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ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Feb. 3, 2019

A collection of news and views from the past week.
OCTAVIO JONES | Times Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a stop at Armwood High School Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019 in Tampa.
Published Feb. 9

One of our readers suggested that Florida education news was coming at them through a fire hose over the past week or so. We couldn’t agree more. Among the topics of conversation were teacher pay, school board term limits, private-school scholarships and financial literacy. And it’s only going to get busier. Read on for some of the top stories of the week. • 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 who’d like to get this weekly roundup or other email updates? Send a note to jsolochek@tampabay.com.

Top of the Times

Ron DeSantis announces $422 million increase in teacher bonuses under new program, Marlene Sokol

“Speaking at Armwood High -- his second Hillsborough school visit in two weeks -- the new Republican governor pitched a $422 million expansion of the Best & Brightest bonus program and an additional $10 million a year for teacher recruitment.”

DeSantis’ school tax proposal raises concerns among House Democrats, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“For 2019-20, DeSantis has called for a 3.85 percent cut in the required local effort. New construction still would boost the overall projected revenue by $142.3 million. His stance has House Democrats wondering whether the Legislature is serious about providing for public schools.”

School board term limits proposal advances in Florida House, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“Citing the importance of eliminating the “incumbency advantage” and the need to generate fresh ideas, members of the Florida House PreK-12 Quality subcommittee unanimously backed a resolution Wednesday to ask voters to approve term limits for school board members.”

READ IT: HJR 229, School Board term limits

Should high schoolers be taught how to balance a checkbook? Bill filed again to require it, Emily Mahoney

“The idea of making ‘financial literacy’ a high school graduation requirement is far from a new idea in the Florida Legislature, but this year its foremost champion has a different face. State Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Republican from Port Orange, sponsored the measure for years, with the idea that students should be able to balance a checkbook, calculate interest rates and otherwise know how to manage their money before they fully join the workforce.”

READ IT: SB 114, Financial Literacy graduation requirement

Florida Senate bill would add teachers to school guardian program, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“A month after saying Florida’s school safety law needs “tweaks,” the state Senate Education Committee has filed a 29-page bill to start the conversation. Its first section would delete language prohibiting teachers from participating in the armed Guardian program lawmakers established last year. The state school public safety commission has recommended such a move, to loud opposition from critics.”

READ IT: SPB 7030 School Safety

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

Around the State

Bay County School Board to advertise temporary closure of Springfield, Oakland Terrace, Oscar Patterson, Panama City News Herald, Genevieve Smith

“While Superintendent Bill Husfelt and district staff had recommended ‘mothballing’ four schools — Callaway, Springfield, Oscar Patterson and Oakland Terrace — because of a combination of hurricane damage and population loss, when it came time to choose what plan to advertise, the school board decided in a split vote to keep Callaway Elementary open.”

Parkland shooting: After tragedy, more guns turn up at Palm Beach County public schools, Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra

“The number of guns found in Palm Beach County public schools has spiked since the Parkland school shooting a year ago, highlighting the difficulty of keeping firearms off campus even amid a historic focus on school security. Since the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, at least 16 guns have been discovered on the school district’s 180 campuses, a Palm Beach Post review of school district, court and police records found. That’s double the number found during the same period a year earlier.”

Broward School Board meeting unravels after request for safety forums, Sun-Sentinel, Scott Travis

“A Broward School Board discussion on secrecy and safety unraveled into a bitter feud Tuesday between factions who support Superintendent Robert Runcie and those who are fed up with him.”

Florida Governor vows to look into teacher certification issues and fix ‘testing for test sake,” WFTS, Katie LaGrone

“Governor DeSantis, who just announced he’s eliminating common core- a test-heavy academic standard for students, told us he’s open to re-evaluating standards for teachers, including the mandated Florida Teacher Certification Exam (FTCE).”

Suspended Okaloosa superintendent Mary Beth Jackson’s attorney claims ‘nebulous allegations,’ News Service of Florida

“A special master Monday backed a request by suspended Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson to require Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office to provide more information about why she was removed from her job.”

For the latest roundup of Florida education news, visit the Gradebook weekday mornings.

Other Views

Florida's opportunity to "go big or go home" on school choice, Flypaper, Thomas B. Fordham Institute vice president Robert Pondiscio

“Almost without exception, every state official and school choice advocate I recently met in Florida believes the state will be the first to have ‘universal’ education savings accounts, opening private school choice options to all who seek them. But a debate has emerged between Republican lawmakers who are wary about ‘biting off more than we can chew,’ and those who see an opportunity to ‘go big or go home’ while the GOP has control — a delicate state of play that is unlikely to last forever in a state with one of the nation’s most evenly divided electorates.”

How a proposal for flexible funding can help families close the enrichment gap, Brookings Brown Center Chalkboard, Travis Pillow and Ashley Jochim

“A voucher of $720 per student would not cover the full cost of many summer enrichment or after-school programs for a full year. But it likely would help induce states or schools to repurpose some of their existing funding streams to create enrichment scholarship programs for parents. For example, Jacksonville, Florida, spends about $550 for a slot in a summer camp, and $3,000 for a slot in a yearlong after-school program. Students with low standardized test scores in reading can now apply for scholarships worth approximately $500.”

Special needs voucher expansion hard to fault, St. Augustine Record editorial

“DeSantis’ wish list is a long one, but we doubt there will be any real pushback on this item — not from Republicans, Democrats or teachers unions. It’s low ground to defend. And students with special needs, while accepted in most cases at public schools, tend to take time and effort away from others in the classroom.”

A late-riser’s plea for saner school-start times, Daytona Beach News-Journal columnist Mark Lane

“Late, slow rising has proved no barrier to living a full, normal life. The sun rises perfectly well without my supervision or admiration. I don’t attend breakfast meetings. I pay extra to take later flights out of town. I eat at places that keep the breakfast menu going after noontime without the kitchen judging anyone. I have found that society accommodates me just fine. The one exception is the school system.”

Will Florida Abolish The Common Core? (Spoiler Alert: Probably Not), Forbes contributor Peter Greene of the Curmudgucation blog

“Florida schools live and die by the results of the FSA, and they will continue to teach to that test, the Common Core infused test, regardless of what the standards say. If DeSantis really wants to rip out every last vestige of Common Core, here’s what he needs to do. End the test.”

Reports of Note

The Effects of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program on College Enrollment and Graduation: An Update, Urban Institute

“We find that FTC participants are more likely than similar non-participants to enroll in both two-year and four-year colleges, including both public and private nonprofit four-year colleges. Students who entered FTC in elementary or middle school were 6 percentage points more likely to enroll in college, a 12 percent increase. Students who entered the program in high school were 10 percentage points more likely to enroll, a 19 percent increase. Participating in FTC also increases the likelihood that students earn a bachelor’s degree, with average increases of 1 to 2 percentage points (10 to 20 percent).”

An Extra Year to Learn English? Early Grade Retention and the Human Capital Development of English Learners, National Bureau of Economic Research

“We find that retention in the third-grade substantially improves the English skills of these students, reducing the time to proficiency by half and decreasing the likelihood of taking a remedial English course in middle school by one-third. Grade retention also roughly doubles the likelihood of taking an advanced course in math and science in middle school, and more than triples the likelihood of taking college credit-bearing courses in high school for English learners.”

(See also this Education Week overview)

Dual Enrollment: Participation and Characteristics, National Center for Education Statistics

“About a third of students (34 percent) took courses for postsecondary credit in high school. … Students who took courses for postsecondary credit while in high school most commonly took those courses at their own high school (80 percent). Less common locations were a college campus (17 percent), online (8 percent), and a high school other than the student’s own (6 percent).”

Coming Up

Feb. 12: House Education, 10:30 a.m. (On the agenda: Community Partnership Schools, Schools of Hope Traditional Public Schools Grant Program) • Senate Education, 4 p.m. (On the agenda: SPB 7030, school security)

Feb. 13: House Higher Education Appropriations, 10:30 a.m. • House PreK-12 Innovation, 1:30 p.m. (On the agenda: HB 401, mastery based education) • House PreK-12 Appropriations, 4 p.m. (On the agenda: Status of Safe Schools Appropriations in SB 7026) • House Higher Education, 4 p.m. (On the agenda: HB 257, Excess Credit Hour Surcharges)

March 19: Florida Board of Education

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: Gov. Ron DeSantis and his ‘major’ education announcements

Subscribe to the podcast and review it on iTunes or Google Play. You also can find our past episodes on Art19.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Sandra Gero, a regional search associate at Ray and Associates, hosts a meeting at the Middleton High School auditorium and gathers public comments on what people are looking for for the next Hillsborough County School Superintendent on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 in Tampa. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Using public meetings and a survey, they’re painting a picture of the ideal school leader.
  2. Jeff Eakins and MaryEllen Elia, Hillsborough's last two superintendents, were hired from inside the school system. So have all others since 1967. Times staff
    Go to the school district website before 8 a.m. Monday to state your case.
  3. Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, urges the Florida Board of Education to hold schools accountable for teaching the Holocaust and African-American history, as required by lawmakers in 1994. The board was considering a rule on the matter at its Sept. 20, 2019, meeting in Jacksonville. The Florida Channel
    School districts will have to report how they are providing the instruction required in Florida law.
  4. The Pasco County school district would rezone the Seven Oaks subdivision from the Wiregrass Ranch High feeder pattern to the Cypress Creek High feeder pattern, beginning in the 2020-21 school year. Pasco County school district
    The Seven Oaks subdivision is the primary target for rezoning.
  5. Fortify Florida is a new app that allows for anonymous reporting of suspected school threats. Florida Department of Education
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  6. Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning says Fortify Florida, the new state-sponsored app that allows students to report potential threats, is "disrupting the education day" because the callers are anonymous, many of the tips are vague and there's no opportunity to get more information from tipsters. "I have an obligation to provide kids with a great education," Browning said. "I cannot do it with this tool, because kids are hiding behind Fortify Florida." JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |
    Vague and anonymous tips often waste law enforcement’s time and disrupt the school day, says Kurt Browning, president of Florida’s superintendents association.
  7. Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, during a Feb. 7, 2019, meeting of the House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    ‘One test should not determine the rest of your life,’ Rep. Susan Valdes says.
  8. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. The Florida Channel
    School security and early learning get top billing in the first committee meetings of the looming 2020 session.
  9. This image from a Pinellas County Schools video shows an armed police officer running to respond to a fictional active shooter.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  10. Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer
    The proposal is short on details, with officials saying they want to work through specifics during negotiations.
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