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ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Oct. 29, 2017

A roundup of the week's top Florida education news, views, reports and more.
First graders studied math at Academy of the Holy Names school in Tampa.  Some private schools could qualify for state funding under proposals before the state Constitution Revision Commission. [ | 2013]
First graders studied math at Academy of the Holy Names school in Tampa. Some private schools could qualify for state funding under proposals before the state Constitution Revision Commission. [ | 2013]
Published Nov. 4, 2017

We’re all about Florida’s constitution revision process this week. Some provocative, yet not altogether unexpected, education-related proposals emerged in the run up to the member submission deadline. Catch up on this story and other highlights of the week’s Florida education news 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

Top of the Times

Florida proposal seeks to clear the way for public funding of private schools, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“The chairwoman of the State Board of Education, charged with supervising Florida’s system of free public education, has proposed amending the state Constitution to permit funding of some private schooling.”

As contract talks stall, Hillsborough teachers campaign for raises with email and pickets, Marlene Sokol
“With contract negotiations stalled, Hillsborough County teachers are on a campaign to try to get their scheduled pay raises.”

Should Florida school board members have term limits?, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“Current Florida law limits the length of service for lawmakers, governors and even State Board of Education members. School Board members face no such restrictions. But Erika Donalds, a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, thinks they should.”

In Pinellas, a push to find where the gifted kids are, Colleen Wright
“Instead of waiting for a teacher’s recommendation or a parent’s initiative as in the past, the Pinellas County school district is screening all second-graders in every school to seek out gifted children. The district fronted $45,000 for the screenings this year, which are pencil and paper tests with pictures and puzzles. Reading skills aren’t required. The screenings are expected to wrap up by Wednesday.”

With a focus on careers and ‘sneaky academics,’ technical high schools are on the rise, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“Enthusiasm for career and technical education has been building in recent years as educators and lawmakers moved away from the once-popular notion that every student should try for a college degree. Many districts have added career academies to their high schools, hoping to tap into students’ interests. Now that push is reaching a new level in Tampa Bay as two districts take steps to enter an arena dominated for decades by Hillsborough County’s Tampa Bay Tech.”

Around the State

Dixie schools’ book ban raises eyebrows, Gainesville Sun, Deborah Strange
“Superintendent Mike Thomas issued a directive Sept. 8 banning ‘inappropriate’ instructional materials after a complaint about Ernest Gaines’ novel ‘A Lesson Before Dying.’”

Schools’ new lunch policy to keep more kids fed, Daily Commercial, Carlos E. Medina
“Before Tuesday, students in Lake County Schools who forgot their lunch money had to hit up their buddies or choose between a peanut butter or cheese sandwich. Yes, you also got a fruit, vegetable and milk, but the sandwich options were kind of blah. Now, elementary and middle school students can charge one meal and pay the next day. If they continue to come without lunch money, the school will offer a turkey or other cold cut sandwich with a fruit, vegetable and milk.”

Sanford elementary school wins grant for teacher bonuses, more staff, new programs, Orlando Sentinel, Leslie Postal
“Idyllwilde will use its expected $1.6 million grant to give teachers bonuses — the amount must still be negotiated with the local teachers union — and to carry out a new program to encourage parents to become more involved in the school and their children’s education, said Anna-Marie Cote, deputy superintendent of the Seminole school district.”

Collier County student joins teen girls across U.S. in protest of ‘sexist’ dress codes, Naples Daily News, Annika Hammerschlag
“‘You make it seem as if by showing skin on our legs or, god forbid, our shoulder. (sic) We are welcoming guys or trying to tempt them,’ reads one petition, written by Jenny Rivera, a junior at Barron Collier High School in North Naples. ‘School should be a safe place to learn without concerns over whether my shoulder is causing guys to pass out in the halls.’”

Other Views

Sex education is lacking in Florida schools, Gainesville Sun guest column, high school junior Jupiter Jones
“All that confusion and lack of information combined with a primarily abstinence-based education leads to a lot of mistakes and misinformation among teens.”

If lawmakers believe in accountability for public spending, they’ll act on ‘Schools Without Rules’, Orlando Sentinel editorial
“As [former Senate president John] McKay told the Sentinel, ‘Everything needs to be remodeled periodically, whether it’s this program or your house. Nobody should ever think there’s never any need for remodeling.’ It’s time for state lawmakers to start getting this house in order.”

Those in charge of public schools seem to hate public schools, Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano
“Politicians rightfully consider cops heroes for fighting crime in the most impoverished communities, and then turn around and blame teachers and principals when schools struggle in low-income neighborhoods. It’s nonsense, and it needs to stop.”

Why you should pay more in school taxes, TC Palm columnist Gil Smart
“So bottom line, the Martin County School District, and most others around the state, need more money for schools. There’s a case to be made that you and I should provide it.”

Elected or appointed school superintendents?, Ocala Star-Banner columnist Jim Ross
“I have no objection to the constitution commission studying this idea and putting it on the statewide ballot. It’s a reasonable issue and deserves debate. A proposed constitutional amendment might even makes its way onto the ballot.”

Reports of Note

Persistent Gaps: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2017, National Women’s Law Center
“Twenty states had waiting lists or frozen intake for child care assistance in 2017: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.”

50 state snapshot of student debt , Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
“Student loan borrowers collectively owe more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt. This state-by-state snapshot shows how this debt is spread across the country.  It also breaks down the complaints handled by the CFPB from student loan borrowers in every state.”

Coming Up

Nov. 8. Senate PreK-12 Appropriations, 10 a.m.; Senate Higher Education Appropriations, 2 p.m.; House PreK-12 Appropriations, 1:30 p.m.; House Post-Secondary Education, 1:30 p.m.; House PreK-12 Innovation, 4 p.m.

Nov. 8: Alliance for Public Schools 2017 Community Priorities Summit, 9:30 a.m., Tampa

Nov. 17: Commissioner’s Education Convening (for superintendents and college presidents), Orlando
Nov. 28: Florida Board of Education, Leesburg

On File

Lawmakers have begun filing education related legislation in advance of the coming session. Some of the latest notable bills are:

HB 1, Hope Scholarships
HB 495, School District Price Level Index
SB 682, Students Remaining on School Grounds During Class Hours

See also Florida Constitution Revision Commission member proposals. Several relate to education.

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The latest: On Florida’s constitution revision and technical high schools

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