ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Sept. 2, 2018

Deputy solicitor general Daniel Bell argues the merits of Amendment 8 to the Florida Supreme Court on Sept. 5, 2018. [The Florida Channel]
Deputy solicitor general Daniel Bell argues the merits of Amendment 8 to the Florida Supreme Court on Sept. 5, 2018. [The Florida Channel]
Published September 8 2018

Top of the Times

Florida Supreme Court strikes Amendment 8 from November ballot, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"A controversial proposed constitutional amendment that could have significantly altered Florida's public education landscape will not go to voters in November. In a narrowly divided 4-3 decision, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ruled Amendment 8 should remain off the ballot. It upheld the order of Leon County Judge John Cooper, who found the measure's title and summary misleading."

Tutoring the teachers: School districts work to coach those who struggle on state tests, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Department of Education officials say the tests ask for basic knowledge that all teachers should have, regardless of assignment. Children deserve highly qualified teachers, they explain, and lawmakers have required the tests to measure that quality. School district leaders don't disagree with the sentiment. But they also don't want to lose strong educators, many of whom are on second careers and didn't get the same training as those who earned education degrees."

Records reveal extent of Hillsborough schools' cool air crisis, Anastasia Dawson
"Superintendent Jeff Eakins warned at a news conference on that first day of school that the district couldn't afford to fix every AC system. Still, he vowed that all 308 schools would have cool air when classes started. But records obtained by the Tampa Bay Times show that didn't happen: 52 percent of the district's schools reported air conditioning problems."

At UF, black students feel a reckoning on race is long overdue, Claire McNeill
"It's been an exhausting few years for black students at the state's flagship university. More than white nationalist Richard Spencer's takeover of campus, more than students of color wrangled offstage at last spring's graduation, black students say what grinds them down is the everyday isolation."

Visit tampabay.com for more education news from the Times staff.

Around the State

After complaints, PBC schools will replace 'In God We Trust' signs with state seal, Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra
"A new state law requires all Florida public schools this year to post the phrase 'In God We Trust' in a 'conspicuous place' on campus. The county's schools complied by posting the wording in boldface paper printouts, usually in the school's main office. But after complaints from teachers who saw the signs as an affront to the principle of church-state separation, the [Palm Beach County] school district decided that posting the state seal – which includes the phrase in small print – would be a less conspicuous way to comply with the rule."

Parkland commission looks to Guardians as backup for law enforcement during shootings, TC Palm, Andrew Atterbury
"Arming school employees, a security measure disavowed by the majority of school districts in Florida, could be the new normal by 2019. The commission investigating the Parkland shooting, meeting Wednesday in Sunrise, supported expanding the state's Guardian program, putting firearms in the hands of staff members who volunteer, to provide backup for commissioned law enforcement officers assigned to schools."

Florida, schools getting $95.8 million for Puerto Rico students, Florida Politics, Scott Powers
"Florida and county school districts are receiving $95.8 million in federal reimbursements to cover costs of taking in thousands of students from Puerto Rico who fled the island for Florida after Hurricane Maria last year, the office of U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy announced Tuesday."

Tutors changing fortunes of Lake schools, students, Daily Commercial, Payne Ray
"With large student-to-teacher ratios, teachers often find themselves offering one-size-fits-all lessons and agonizing as they watch lower-performing students fall further and further behind their classmates. That's why the Lake County School District and community leaders are pumping tutors into area schools in an effort to give more individual instruction to struggling students."

Other Views

Forget all their other election goofs, at least Florida voters got this one right, Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano
"Across the state, tens of thousands of voters came to the same conclusion last week on the same topic. We're talking big counties, and small. From the Keys to the Panhandle. When asked, they all decided we're not doing enough to fund education. And so 10 out of 10 counties voted to raise their own taxes to aid struggling school districts. Combined with two ballot wins in March, that's 12 victories in a row for a bipartisan cause."

More than ever, public education needs the united voice of the FEA, Florida Phoenix guest column, FEA president Joanne McCall
"In the past two decades, we have seen assault after assault on public schools, with our leaders shoving through measures that sap the life from public education. Long-term, they appear intent on destroying public education in favor of creating a fractured, privatized system that will line the pockets of special interests while leaving many of our students, especially those whose families have fewer resources, out in the cold."

Who should be picking up the tab for school safety?, Miami's Community Newspapers columnist Grant Miller
"Protecting children should be our top priority. The county and the cities are to be commended to working quickly with Miami-Dade County Public Schools to get officers in every school this school year with just a few months' lead time. But the legislature, the school board, the county, and the municipalities have some serious number crunching to do in the months ahead and some hard choices to make. Here's hoping they put the costs where they belong."

If we close the academic achievement gap, kids and community will reap the rewards, Miami Herald guest column, Maria C. Alonso and David Lawrence Jr.
"We can see Florida's priorities when we see how public funds are budgeted. Florida spends more than $50,000 a year to incarcerate a juvenile, but less than $3,000 a year to educate a child in pre-K, and not even $8,000 per child for a year in K-12. A preventive, rather than reactive, approach to state budgeting could save lives — and your tax dollars. If children's ability to succeed in school, which we uphold as a force for equity, already is affected before they even meet their kindergarten teacher, we clearly must start earlier."

Some applause for storytelling in a Sarasota County classroom, Herald-Tribune guest column, teacher Kelly Griffith
"Students worked in pairs to create fables about animals that had problems, such as not fitting in, and they solved the problems in their stories. Some fables were about troubles getting along and other challenges students encounter in their own personal world. By creating their own stories, the students could solve their problems without even realizing it."

Reports of Note

Transitions and Alignment: From Preschool to Kindergarten, Education Commission of the States
"Based on research and work with states, Education Commission of the States has identified these two key elements that states can consider when creating a coordinated preschool-to-third grade system: • Effective transition programs and practices that help the child and family move smoothly and successfully from one learning setting to another. • Authentic alignment of the basic pedagogical components of early learning and kindergarten to create continuous learning and teaching experiences."

The teacher pay penalty has hit a new high, Economic Policy Institute
"The erosion of teacher pay relative to that of comparable workers in the last couple of years — and in fact since 2008 — reflects state policy decisions rather than the result of revenue challenges brought on by the Great Recession. A recent study found that most of the 25 states that were still spending less for K–12 education in 2016 than 3 before the recession had also enacted tax cuts between 2008 and 2016. In fact, eight of the 10 states with the largest reductions in education funding since 2008 were states that had reduced their overall 'tax effort' — meaning through tax cuts or other measures they were collecting less in taxes relative to their capacity to generate tax revenue. These eight states were Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Virginia."

Auditing a State Career and Technical Education Program for Quality, Foundation for Excellence in Education
"To truly assess program quality, alignment and overall effectiveness, states should conduct a CTE program audit. Such an audit can set the stage for a rich and robust examination of why and how a current state CTE program is being offered, what it is actually achieving and whether or not those achievements are fully aligned with the state's education, economic and workforce priorities."

Home Education in Florida, 2017-18 School Year Annual Report, Florida Department of Education

Coming Up

Sept. 12-13: Florida Board of Governors, Sarasota

Sept. 14: Florida Board of Education, Naples

Oct. 25: Florida Board of Education, Crystal River

Nov. 6: General election

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