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ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Oct. 7, 2018

Scores of teachers gathered in November to protest at a School Board meeting in Tampa, where the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association is engaged in a long and contentious contract battle with the district. A new state law requires teachers' unions to prove they represent at least half of eligible employees or risk being decertfied. [GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES | Times]
Scores of teachers gathered in November to protest at a School Board meeting in Tampa, where the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association is engaged in a long and contentious contract battle with the district. A new state law requires teachers' unions to prove they represent at least half of eligible employees or risk being decertfied. [GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES | Times]
Published Oct. 13, 2018

With elections less than a month off, Floridians have focused attention on who will be the people setting education policy for the next two or four years. They’re homing in on policy positions such as teacher pay, tax rates and school safety, and how the candidates want to handle some of these top concerns. In some instances, the rhetoric is not matched by the reality of what could feasibly happen.  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

Top of the Times

Andrew Gillum wants to pay starting teachers $50,000. Could that ever happen in Florida?, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“Boosting pay to the level Gillum proposes would require a heavy financial lift — a half billion dollars a year or more, according to Florida Education Association estimates. And that’s just not something the Republican-dominated state Legislature has been willing to consider. It has had the opportunity.”

How many active shooter drills is too many? Florida schools don’t know either., Megan Reeves
“As Florida educators work to make schools less vulnerable to attack, a single line in state law is making that job more confusing. The wording, drafted by legislators in the emotion-filled weeks after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, requires schools to hold active shooter drills. But it doesn’t specify how often.”

It’s been a tough few years for Florida teachers. Will a new union leader shake things up?, Colleen Wright and Emily Mahoney
“The FEA, whose delegates will meet Friday evening in Orlando to choose a new leader, is at a crossroads. Current FEA President Joanne McCall has had a rough three years in the post. She’s being challenged by her own vice president, Fedrick Ingram, the former president of United Teachers of Dade.”

Policy adviser recommends its Florida school district clients not adopt medical marijuana rules, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“The Florida Legislature’s office of policy analysis and government accountability has given the state’s 67 school districts to the end of Monday to report how they’re dealing with student medical marijuana needs. Neola, the firm several districts have hired to maintain and revise their policy manuals, has advised its clients it will not write any rules for districts to implement.”

Pasco School Board to consider asking lawmakers to leave property tax rates alone, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“For the past three years, Florida lawmakers have forced local school districts to decrease their local property tax rates so the revenue does not exceed collections from the previous budget cycle. Their rationale has been that any increase would represent a tax hike, even if the tax rate remained unchanged. Pasco County School Board vice chairwoman Alison Crumbley calls that logic a bunch of spin. And she wants her colleagues to demand change from the Legislature.”

Florida in top 3 states for English learners, but not among those meeting all federal objectives, report says, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“Florida trails only California and Texas in the number of English learners in its schools, according to a recently released federal report detailing 2012-14 data, the most recently available information. But the state was not among those that met all the federal accountability targets set by Title III, according to the U.S. Department of Education report to Congress.”

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Around the State

NAACP Legal Defense Fund Asks Florida To End Racist Hair Policies At Schools, Huffington Post, Rebecca Klein
“The NAACP Legal Defense Fund sent a letter to the Florida Department of Education earlier this month asking it to take action against schools that ban students from sporting dreadlocks, braids and other traditionally African-American hairstyles.”

A/C problems worsen in PBC schools after district delays millions in fixes, Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra
“Nearly two years after voters raised taxes to pay for better school facilities, air conditioners are breaking down more often in Palm Beach County’s public schools, forcing more students to study in overheated classrooms.”

Auditor questioned if impact fees were misspent in more than Lee County school district, Fort Myers News-Press, Thyrie Bland
“The audits performed on the Lee County and Miami-Dade school districts also questioned whether it is permissible to collect impact fees one year and use them to pay on debt from previous years. The districts futilely argued to the auditor general their use of the fees was proper. … Other districts have used impact fees the same way as Lee, Lake and Miami Dade —to help pay past debt incurred from building schools  — and have not been dinged in an auditor’s report. Some of the districts are Collier, Brevard, Osceola and Volusia, St. Lucie, Orange and Broward.”

School board member writes of ‘whores’ accusing men, defends Bill Cosby, draws outrage, Ocala Star-Banner, Joe Callahan
“[Marion County] School Board Chairwoman Beth McCall ended Tuesday night’s meeting abruptly, refusing to allow member Nancy Stacy to defend herself after residents asked for her immediate resignation. That ended two days of community outcry after Stacy posted online numerous items, in which she said men are being destroyed by ‘whores’ and defended Bill Cosby, who was recently convicted of rape.”

Other Views

Everything You Know About State Education Rankings Is Wrong, Reason, Stan Liebowitz and Matthew L. Kelly of the University of Texas at Dallas
“Unfortunately, mainstream rankings confirm the biases of many media outlets and the self-serving interests of education functionaries who only gain from higher spending—while also giving short shrift to minority students in predominantly white states. As a result, we suspect that the usual narrative based on those flawed state rankings will continue to predominate.”

Sure there is good news about Florida’s schools. But there is bad news, too – about how poorly the state prepares its students for college STEM majors., Bridge To Tomorrow blog, FSU physics professor Paul Cottle
“Florida is doing a lousy job preparing its high school students for college majors in STEM fields, especially those like engineering and the physical and computing sciences that require strong mathematical skills and provide technological leadership. And as a state we haven’t made a dent in the problem of providing equitable access to these careers for black students and women.”

Benefits of teaching in Sarasota County, Herald-Tribune guest column, Sarasota schools superintendent Todd Bowden
“Recently, I read an article that ranks Florida as the fifth-worst state to be a teacher, according to the financial group WalletHub. I strongly disagree with that statement. In Sarasota County, now is the perfect time to be a teacher in our school district. The state of Florida is ranked fourth in the nation for K-12 student achievement, according to the highly reputable Education Week 2018 Quality Counts survey. In addition, Sarasota County is the third-ranked school district behind St. John and Lafayette counties, which are tied for first, based on school grades and academic success. This is important as it means the standards, practices and high-quality education provided by our teachers are working and our students are thriving under the care and instruction of our teachers and school leaders.”

Florida high school sex education classes should include teaching consent, Orlando Sentinel community columnist Shannon Green
“As the topic of sexual assault becomes more prominent, it’s imperative that we teach young men and women at earlier ages what it means to consent. They need to learn what it means to create safe and unsafe sexual environments. They also need to learn what the consequences are from those situations.”

Reports of Note

School Grading Policies Are Failing Children, Crescendo Education Group
“Since the Industrial Revolution, teachers in the nation’s schools have assigned letter grades —  the A to F scale — to describe student achievement. Grades are an essential currency of our schools. Schools, colleges, and employers use grades to determine many important, and in some cases, life-altering decisions — college admission, financial aid and scholarships, athletic eligibility, promotion, retention, awards, and supports. But the grades that teachers assign to students — ostensibly an objective, fair, and accurate reflection of a student’s academic performance — are anything but.”

Strengthening Reading Instruction through Better Preparation of Elementary and Special Education Teachers, National Council on Teacher Quality
“Teaching children how to read is arguably the most important job of both elementary and special education teachers. In 2000, the National Reading Panel synthesized the findings of 40 years of research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) studying how children and adults best learn how to read. That effort identified the teaching methods which are most likely to yield the highest percentage of successful readers. These findings have since been affirmed and updated by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in its IES Practice Guide. All states, without exception, continue to struggle to persuade some of their education preparation programs to integrate these methods into initial teacher preparation programs.”

The Biennial Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Title III State Formula Grant Program, US Department of Education

Coming Up

Oct. 25: Florida Board of Education, Crystal River

Nov. 6: General election

Nov. 7-8: Florida Board of Governors, Florida Atlantic University

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