ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 16, 2017
Seems like Broward County has started a domino effect. It was the first school board to commit to filing a lawsuit against the state and its controversial education bill, House Bill 7069. Then, the St. Lucie County School Board signed on, too. A running tally of school boards that have reportedly expressed interested in suing: at least Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee, Duval, Palm Beach, Alachua, Miami-Dade, Volusia, Bay and Lee. However Pinellas' superintendent and legal counsel predict it'll take about a month for any lawsuit to be officially filed.
Catch up on the week's highlights below. 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 [email protected].
Top of the Times
Pinellas teachers get schooled over summer break, Colleen Wright
"(Justin) Black is 25, and though he's going into his third year teaching physical education at Melrose Elementary School in St. Petersburg, he wanted to fine-tune his skills. He signed up for Springboard, a four-week summer program for rookie teachers to hone their ability to manage students while getting real-time coaching. Teachers also attend small-group sessions on topics like institutional racism and restorative justice practices."
"School Board attorney David Koperski laid out the details: There would most likely be a single lawsuit with many school boards as plaintiffs. The legal issues are the same for all school districts, and they would need a litigator with statewide experience. ...Pinellas' goal would to dismantle the Schools of Hope initiative, which Koperski said allows charter schools to bypass local School Board authority and apply directly to the state. He said it also opens the door for charter schools to become their own local education agency, or LEA, which gives them more power."
"Thanks to a recent change in state law, the Pinellas County school district will have to shell out $25 million over five years -- more funding per student than any other large district in the state -- for charter school construction and maintenance projects. That's why district officials are seeking help from local legislators to "lessen the inequity."
Did the number of A schools increase under former mayor Rick Baker? Allison Graves, Politifact
"Rick Baker has used mailers, forums and social media to relay one big message in his campaign for St. Petersburg mayor: Schools in St. Petersburg saw drastic improvements when he was mayor from 2001 to 2008.. ‘We went from zero A elementary schools when I took office to 16 when I left, and our total A and B schools went up by 260 percent,' Baker said. ‘I don't take credit for that, I honestly don't. I know that there's a lot of factors that build into that, but I'm just saying we were a helper and the schools did not feel abandoned in St. Pete when we did that.' Baker's data is right on the numbers, but as he acknowledged, there are a lot of factors that can affect school grades."
Around the State
Florida Supreme Court won't hear ‘opt out' school testing case, The News Service of Florida
"The Florida Supreme Court will not hear a case about whether public-school students should be able to "opt out" of taking the state's standardized tests. Justices issued a two-paragraph order Friday saying they would decline to take up the case, though they did not explain why."
Lake Worth High principal asked teachers to do son's math assignments, Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra
"Lake Worth High School's former principal asked teachers to do math assignments for his son, pressured teachers to change students' grades and charged students $1 to attend pep rallies, a school district investigation found.
Does public education in Florida get a passing grade? Appeals court to decide, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau, Kristen M. Clark
"A Tallahassee appeals court will decide if it's possible to measure if the Legislature, the state Board of Education and the Department of Education are providing "a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools." Plaintiffs in the case, filed in 2009, say they haven't, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau reports."
Failing Florida schools can now apply for extra cash under controversial program, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau, Kristen M. Clark "Nine low-performing traditional public schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties can apply for extra funding this school year under the controversial new "Schools of Hope" program that lawmakers narrowly approved this spring. One option available to 93 newly failing schools statewide - which serve about 64,500 students - is to vie for "Schools of Hope" dollars: up to $2,000 per student that could be spent on wraparound services, such as after-school programs and community partnerships."
"Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa has asked the School Board to continue to penalize families who support school choice. The superintendent wants to join Broward County in a lawsuit to stop a new education law and funding formula that treats all public school students equally - whether they attend a district-run school or chose to attend a charter school."
Commentary: Let Florida voters decide fate of education funding formula, Melody Johnson, My View, Fort Myers News-Press
"The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2017 Kids Count Data Book is out and, as usual, Florida did not fare well. The national report ranked Florida 40th among the states in ‘overall child well-being' - the same rank as last year. The overall rank is based on ratings in four specific domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. Unfortunately, one sub-category in which Florida showed significant improvement - ‘children without health insurance' - is certain to decline in the near future, if the proposed Senate Republican health care bill becomes law."
State of Florida ignores the success of Miami-Dade public schools, Dorothy Bendross Mindingall, Miami Herald
"This year, we saw the state of Florida launch a massive assault on public education. When the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the segregation of public schools was a violation of the 14th Amendment and, therefore, was unconstitutional, states, municipalities, and school districts grappled with how they would implement - or circumvent - the ruling. The idea of using public dollars for privatizing education began to take shape."
LETTERS: "Our schools are struggling due to broken promises," The Daytona Beach News-Journal
"I am responding to the writer of the June 11 letter, "Rethink spending for education," who posed the question: "Since when does a lobbyist or teachers union have a student's best interest in mind?" He should come to Tallahassee with me and witness the Florida Education Association's lobbyists speak to our Legislature about the over-testing of our students; the unfair and unnecessary requirement that high school students pass ridiculously difficult exams (or forfeit their graduation) and the other serious issues our students deal with."
Law boosting charter schools faces justified lawsuit, Our view, Treasure Coast Newspapers Editorial Board
"What a mess. When it came to education this year, the Florida Legislature employed the shotgun approach. Instead of passing numerous single-issue bills, lawmakers saw fit to lump everything into one overstuffed omnibus measure. Teacher bonuses? In there. New requirements for school recess? In there. Changes to standardized testing? You get the idea."
Commentary: School Choice Derangement Syndrome blinds critics to what's best for children, J. Robert McClure, CEO of the James Madison Institute, Naples Daily News
"U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos often touts Florida as a model for the kind of bold school choice-expanding policy innovations that the rest of the country needs. That is in large part because during Jeb Bush's two terms as governor, Florida distinguished itself as a national leader in advancing a number of far-reaching education reforms. But if Florida's 2017 legislative session is any indication, even some of the milder efforts to offer more learning options to students around the country will be met with unhinged, over-the-top, hyperbolic opposition from the education establishment. Witness what happened in the Sunshine State leading up to the governor signing a forward-thinking education reform measure that will help children in struggling schools."
Reports of Note
"We find that schools vary dramatically in the relative success of advantaged and disadvantaged students, and that different schools within the same school district differ substantially in terms of their advantaged-disadvantaged success gaps. In some schools, both advantaged and disadvantaged students fare especially well; while in other schools, both fare especially poorly; while in still others, one group does relatively well and the other group does relatively poorly. We investigate whether these differences across schools can be explained by differences in relative kindergarten readiness of advantaged and disadvantaged students, and we find that pre-school preparation is unlikely to explain the cross-school differences that we find. Moreover, we find that overall school advantage levels are unrelated to differences between the success levels of advantaged and disadvantaged students."
Comments on Florida's draft Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan are due July 31. Read about it and give your feedback here.
Early warning: The Florida Legislature returns to Tallahassee for committee meetings beginning Sept. 12. See the schedule here.
Gradebook: The Podcast
We're podcasting, with newsmaker interviews and chats about the latest issues to crop up. Please take a listen, and send any thoughts, tips and ideas to [email protected]. We are on a short hiatus this month. Find our past episodes on SoundCloud.