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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Jan. 30, 2017



Budgets, bond ratings and bells were part of the Florida education news landscape in the past week. A judge said a Palm Beach dad had no standing to challenge the way his son's school implements state class size requirements. And a Broward County city government took steps to prevent more charter schools from opening within its city limits. Follow these and other stories daily at the Gradebook. Send your thoughts, tips and ideas to, along with any requests to be added to our growing newsletter distribution list.

Top of the Times

Gov. Scott proposes $1.1 billion spending increase for state budget, Jeremy Wallace
"Scott proposes to cut $618 million in taxes mostly for businesses, boost education funding by $815 million, restore $85 million for his job creation incentive program and dedicate another $76 million to Visit Florida marketing programs. But that education funding would get paid by homeowners as property tax revenue grows with rising home values. That increased revenue would account for nearly $558 million of the extra dollars in Scott's plan."
RELATED: Gov. Rick Scott seeks to refocus Best and Brightest bonus in his 2017 budget plan

Florida lawmaker revives push for dedicated capital funding source for charter schools, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"The debate over whether to provide a steady revenue stream for charter school construction and maintenance projects is returning to the Florida Legislature. And Senate Education Appropriations chairman David Simmons says he's found a win-win scenario to get money to the state's more than 600 charter schools without hurting the more than 3,000 traditional public schools."

Investment House: Hillsborough school finances are improving, Marlene Sokol
"A New York investment house likes the way the Hillsborough County School District is cutting costs, and upgraded some of its debt from ‘negative' to ‘stable.' In a report from Fitch Ratings, analysts said Hillsborough [the nation's eighth largest school district] has ‘solid prospects for enrollment-driven revenue growth, historically low fixed carrying costs, a low long-term liability burden and adequate reserves.'"
DOCUMENT: Fitch Ratings report

Seminole High says goodbye to a schoolhouse staple - the bell, Colleen Wright
"Seminole High has turned off its bells to signal class changes, a first for Pinellas County and part of a larger effort to introduce the whole student body to elements of the school's ‘personalized learning' magnet, iHawk Academy. Students in the magnet are urged to take ownership of their learning, and the absence of bells creates a college-like atmosphere that puts more responsibility on them to be on time and manage their schedules."

Around the State

Senate looks at 'block tuition' for universities, News Service of Florida, Lloyd Dunkelberger
"The Florida Senate will move forward next week with a proposal that would require all 12 state universities to adopt a ‘block' tuition policy by the fall of 2018. The move to require undergraduates to pay a flat tuition rate per semester, rather than be billed on the current credit-hour basis, could be controversial. The state has had a block-tuition option for a number of years, yet none of the universities has adopted a plan."

Judge tosses Boca Raton dad's class-size lawsuit, Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra
"The lawsuit was filed nearly 1 ½ years ago but languished in court as Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Lisa Small mulled the school board's motion to dismiss the case. On Wednesday, Small grant the school board's motion and tossed the suit, saying that a private individual does not have a right to sue a school board regarding the state's class-size rules since the state government is responsible for their implementation."

Margate enacts rules that keep out new charter schools, mayor says, Sun-Sentinel, Lisa J. Huriash
"Vice Mayor Arlene Schwartz, a retired school administrator for the School Board, said she is opposed to the idea of spending public money on private schools. A charter school is a free public school operated by a city or private group, touted by supporters as a way to provide educational choice for parents. ‘There is too great a proliferation of charter schools,' she said. ‘Enough already.'"

Poll: More Duval County adults rate school district's performance as poor, but parents give schools, teachers higher marks, Florida Times-Union, Denise Smith Amos
"Nearly a quarter of Duval County adults rated the school district's performance as poor, an increase of 5.6 percentage points from last year, according to a just-released poll from the Jacksonville Public Education Fund."

Palm Beach County schools consider leasing new high school, Sun-Sentinel, Scott Travis
"The Palm Beach County School District is considering a new approach to building schools - letting the private sector handle it."

Other Views

How School Grades led to the Elimination of Recess, Accountabaloney blog
"Most elementary school teachers understand the benefits of recess but, sadly, many children in Florida's public school are not getting recess. Why? It can be traced directly back to Florida's test based Accountability system.  When schools are graded on student performance on grade level, standardized tests, those schools will do whatever is necessary to improve student scores and school grades, even if it is not in the best interests of children. So, even though the many benefits of recess are well known, children, across Florida, are being held captive in their classrooms, preparing for standardized tests."

Gov. Scott champions an affordable education, Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial
"Regardless of the details, what's most important and encouraging is that Tallahassee is trying to control costs by holding the line on prices and by ensuring that students don't buy more than they absolutely have to."

NPR Explains How School Choice Might Look Under Betsy DeVos. And it's pretty, pretty good., columnist Ed Krayewski
"A spokesman for the Florida Education Association (FEA) told NPR that non-public schools Florida students can go to thanks to state scholarship funds ‘don't have to follow the state curriculum, don't have to participate in testing, don't have to hire certified teachers. They don't have to follow the same rules.' In other words, students are not trapped in the cartel run by the teachers unions and its friends. Students in more states should be so lucky, and NPR is certainly right about looking to Florida as a model. As an expert they spoke to noted, there's little ‘fungible' money in the federal education budget; Florida's model offers an opportunity to make funds available for school choice despite that challenge - likely DeVos is considering it, but if not perhaps NPR gave her a good idea!"

Education spending proposal Good news for kids, maybe not so good for teachers, St. Augustine Record editorial
"But what Scott giveth, Scott takes away. To balance the student spending hikes he counting on eliminating the Best and Brightest Scholarships for teachers. In his defense, the program was and is controversial. Bonuses of up to $10,000 were given based on ACT and/or SAT scores. Many of our more tenured teachers did not take those tests, or scores were not available. It was an unfair system, with good intentions. Instead, Scott is proposing $58 million for teacher recruitment and retainment programs."

Rick Scott, Legislature set for an old-fashioned ‘T' word throwdown, Florida Politics columnist Joe Henderson
"Scott calls it ‘job creation.' Corcoran calls it ‘corporate welfare.' Public schools aren't corporate welfare, though. Without excellence in education, the whole state suffers."

Reports of Note

The State Requirements for Educational Facilities (SREF) Should Be Retained; Some Modifications Could Be Made, OPPAGA
"The State Requirements for Educational Facilities (SREF) are part of the Florida Building Code. SREF requirements apply to construction, renovation, and remodeling of public educational facilities owned by district school boards and Florida College System boards of trustees. This review focused on K-12 public school construction. We did not identify a compelling reason to eliminate the SREF. The vast majority of school districts (55) believe that the SREF provides value and should be retained."

What Math Content Is Taught and Learned in Online and Face-to-Face Algebra Credit Recovery Courses?, American Institutes for Research research brief
"In this study, the face-to-face students outperformed the online students in the short term. They earned credits at a higher rate, had higher grades, and performed better on the end-of-course test administered for the study than online students-on items that covered a range of algebra topics, including prealgebra, first-semester algebra, and second-semester algebra content. Thus, in the context of this study and in the short term, retaking second-semester Algebra I as a face-to-face class benefited these students more than taking this online version of the course."

Coming Up

Legislative committees return to business next week, with some hot-button items on tap. Budget cuts take the fore in the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee at 9 a.m. Thursday, while charter school accountability comes before the House PreK-12 Innovation Committee at 1 p.m. Wednesday. The state's overarching school accountability system gets the attention of the House PreK-12 Quality Committee at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

On the Senate side, the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee talks construction funding at 10 a.m. Wednesday, and the Education policy committee takes up three bills including one on computer coding as a foreign language at 4 p.m. Monday.

The Florida Board of Education is to meet Feb. 16 in Gainesville, where it is expected to consider rule changes on student transportation and Florida's tax credit scholarship program, among other items.

On File

Florida lawmakers continue to file education-related bills in the run-up to the March 2017 session. Among the latest:

SB 584, High School Graduation Alternate Pathways
HB 591, Class Size Requirements
SB 642, Exemptions from the State Requirements for Educational Facilities
SB 656, Reading Instruction (Identical to HB 79)

Gradebook: The Podcast

This week, editor Tom Tobin and reporter Jeff Solochek talk about Gov. Rick Scott's education spending plan, Sen. David Simmon's proposal for charter school capital funding and other odds and ends. Check out our podcast and send any feedback, ideas and tips to

[Last modified: Friday, February 3, 2017 3:00pm]


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