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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

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

Times file photo



Florida's Legislature kept conversation about education issues lively this past week, with debate over religious expression, recess and testing among the hot topics. School districts that weren't on spring break dealt with matters as wide ranging as when to change out principals and whether to cut student busing.

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

Despite grand promises, change comes slowly to Tampa's four-time F school, Marlene Sokol
"This was supposed to be the year things finally got better at Potter Elementary."

More teachers, principals could qualify for 'Best & Brightest' bonuses, Kristen M. Clark
"More top educators in Florida would have a crack at an annual state bonus in the 2017-2018 school year, under initial proposals to expand a controversial, 2-year-old teacher incentive program.

Mandatory recess bill heads to Senate floor, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"A bill to require 20 minutes of daily recess in all Florida public elementary schools is now headed to the floor of the chamber that would not hear the measure just a year ago."

Plan to fortify religious expression in public schools quickly advancing, Kristen M. Clark and Louis Jacobson
"Efforts by the Legislature to make explicitly clear the rights students and teachers have to express their religious beliefs in Florida public schools is ready for a floor vote in the Senate, while earning high praise in an initial House hearing."

Pasco's midyear flurry of principal switches a 'domino effect' after unexpected death, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Since January, 11 county schools - including two that will open in the fall - received new principals. One vacancy still remains. The swift changes in the time leading to the state's spring testing period caused concern within school communities."

Around the State

Most valuable lesson at one Florida high school taught at lunch, CBS News, Steve Hartman
"When the lunch bell rings at Boca Raton Community High School in Boca Raton, Florida, 3,400 kids spill into the courtyard and split into their social groups. But not everyone gets included. Here at Boca High and at schools across the country, someone always sits alone."

Martin County School District cutting 98 school bus stops for 2017-18, TC Palm, Andrew Atterbury
"The ride has ended for students living less than 2 miles from school. The school district plans to eliminate 98 bus stops next school year after changes to a state law cut transportation funding for students who live within a 2-mile walking distance."

The price tag of Florida lawmakers' reforms for Miami-Dade schools? $83M, Miami Herald, Kristen M. Clark
"The superintendent of Florida's largest school district says he has "grave concern" about state lawmakers' proposed reforms in how charter schools get taxpayer funding for maintenance and construction projects."

More than 3,000 Central Florida students seek school transfers so far, Orlando Sentinel, Leslie Postal
"More than 3,000 students in Lake and Osceola counties want to transfer to new schools in August, taking advantage of a Florida law that allows them to attend any public school that has room."

Teaching of evolution, climate change at stake in Naples legislator Donalds' bill, Naples Daily News, Annika Hammerschlag
"It has been more than three years since a School Board meeting in Volusia County was canceled after a heated dispute over what some considered to be pro-Islam content in a history textbook raised safety concerns about potential violence. Dozens of protesters gathered before the meeting, holding signs with messages such as ‘Stop Teaching Lies.' But the battle over what should be taught in classrooms still is raging, and it has expanded to the state level."

Other Views

FL: Court Rules in Favor of Stupid, Curmudgucation blog
"The ruling, which threw out all of the August court decisions, raises so many questions. Since this buttresses the state argument that report cards don't matter, does this mean a child who flunks every class but gets satisfactory scores on the BS Test is legally entitled to advance to the next grade? Does this mean that Florida schools should abandon report cards entirely? Will Florida state troopers be sent into the sixty-ish other counties and force them to ignore portfolios and hold test scofflaws back in third grade?"

Protecting free speech in schools, Ocala Star-Banner guest column, Sen. Dennis Baxley
"Expressions of faith have been stifled in our public schools. This proposal is not intended as a criticism of our school administration; we have left them without clarity on this issue. Free speech does not stop at the school property line, and this statute will give clarity and direction on how to preserve this constitutional right without authorizing disruption and disharmony."

Eliminating political interference would be a real teacher bonus, Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano
"Two years later, we're still talking about teacher bonuses. As if this is the magical elixir that will suddenly lead to better schools, well-rounded students and happier lives."

Sanctuary schools make students feel safe, Sun-Sentinel editorial
"And because of today's anti-immigrant fervor - particularly President Donald Trump's decision to hire 10,000 more immigration officers and deport millions of people - some children are scared to death that at any moment, they or their parents will be rounded up and sent away. So last week, the Broward County School Board took the initiative to pass a resolution that declares schools a protected space for undocumented students - a move that essentially makes Broward the home of sanctuary schools."

Reports of Note

Finding the True Cost of Public Education in Florida, Florida TaxWatch
"Per-student spending is an easy-to-use measure by which taxpayers can evaluate public school spending and efficiency. Most taxpayers, however, have little or no idea how much is spent per student in public schools. The most commonly reported per-student spending figures in Florida are based solely on funding provided through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP). ...  But this figure, which is published in legislative budget summaries and widely cited by the media, can be misleading since it does not reflect total spending per student."

More Than a Place to Sleep: Understanding the Health and Well-Being of Homeless High School Students, Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness
"Homeless students face disproportionate burdens across the board-they are more likely to fall behind academically due to school transfers, absenteeism, and other instability factors; they are more likely to be suspended; they are less likely to receive timely identification for special education services; and the list goes on. What this report reveals is that these students face yet another set of obstacles to educational achievement-their health and risk behaviors-that, if unaddressed, will make it harder for them to finish school, follow professional goals, and remain stably housed in their own adult lives."

Coming Up

The Florida Board of Education meets Wednesday in Tallahassee. Its agenda includes approval of three Principal Autonomy Pilot Programs, and implementation of a mandatory turnaround plan for Jefferson County schools.

Week Three of the legislative session sees a heavy focus on appropriations in the Senate. Its schedule calls for both PreK-12 and Higher Education appropriations committees to meet Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The Education Committee is set to meet Tuesday afternoon, considering some bills and holding a workshop on testing and accountabilty.

The House agenda includes Higher Education and PreK-12 appropriations meetings on Monday. PreK-12 Quality and Post-Secondary Education are to meet Monday afternoon, PreK-12 Innovation on Tuesday morning, and Education on Thursday morning.

Florida's Constitution Revision Commission is to hold its first meeting Monday.

Students begin state testing on March 27.

On the Move

With the Legislature in session, many education related bills have begun to move through committees. Among them:

SB 78, Elementary School Recess, passed its final committee and headed to the Senate floor
HB 303, Religious Expression in Public Schools, passed House PreK-12 Quality 14-0, with substantially different language than its once-identical Senate counterpart
SB 436, Religious Expression in Public Schools, passed Judiciary Committee 5-4 and headed to Senate floor
HB 153, Excess Credit Hour Surcharges, unanimously reported out of its second of three committees
HB 591, Maximum Class Size, passed PreK-12 Innovation by 13-2
HB 773, State Testing, passed PreK-12 Quality by 14-0

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:

Can science and religious expression coexist in Florida public schools?
Class size, financial literacy, school grades and more

Find our past episodes on SoundCloud.

[Last modified: Saturday, March 18, 2017 6:57am]


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