ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Feb. 25, 2019

A collection of news and views from the past week.
Annette Taddeo
Annette Taddeo
Published March 2

Expanding school choice is the hot ticket among the Republicans in Florida and the nation. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed a national tax credit scholarship program based largely on Florida’s model, while Florida lawmakers looked beyond that to create new vouchers while making others easier to get. Read on for that and other top Florida education 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? Have them send a note to [email protected].

Top of the Times

Give Florida tests in languages beyond English, state lawmakers say, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“A pair of Miami Democrats have filed companion bills that would allow Florida students still learning English to take state tests in their native language. If approved, the measure would accomplish what many civil rights advocates tried unsuccessfully to get the state Department of Education to do as part of its federal Every Student Succeeds Act plan.”

READ IT: SB 1590 / HB 1213

Florida lawmaker files another bill to expand private school scholarships, Jeffrey S. Solochek and Emily Mahoney

“In an ongoing effort to grow Florida’s school choice programs, the powerful chairman of the state Senate Education Committee has proposed enlarging a 2018 scholarship for students who claim to be bullied in school. The bill is based, in part, on concerns and questions raised by Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran, who led the charge for this law last year when he was speaker of the Florida House.”

READ IT: SB 1410

RELATED: Pasco schools want to verify bullying claims before offering state scholarship

Bill filed to require 80 percent of school funding spent ‘in the classroom’, Emily Mahoney

“On the campaign trail, Gov. Ron DeSantis pitched the idea that 80 percent of education funding be spent ‘in the classroom,’ claiming that there is too much wasted on administration and not enough spent on kids’ learning. Questions have surrounded that proposal from the start, but it’s also taken its first step toward becoming law.”

READ IT: SB 1434

Hernando County charter schools still don't have resource officers, putting district out of compliance with state law, Jack Evans

“As a grand jury prepares to investigate the failure of school districts across Florida to follow safety laws, the Hernando County School District finds itself in a compliance quandary. Hernando charter schools have yet to hire full-time school resource deputies, which means the school district is failing to follow the law enacted last year requiring resource officers or school guardians in all schools.”

RELATED: Florida Supreme Court approves DeSantis’ ask for grand jury on school safety

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

Around the State

20 states back transgender student in lawsuit against Florida school’s bathroom policy, The Hill, Lydia Wheeler

“In an amicus brief, the attorneys general from 20 states and the District of Columbia said the school’s policy penalizes transgender students for failing to conform to gender stereotypes and therefore constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex. ‘And because the policy fails to advance any legitimate purpose such as protecting safety or privacy, its sole function is to stigmatize a particular group, which violates equal protection,’ they argued.”

Seminole Ridge principal vows to combat inappropriate student-teacher relationships, Palm Beach Post, Sonja Isger

“Principal James Campbell always made a point of asking job candidates about how they intended to build a connection with students that would inspire the teens to stick with a course even if they didn’t like the subject. After two of his employees were arrested this school year, accused of having sex with their students, Campbell is adding new questions to the interview.”

The power of three: Republican rhythm will be tested in upcoming Florida legislative session, Tallahassee Democrat, James Call

“Newly-elected Gov. Ron DeSantis laid the groundwork for the 2019 legislative session with a ‘bold vision for a brighter future’ budget proposal that spends more on schools and the environment. But when lawmakers gather in Tallahassee Tuesday for a 60-day session, DeSantis will have to convince the House Speaker and Senate President, two veteran lawmakers who are in their first years as leaders of their chambers, that the DeSantis way is a better way.”

Civil rights complaint filed in arrest of Lakeland student, 11, after confrontation for not standing for Pledge of Allegiance, Ledger, Kimberly C. Moore

“The complaint alleges that the student’s civil rights were violated when there was ‘reprisal’ for him exercising his constitutional right not to say the Pledge of Allegiance. It says the school resource officer unlawfully arrested and committed battery on a minor child, and the school subjected him to ‘adverse impact racial discrimination regarding school discipline.’”

Group asks Marion school district to remove 14 books from libraries, Ocala Star-Banner, Joe Callahan

“It’s Your Tea Party Florida members believe the books include obscene, even pornographic, writing and should not be offered to middle and high school students.”

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

Other Views

Guess which state spends the most public funds on private and religious school education. (Hint: Betsy DeVos has a house there.), Washington Post Answer Sheet

“It’s Florida, which became a school choice pioneer under Jeb Bush when he was governor from 1999-2007. DeVos and Bush have been school choice allies for years, and her department has hired key officials with links to Bush. She has repeatedly called Florida a national model for choice. According to EdChoice, Florida spends by far the most — in terms of percentage of budget and in dollars — on school choice.”

Florida students need more science and math education, not less, Tallahassee Democrat guest column, Brandon Haught of Florida Citizens for Science

“Science and math are just too darn hard. That’s a message now coming from the Florida Legislature. Bills filed in Florida’s House and Senate aim to give students a way to avoid those difficult subjects.”

Voucher programs need oversight, Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial

“Florida’s voucher programs offer hope to parents who want their children to have access to specialized programs or services that local public schools don’t offer. 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 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.”

Education Policies Change Kids’ Lives — How Florida’s Free PSATs Set Off a Chain Reaction of Achievement for State’s Students, The 74 guest column, Patricia Levesque of the Foundation for Excellence in Education

“Nearly two decades ago, the state began to provide free PSAT tests to all high school sophomores. The data from the tests help schools identify students who should be encouraged to take Advanced Placement courses. That information is a valuable tool for equity, because more black and Hispanic students are now objectively identified as capable of AP success than had been without the data.”

Reports of Note

School Breakfast Scorecard School Year 2017–2018, Food Resource and Action Center

“Low participation in the School Breakfast Program is costly on many levels. Students miss out on the educational and health benefits associated with eating school breakfast, while states and school districts miss out on substantial federal funding…. The three largest states — California, Florida, and New York — together missed out on more than $255 million.”

All Over the Map A Baseline Analysis of the Incidence of Childhood Trauma and the Implementation of Trauma-Informed Care in Florida, University of Florida Lastinger Center

“The prevalence and severity of these risks faced by children in all Florida counties, coupled with the short- and long-term social costs, necessitate a shift in policy that incorporates both effective interventions and preventive strategies, cultivating resilience in children.15 It is critical that educators have knowledge of both prevention and intervention strategies to mitigate the effects of trauma.”

Readiness for Entering Kindergarten: The Impact on Future Academic Achievement, Lynn D. Fielding, Jay Maidment, and Christian N. K. Anderson

“Students who start ahead tend to stay ahead. More than three quarters (76%) of students who started in the top 20 percent are still in the top (or second to the top) 20 percent entering fifth grade. • Students who start behind tend to stay behind. The majority (71%) of students who began in the bottom 20 percent are still in the bottom (or second to the bottom) 20 percent entering fifth grade.”

Coming Up

March 4: House PreK-12 Appropriations, 2:30 p.m. • House Higher Education Appropriations, 2:30 p.m.

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

March 6: Senate Education, 10:30 a.m. (On the agenda, SPB 7070, a 52-page omnibus, and SB 190 on Bright Futures Scholarships)

March 19: Florida Board of Education

Gradebook: The Podcast

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The latest: Jeb Bush on school choice, vouchers and Florida’s next steps

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