won seats in their preferred schools, while Pasco County parents have just begun submitting applications. And several charter schools are setting up their admission lotteries. On the surface, it looks like business as usual. But a new state law designed to expand choices for families by allowing them to enroll in schools in other counties is having the opposite effect for many, forcing them to the end of the line."

Around the State

Quest for daily recess: Moms renew fight for more free play in Florida Legislature, Miami Herald, Kristen M. Clark and Kyra Gurney
"Across Florida, how much unstructured playtime public elementary schoolchildren get each day varies greatly from school to school. Some of the state's 67 county school districts don't have a formal policy, and in those that do, administrators often give principals and teachers a lot of discretion. It's that inconsistency that's leading passionate "recess moms" to once again lobby lawmakers this spring to pass a statewide, mandatory requirement that elementary schoolchildren get 20 minutes of recess each day."

Jefferson To Become Florida's First Charter School District, WFSU, Lynn Hatter
"The Jefferson County School system will be the state's first charter district at the start of the next school year. The School board voted 4-to-1 to convert the district into a charter after state education officials told them other options are unlikely to be approved by the state board of education."
RELATED: Jefferson County school district turnaround plans, submitted to the State Board

Duval School Board, Vitti discuss next steps to reduce weapons in schools, Florida Times-Union, Denise Smith Amos
"Duval County school leaders Tuesday night said they are responding to the 10 firearms incidents at district and charter schools this school year by setting up a new dedicated hotline for tips about weapons or violence in schools. They also said they will increase random searches at schools, and they already are engaging students in conversations about ways to reduce violence."

State Board of Education member Tom Grady FGCU president semifinalist, Fort Myers News-Press, Thyrie Bland
"Grady's candidacy is controversial for some for a few reasons. One is because he did not come up through the ranks of higher education. The other is because of persistent rumors that he is going to get the job."

Turning right on red could be massive time saver for school district, Bradenton Herald, Ryan McKinnon
"If you see a school bus turn right on red, in spite of the sticker on the back proclaiming it does no such thing, don't fret. The School District of Manatee County is in the midst of a pilot program allowing bus drivers to turn right on red, in hopes of speeding up route times and eliminating a potentially unnecessary regulation."

Other Views

Teacher Shortage Should Come as No Surprise, Accountabaloney blog
"Florida has a serious teacher shortage and Palm Beach County School Superintendent, Robert Avossa claims he never saw it coming."

Religious rights bill is unneeded, Ocala Star-Banner editorial
"Behind the emotionally charged claim that public school students and teachers across Florida are having their religious rights stepped on by educators leery of controversy, two state lawmakers are proposing a law they say would protect their rights to religious expression. Problem is, House Bill 303, sponsored by state Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville, and Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, appears to be a solution in search of a problem."

Florida taxes, schools: Do you know the full story?, Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell
"...[Gov. Rick] Scott's 3 percent boost - and the similarly small increases in recent years - pale in comparison to the 10 percent cut he made his first year in office. In fact, Scott's plan actually provides less money per pupil than Florida provided a decade ago, once inflation's factored in. Also, Scott's historic high of $7,421 would still be 25-30 percent below the national average, trailing such states as Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia."

Education funding gives Ingoglia a chance to prove he's not a politician, Tampa Bay Times columnist Dan DeWitt
"The Hernando County School District is just starting to emerge from a long trek through the financial wilderness, recently passing its first cut-free budget since 2008 and still limping along with inadequate reserves and scanty arts and music programs. State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill ... has been able to cast himself as a savior in this regard, helping the district secure more than $2 million in ‘sparsity funding' for small districts, and $500,000 to start a program for mentally ill elementary and middle school students. But the district recently pulled a request for money to continue that program after hearing discouraging budget news from Ingoglia's office - possibly abandoning kids with desperate, unmet needs - which shows exactly why this approach is no substitute for a long-term plan."

Reports of Note

Performance Pay Systems and OCPS Impact, Orange County Public Schools
"Despite initial research that described the potential advantages of performance-pay systems and success in small-scale pilots, these systems have not been associated with improved outcomes for students in most studies. Whether due to the complexity of the programs, differences between the enacted programs and research, or other consequences, evidence for these systems' effectiveness is scarce."

FUTURE OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT 2016 Survey of High School Students and Teachers, The Knight Foundation
"High school students mostly believe protecting free speech trumps protecting people from unwanted words, although there are important exceptions. Students are less concerned than adults about the privacy of their information but more opposed to the government invading it."

Coming Up

The Florida Board of Education meets Feb. 16 in Gainesville with a fairly light agenda. It will review six rule amendments and the 2017-18 list of teacher critical shortage areas. English, math, science and special education top the list.

Lawmakers return to Tallahassee for another week of committee meetings in the run up to session. Very few bills are scheduled for debate, as the focus remains on funding and big-picture issues.

On the docket: Senate PreK-12 Appropriations meets Feb. 15 to talk about programs for struggling students and recess, and again Feb. 16 to discuss budget. The House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee also convenes Feb. 16 to continue reviewing possible spending cuts. The House Education Committee meets Feb. 14 to look at turnaround school strategies, while PreK-12 Innovation discusses the achievement gap on Feb. 15 and PreK-12 Quality meets later Feb. 15 to look into civics education and teacher certification.

On File

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

SB 856, Teacher Annual Contracts (Identical to HB 373)
SB 808, Class Size Calculations (Identical to HB 591)
SB 796, Charter School Funding
SB 810, Restraint and Seclusion of Students with Disabilities (Identical to HB 233)

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 jsolochek@tampabay.com. New this week:

Kurt Browning on over-testing and 'high stakes-ness'

Third graders who can't read, education spending, and more

Find our past episodes on SoundCloud.

[Last modified: Friday, February 10, 2017 3:25pm]

    

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