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ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Feb. 18, 2019

A collection of news and views from the past week.
Senate Education Committee chairman Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, speaks to reporters Feb. 21, 2019, in the Capitol about his chamber's education priorities for the upcoming session. [The Florida Channel]
Published Feb. 23

Taking a page from the Florida House, state Senate leaders roll out their education priorities and announce plans to file an omnibus bill to accomplish those goals. After a couple of years being rolled by the House on many issues, the upper chamber appears ready to set the tone for 2019. Read on for that and other 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

Florida Senate Republicans propose new voucher, changes to teacher bonus program, Emily Mahoney

“After a string of announcements from Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiling his proposals for a new school voucher and other changes to education policy, the Florida Senate responded with its own plan to shape the state’s schools — which had some differences.”

WATCH IT: Feb. 21 Senate education leaders news conference

School board term limits moves through second House committee, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“A proposal to let Florida voters decide whether to impose term limits on school board members cleared another hurdle in the Florida House on Wednesday, but reservations over the details began to emerge. Unlike its first stop, where the measure won unanimous bipartisan backing, the bill hit some speed bumps in the Oversight, Transparency and Public Management committee. Several Democrats and even a couple of Republicans called for changes before they said they’d vote for it on the House floor.”

READ IT: HJR 229

Hernando schools' medical marijuana policy navigates a legal gray area. Advocates say it doesn't go far enough., Jack Evans

“Hernando County’s policy allows parents or caregivers to administer medical marijuana or low-THC cannabis at school locations designated by administrators, if a request is approved by a principal. But school employees, including nurses, can’t give students the medicine. And parents have to transport it to and from the school, rather than leaving it on campus.”

Hillsborough School Board to state: We do not want our teachers armed, Marlene Sokol

“The Hillsborough County School Board voted unanimously to reject state attempts to allow teachers to come to school armed. A group of high school students had suggested the resolution, telling the board on Tuesday that they respect their teachers but do not want them to carry firearms - nor, they said, do the teachers want to carry guns.”

READ IT: School Board resolution

Which Common Core standards concern you? Florida wants to know., Jeffrey S. Solochek

“Do you hate the Common Core? Love it? The Florida Department of Education wants to know why. But it’s not too deep into the details just yet.”

PARTICIPATE: FLDOE survey

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

Around the State

Substitutes needed, Panama City News Herald, Genevieve Smith

“The [Bay County] district has lost about 100 subs since Hurricane Michael, bringing the pool of active subs to less than 300. A comfortable number, [HR director Shirley] Baker said, would be about 500 active substitutes.”

Stung by criticism, Broward School Board approves new security measures, Sun-Sentinel, Scott Travis

“A year after the Parkland shooting, the Broward County School Board made good on its promise to enact policies to help prevent the same types of failures that contributed to the deaths of 17 people.”

An even playing field? Kids getting vouchers for private school can skip the litany of state exams in Florida, Florida Phoenix, Diane Rado

“The testing differences for public and private kids are likely to intensify as Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature push to expand voucher programs across Florida, allowing thousands more students a year to attend private schools with public dollars. With potentially more and more public money flowing into private schools, some educators and taxpayers question why students who receive vouchers don’t have to take the same exams as their public school peers.”

PBC school board turning to prestige law firm in tax fight with charters, Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra

“Palm Beach County public school leaders are preparing to pay top dollar for a law firm to defend an $800 million pot of money that two charter schools want a piece of. … The move comes a month after the two charter schools, Palm Beach Maritime Academy and the Academy for Positive Learning, sued in state circuit court for a share of the money from the four-year property tax approved by voters in November.”

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

Other Views

The Shoe Drops, Grumpy Old Teacher blog, Gregory Sampson

“Opportunity is not being denied to needy children. True public schools, the only ones in the state that actually have to obey federal and state laws, regulations, court decrees, and dictates, deny no child. Some parents think otherwise. That doesn’t change the truth.”

The moral and practical imperative for prioritizing the early years, Tampa Bay Times column, David Lawrence of the Children’s Movement of Florida

“Ask me what makes me optimistic these days, and I will tell you this: One hundred Florida mayors, from big cities to suburbia to small towns, have signed a letter asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to prioritize early childhood as he sets his agenda for Florida’s future. These leaders, representing millions of citizens in both blue and red districts, have come together to support greater investment in the state’s youngest children.”

Changes needed to protect students, Gainesville Sun editorial

“True believers — such as Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran — want to see vouchers made available to every family that might want them. Before they open up the throttle, however, DeSantis, Corcoran and the Legislature should work to find ways to make vouchers more effective, and less of a risk for families. And they should make sure they’re giving equal support to public schools — where the vast majority of Florida’s children will be receiving their education.”

Drug smuggling, organized crime and now, education: A statewide grand jury is a novel approach to keeping kids safe at school, Florida Phoenix column, Lucy Morgan

“Once upon a time a Florida governor decided to create a Statewide Grand Jury so the good guys could eliminate drug smuggling. That governor was Reubin Askew and we all know how that ended. Gov. Ron DeSantis wants a Statewide Grand Jury to deal with violence in public schools. It could well turn out to be an equally difficult problem to solve.”

Public schools besieged by mandates, Gainesville Sun columnist Nathan Crabbe

“We should all try asking teachers what they need before telling them what they should be doing.”

DeSantis roots out Common Core, but what’s next?, Daytona Beach News-Journal columnist Mark Lane

“The pronouncement was greeted with cheers and sighs by educators. Cheers because Common Core in Florida is widely viewed as yet another failed top-down educational reform that Florida schools just had to roll with. Sighs because the change seriously messes with school systems’ textbook buying plans and means tearing up painfully worked out curriculum decisions. Also because educators worry about what’s coming down the road.”

Reports of Note

Honoring Origins and Helping Students Succeed The Case for Cultural Relevance in High-Quality Instructional Materials, Chiefs for Change policy paper

“The need for culturally relevant instruction is further underlined by the disconnect between students and the teachers and leaders responsible for their education. Despite the changing student population, the educational workforce remains predominantly white. People of color make up only about one-fifth of all teachers and principals. At the highest levels of district and state leadership, there are even fewer people of color. This can have implications for pedagogy, because teachers and leaders understandably make decisions that are often based on their own experiences, even when those experiences differ sharply from those of their students.”

The danger of using a single study to inform policy for English learners, response to National Bureau of Education Research report on Florida students, authored by several university researchers

“The headline of this study, and its related media coverage, is that “repeating third grade could help struggling English learners.” In reality, the findings and implications are not so simple.”

Coming Up

March 4: Florida 2019 legislative session begins

March 5: Joint Session, Florida House and Senate, 11 a.m.

March 6: Senate Education, 10:30 a.m. • Senate Education Appropriations, 2 p.m.

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: Is private education public when taxpayers fund it? An expert’s view

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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Hillsborough schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia holds a back-to-school press conference at Rampello K-8 School, [TIMES files]
    MaryEllen Elia, who led the Hillsborough district from 2005 to 2015, has been an educator since 1970.
  6. Jeff Eakins and MaryEllen Elia, Hillsborough's last two superintendents, were hired from inside the school system. So have all others since 1967. [TIMES FILES] Times staff
    Two more public meetings are planned, and the online survey is up until Saturday.
  7. Pasco School District headquarters in Land O' Lakes
    The board’s 2019-20 budget totals $1.39 billion.
  8. The DeLucio family of Trinity toured the Mitchell High School campus and showed the visit on their YouTube channel, which has more than 1 million subscribers. Many parents, students and school officials were not amused. YouTube
    The proposed policy comes up for a vote on Oct. 1.
  9. United School Employees of Pasco president Don Peace denounces the school district's pay raise proposal in a YouTube video sent to all district employees Sept. 9, 2019. United School Employees of Pasco
    The local teachers union already has denounced the idea.
  10. Goodwill's BookWorks preschool literacy program strives to instill a love of reading and helps provide children books.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
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