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ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Sept. 16, 2018

Democrat Andrew Gillum (left) faces Republican Ron DeSantis (right) in the 2018 contest for Florida governor. [Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald | AP Photo/John Raoux]
Democrat Andrew Gillum (left) faces Republican Ron DeSantis (right) in the 2018 contest for Florida governor. [Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald | AP Photo/John Raoux]
Published Sep. 22, 2018

Florida’s race for governor is officially on, and the topic of education promises to be a key issue as the candidates seek support. The major party hopefuls focused on their policy priorities over the past week, and they differ is most every way.  Read on for that and more news. • Don’t miss our weekly highlights of the news, views, reports and more. You can keep up daily 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 jsolochek@tampabay.com.

Top of the Times

How are Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum different? Look at their education plans., Emily Mahoney
“Florida’s schools are facing a teacher shortage, fights over funding and questions over security since the Parkland shooting this year. The GOP’s nominee for governor, Ron DeSantis, on Tuesday released his education plan, which addresses some of those issues but also injects new, highly charged political ones — like reviewing all state textbooks to ensure there’s no ‘anti-Israel bias.’”
– See also our podcast below.

Football player, band member, advanced student, girl: Pasco eighth-grader does it all well, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“In U.S. culture, football is a big deal, arguably replacing baseball as the national pastime. Children hear their parents cheering, debating, lamenting over teams. Why wouldn’t girls want to be a part of it?”

Red Tide forces two Pinellas schools to move recess, physical education inside, Megan Reeves
“Recess and physical education classes at two south Pinellas County schools were moved inside this week due to Red Tide, a toxic algae that continues to plague area beaches with throngs of dead fish and an unmistakable foul odor.”

In town hall, Eakins takes school district’s story to Ballast Point, Marlene Sokol
“First, the disclaimer: ‘I’m not here to tell you how to vote,’ Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins told his audience. ‘I’m here to educate you about why we’re here.’ From there, in his Tuesday evening presentation, Eakins described the work he has done to erase spending deficits and the way schools are struggling under state spending formulas.”

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

Around the State

PSI High, Seminole’s answer to boring schools, engages students with hands-on lessons, Orlando Sentinel, Leslie Postal
“In a way, the new PSI High seems an odd project for the Seminole County school district, which prides itself on its roster of well-regarded traditional high schools. The new program, which opened last month, was created on the premise that the traditional high school model — in place since today’s grandparents were teenagers –needs a serious overhaul.”

School Board passes equity plan despite objections, Gainesville Sun, Douglas Ray
“An equity plan aimed at closing achievement gaps that fall along racial lines in Alachua County Public Schools was approved by the School Board Tuesday evening despite pleas from community members who asked for changes to increase accountability and inclusion.”

Florida must prioritize public schools over charter schools, influencers say, Miami Herald, Adam Wollner
“Charter schools play an important role in Florida’s education system but should not be prioritized over traditional public K-12 schools, according to a panel of the state’s leading voices.”

Deal on local property tax rates helped stabilize Florida’s budget, Florida Politics, Michael Moline
“A leading Senate budget writer claimed vindication … in a lingering dispute with House leaders over whether to allow local school boards to capture all of the value of rising property values when setting local tax rates.”

Other Views

Roadblocks re-energize reformers, Florida Politics guest column, Constitution Revision Commission member Erika Donalds
“Education reform requires thick skin. I cringed as the League of Women Voters cheered the end of Amendment 8 and their success in disenfranchising Floridians.”

League of Women Voters makes no apologies for exposing deception, Florida Politics guest column, League of Women Voters president Patricia Brigham
“Erika Donalds, a Constitution Revision Commissioner and sponsor of the now-defunct Amendment 8, was right when she recently wrote that the League of Women Voters of Florida ‘cheered the end’ of the bundled education amendment. Amendment 8 was written to confuse.”

Florida’s low taxes have a downside, GateHouse News editorial
“So, barring a political apocalypse, don’t expect Florida to substantially raise the corporate tax. That said, [Andrew] Gillum has injected an important question into the debate: Does Florida generate enough revenue at the state level to provide public safety, protect the environment, invest in infrastructure and fund education and social services?”

We need education solutions not slogans from DeSantis, Gillum, Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano
“And 200,000 third-graders just rolled their eyes. I swear, even they can see through the education proposals offered by gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum this week.”

Torn-jeans dress-code flap hard to bare for school parents, Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino
“This distraction argument has been used in the past to justify preventing students from wearing Confederate flag T-shirts or other articles of clothing that might lead to fights. And as far as skimpy clothing, without any guidelines, middle schools and high schools would look like a casting call for booty dancers in a music video. So schools try to set some reasonable standards.”

It’s time Brevard schools pay less attention to sports and more to academics, Florida Today guest column, attorney Ken Rhoden
“Brevard’s schools are above average when compared with other Florida counties. However, Florida’s schools rank 29th among all states, and overall, the United States ranks 14th when compared to other high-income nations. Our schools are not educating students to become the engineers, doctors, skilled trades-people, or scientists this country needs. What our schools are training is athletes. Every year we graduate hundreds of highly trained athletes, especially football players.”

Reports of Note

Grade Inflation in High Schools (2005–2016), Thomas B. Fordham Institute
“There’s no debate that grade inflation exists. It’s unequally distributed across schools. It has pernicious effects on everyone—not just on students, but also those who examine those grades for purposes of making decisions ranging from further education to employment. It is especially perilous for disadvantaged students, as it worsens sociodemographic gaps in educational and professional opportunity and success. We should beware of its presence and resist the urge to eliminate EOCs and related standardized gauges, which provide valuable, complementary information to course grades.”

Is College Worth It?, Douglas Webber, Temple University
“Let me be clear, the financial returns to graduating from a four-year college far outweigh any costs for the average student. Given the choice, I would much rather be a 22-year-old college graduate with $30,000 in debt (roughly the national average among those who take out federal loans) than an 18-year-old who decides not to enroll in college at all. The direct financial rewards of a degree are enormous, and don’t even begin to capture the many other dimensions that attending college can positively impact one’s life. However, not everyone receives the average payout from a college degree.”

We Came To Learn: A Call to Action for Police-Free Schools, Alliance for Educational Justice
“This report exposes the stark reality that policing in schools is an issue of American racial domination, not of school safety. In fact, in the stories recounted, student safety was risked at the hands of school police.”

Coming Up

Oct. 25: Florida Board of Education, Crystal River

Nov. 6: General election

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 jsolochek@tampabay.com.

The latest: DeSantis vs. Gillum and the future of Florida education policy

Subscribe to the podcast and review it on iTunes. You also can find our past episodes on SoundCloud.

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