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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of March 13, 2016



Now it's time for the fallout. Gov. Rick Scott signed Florida's 2017 budget into law with a handful of vetoes affecting education issues. School districts started to look at what the money message meant locally. Meanwhile, the court case over whether Florida appropriately funds public schools kicked off, six years after it was filed. District leaders also began exploring the possible implications of new school choice rules, if Gov. Scott signs those into law. Among more local issues, districts reviewed teacher incentive pay, student discipline policies, and even the lack of permanent teachers in their classrooms. Catch up with the latest Florida education news daily on the Gradebook. Send your tips, concerns and questions to

Top of the Times

Gov. Rick Scott signs record $82 billion budget in speedy fashion, Jeff Harrington
"Without fanfare, Gov. Rick Scott said late Thursday he has signed a record $82 billion budget for next fiscal year, keeping intact $256.1 million in line-item vetoes that he foreshadowed earlier this week."
DOCUMENTS: Gov. Scott's transmittal letter, and Veto List
RELATED: Local education projects hit in Gov. Rick Scott's veto plans

Pinellas eases school discipline policies as advocates call for even more action, Cara Fitzpatrick
"The Pinellas County School Board has agreed to ease the district's discipline policies by cutting the number of days a student can be suspended out of school and no longer deducting from their grades on makeup work."

Pasco school district won't offer more incentive pay to lure teachers to Lacoochee Elementary, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Teachers at Pasco County's Lacoochee Elementary won't be getting a pay boost simply for choosing to work at the remote, rural school anymore. ... ‘I did not see any return on the investment,' [superintendent Kurt]  Browning told the Gradebook. ‘It didn't work.'"

Trial challenging Florida's education system gets underway in Tallahassee, Kristen M. Clark
"A Tallahassee judge heard opening arguments this morning in a month-long civil trial that could up-end Florida's entire education system. Attorneys representing Citizens for Strong Schools want Leon County Circuit Court Judge George S. Reynolds III to declare that the Florida Department of Education -- and by extension, the Florida Legislature -- has failed to fulfill its constitutionally mandated ‘paramount duty' to provide a ‘high quality' education for all public school students."

Around the State

Duval charter school grades below state, district marks, Florida Times-Union, Denise Smith Amos
"When it comes to school grades, Duval's charter schools perform worse than their local public school competitors and statewide charter schools, recent state data show."

Student to school board: We've had a math sub all year, we want an education, Palm Beach Post, Sonia Isger
"A sophomore from Palm Beach Lakes High and four of his classmates, all eyeing careers in the justice system, came to seek a piece of that from the school board Wednesday night. They say they have gone the entire year without a regular geometry teacher."

Volusia students raise awareness against 'R-word', Daytona Beach News-Journal, Dustin Wyatt
"They are spreading a message, encouraging others to stop using what they call the ‘R' word - retarded. A video they posted for the cause on Youtube recently, set to the John Mayer song ‘Waiting for the World to Change,' has more than 2,200 views. No post shared on the Volusia Special Olympics Facebook page has ever received more clicks."

Okaloosa Schools adapt to language diversity, Northwest Florida Daily News, Leah Johnson
"All day students pop in and out of Norely Soto's class at Destin Middle School to ask for help translating and understanding work assignments. On any given day, Soto, an interpreter for the school, teaches English to students who come from as many as 40 countries."

Education bill changes student transfer rules statewide, including in Manatee County, Bradenton Herald, David B. Wilson
"School choice has long been a source of controversy in Manatee County. Even before HB 7029 passed through the state house and senate Friday, students were allowed free reign to transfer, although, theoretically, they couldn't choose a school for athletic reasons. Still, athletes from Palmetto dot the rosters at Manatee. Students who live in Bradenton play sports at Palmetto and athletes from Parrish play at Southeast. The new law normalizes throughout the state what has been commonplace in Manatee County."

Reports of Note

We need more evidence in order to create effective pre-K programs, Brookings Institution
"State investment in pre-K programs is predicated on the belief that pre-K is effective at promoting school readiness skills, and, most importantly, that those skills will then be linked to long-term school success, i.e., closing the achievement gap. Oddly, despite huge support for pre-K from politicians and advocates alike, three critical questions related to this belief have not been addressed. The first is which skills and dispositions among young children are the most important to influence early for long-term success in school. The second is which classroom and center practices will work to promote those skills and dispositions. The final question is which assessment systems will validly capture the quality of those practices when they are scaled up for delivery in thousands of pre-K settings."

Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card, Education Law Center
The group ranks Florida near the bottom in three of four categories. From the report:
"States are evaluated by two methods - a grading curve and rank. Funding Distribution and Effort, the two measures over which states have direct control, are given letter grades that are based on the typical grading "curve" and range from "A" to "F."4 Funding Level and Coverage are ranked because these measures are influenced not only by state policy, but also by other historical and contextual factors."

State teacher salary schedules, Education Commission of the States policy analysis
"State policymakers need to keep in mind that school districts can view the implementation of a statewide salary schedule as both a loss of control over local education policies and as a possible unfunded mandate."

Holding Teacher Preparation Accountable, National Education Policy Center
This review has two major conclusions. The first is that across three of the four initiatives (HEA regulations, CAEP accreditation, and NCTQ's reviews), there is thin evidence to support the claims proponents make about how the assumed policy mechanisms will actually operate to improve programs. ... Our second conclusion is that although all of the accountability initiatives we reviewed are intended to diminish educational inequality, underlying most of them is a notion of what we call thin equity."

Other Views

Beware the Education Train, Tampa Bay Times guest column, former state Sen. Paula Dockery
"Legislators use these trains to force the other chamber to accept something they don't want by attaching it to something they do. These bills are difficult to follow and often collapse under their own weight. For this tactic to be effective, it needs to be timed perfectly so that under the pressure of running out of time, one side caves. HB 7029 turned into the education train. It started in the House as a 57-page charter school bill - a priority of Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, who has close ties to charter school management and construction companies. It ended up as one of the most controversial and one of the least transparent mega-bills of the session."

School Breaks the Rules, Kids Get the Blame, HSLDA
"In February, a member family in Broward County received a letter demanding a portfolio review for two of their three children. All three children had been enrolled in a local public school that had been re-organized as a charter school at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. However, the family decided that the school wasn't working for their children and they withdrew the children in early October."

Testing parties are stupid, Sun-Sentinel column, Gary Stein
"Parties, food, entertainment. How about just preparing kids and giving them the test?"

Broward School Board is ruining our public education system, Westside Gazette guest column, Broward Teachers Union president Sharon Glickman
"We all know that actions speak louder than words, and once again, the School Board has failed to show teachers that they are appreciated. If the board has its way, over the last seven years Broward teachers will have received an average salary increase of 8.5 percent while the rate of inflation was over ten percent. This means that a teacher with seven more years of experience is making less money in real dollars than they did seven years ago. Any way you slice it that is just, plain wrong!"

Thumbs down: Teacher bonuses continue - and cost more, TCPalm editorial
"Many rank-and-file House members were angered at how the program was funded and charge that proponents continue to ignore the concerns of educators themselves. We, too, question the wisdom of basing financial awards on old test scores, which by themselves don't indicate how effective a teacher really is."


Watch some Pasco Gulf Middle drama students reenact a favorite Monty Python skit, just for a laugh.

[Last modified: Friday, March 18, 2016 3:19pm]


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