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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Jan. 15, 2017

Times file photo



Big legal news in Florida education circles this week. The state Supreme Court tossed out the Florida Education Association's legal challenge of corporate tax credit scholarships -- one of the nation's largest school choice programs serving nearly 100,000 low-income children -- based on issues of standing. An appellate court, meanwhile, rejected the Palm Beach County school district's claim that the Florida Board of Education had no authority to override district decisions on charter school applications. On other fronts, several school districts grappled with attendance zone revisions, one district ended all local course exams, and another sought strategies to fill its teaching vacancies. Visit the Gradebook daily for the latest Florida education news. Contact to subscribe to this newsletter, or to send comments.

Top of the Times

School tax-credit program survives teacher union's attempt to kill it, Mary Ellen Klas
"Florida's Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by the state's teachers union to dismantle a tax credit scholarship program that finances students from low-performing schools to attend private schools, scoring a decisive blow for supporters of school choice."

Clay County schools suspend all district-level tests, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Two days after Florida senators greeted ideas to scale back state testing, the Clay County superintendent took action. Superintendent Addison Davis announced he would suspend all county-mandated testing, effective immediately."

Senate bill seeks to refine mission of Florida community college system, Claire McNeill
"A new bill aimed at refining Florida's sprawling community college system would refocus the two-year mission of state colleges, the primary access point to higher education for the majority of degree-seeking Floridians."

Pasco looks for ways to improve on a school rezoning process that left many unhappy, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"‘Painful.' ‘Terrible.' ‘Flawed.' That's how many Pasco County parents are describing the acrimonious process that led to Tuesday night's School Board votes to redraw school zones. ‘It's kind of hard to explain to our kids why the guidelines seem capricious,' said Bret Tobey, a Longleaf parent whose daughters will be moved from Mitchell to River Ridge high school, joining thousands of students similarly affected by the decisions."
RELATED: Pasco School Board approves new attendance zones for thousands of students

Around the State

Court upholds charter school appeal law, News Service of Florida, Jim Saunders
"In a dispute stemming from a proposal to add a charter school in Palm Beach County, an appeals court Wednesday upheld the constitutionality of a law that allows the State Board of Education to overturn local denials of charter-school applications."

State education leaders target out-of-school suspensions that disproportionately impact black students, Politico Florida, Jessica Bakeman
"Florida education officials hope to tackle out-of-school suspensions, working with local leaders to limit the use of the discipline strategy in districts around the state."

PBC charter school threatens to expel student over dad's Facebook post, Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra
"The principal of Eagle Arts Academy threatened last week to expel a student after his father posted a negative comment about the struggling charter school on Facebook."

Martin Luther King in classrooms, local history a toss-up, St. Augustine Record, Emilia Hitchner
"For many students, Martin Luther King is a textbook story. His poignant message of tolerance, his recants of social upheaval and his leadership role in the national war against racism is neatly, if not briefly, logged in social study lessons. But here in St. Augustine, King's influence isn't dulled by the repetition of ink. The city's streets are lined with his presence. Plaques, statues, museums. The Lincolnville neighborhood's houses, churches and community resonate civil rights history. ‘And I still have students who live in or around that area that aren't even aware he was here,' said Scott Benyacko, a teacher at St. Augustine High School."

School board, Vitti debate how to best cope with district's teacher shortage, Florida Times-Union, Denise Smith Amos
"Fifteen weeks into the school year, Duval County's School Board hired 34 new and returning teachers. The district still needs nearly 200 more. Duval cannot dodge the ongoing national shortage of teachers. The lack of teachers is so severe that this year school district leaders are considering changing key strategies to plug some instructional holes."

Other Views

Bilingual teachers, Florida needs you, Orlando Sentinel guest column, Harvard doctoral candidate Christine Dahnke
"If we as Floridians agree that bilingualism and biliteracy are meaningful goals, and responsive school districts are adding dual-language programs, then a significant challenge persists. If we offer more dual-language programs, where will we find more bilingual teachers?"

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos could mean more Florida charter schools, a lot more, SaintPetersBlog columnist Joe Henderson
"By not ‘defending and increasing Washington's power' we would assume DeVos would defer more education power to Florida. That may not be much help. Besides the federal mandates, Florida tacked on many other tests, leading to teacher burnout and complaints they were only ‘teaching the test' to bored students while Republicans touted charter schools as the answer. In the next four years, Florida undoubtedly will have many more than the 652 charter schools currently serving more than 270,000 students. That is an increase of 134 charters and about 90,000 more students since Rick Scott took over as governor in 2011."

Parents must refuse to return to Dark Ages in education, Tallahassee Democrat guest column, charter school operator and former state senator John Legg
"Make no mistake: School choice has made public education better. Just visit your local public school and ask about all the district choices that didn't exist a decade ago. The more options there are, the more opportunity there is for more students to find success."

An education battle worth having in Florida, Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano
"In Florida, the voucher program is not the enemy. The enemy is state legislators who tie the hands of public school boards, administrators and teachers, and then shout about them not being innovative. You think competition makes for better schools? Fine, just make it a fair fight."

Reports of Note

The Effects of Mandated Third Grade Retention on Standard Diploma Acquisition and Student Outcomes Over Time, Kathleen Jasper, Florida Gulf Coast University doctoral dissertation
"Longitudinal data was evaluated for both the retained and nonretained students. Researchers found 93% of the retained students continued to score below proficiency (below a level 3) seven years after retention on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT as compared with the 85.8% of the non-retained students."

School Improvement Grants: Implementation and Effectiveness, Institute of Education Sciences
"Overall, across all grades, we found that implementing any SIG-funded model had no significant impacts on math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment."

Coming Up

The 2017 legislative session resumes next week with more committee meetings. House PreK-12 Innovation convenes at 1 p.m. Wednesday to discuss public school choice, followed by a PreK-12 Quality discussion on turnaround school plans at 4 p.m.  The House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee meets at 9 a.m. to talk budget priorities and early education funding.

On the Senate side, the the Education Committee meets at 4 p.m. Monday to tackle two leadership priority bills on colleges and universities. The Education Appropriations subcommittee gathers at 9 a.m. Wednesday to talk about teacher pay.

The university system Board of Governors is on tap for Jan. 25-26 in Lakeland.

On File

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

SB 392, Financial Literacy as a Graduation Requirement
HB 303, Religious Expression in Public Schools
HB 265, Computer Coding as a Foreign Language
HB 253, Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Renewal Eligibility

[Last modified: Friday, January 20, 2017 3:00pm]


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