ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of March 11, 2019

A collection of news and views from around the state.
Hillsborough High School students hold signs in support of teacher pay raises during a walk out in fall 2018. MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
Hillsborough High School students hold signs in support of teacher pay raises during a walk out in fall 2018. MONICA HERNDON | Times
Published March 16
Updated March 16

The National Education Association released its annual list comparing average teacher salaries across the states, and Florida fared poorly. Teachers took this as an indication that lawmakers need to improve public education funding. A key staffer for the House speaker countered on social media, “Looking at raw $ figure is an irrelevant statistic and pure sensationalism.” 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 jsolochek@tampabay.com.

Top of the Times

House voucher expansion bill passes its first committee after emotional debate, Emily Mahoney

“A House bill that would create a new publicly funded private school voucher passed its first committee on Thursday, with only two of the committee’s Democrats against it.”

RELATED: Florida Insider Poll: DeSantis’ voucher plan will get Supreme Court’s OK, Steve Contorno

READ IT: HB 7075

Florida falls in national teacher pay ranking to 46th, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“Florida teachers got some bad news this week that bolsters their case asking for better pay: The state dropped from 45 to 46 on the National Education Association’s annual report of average teacher salaries. And the projection is that the state will fare even worse going forward, unless something changes.”

Florida House committee moves to ease gun restrictions at schools, churches, Jeffrey S. Solochek

A proposal to allow concealed weapons in churches operating on the same grounds as schools — deemed too controversial to move a year ago after the Parkland school shooting — cleared its first hurdle in the Florida House on Tuesday, with lawmakers contending it would protect clergy and parishioners. The Criminal Justice Committee also advanced legislation to bar school districts from preventing adults over 18 from storing a firearm in their vehicle on school grounds. Both bills had the strong support of the National Rifle Association.

READ THEM: HB 403, Guns at churches by schools; HB 6005, guns in cars parked at schools

Hernando charter school signs resource officer contract, avoids closure, Jack Evans

“A Hernando County charter school that left the school district out of compliance with state school security law agreed to hire a full-time school resource officer Friday under threat of closure.”

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

Around the State

Should teachers stay in the classroom if they can’t pass the state’s General Knowledge Test?, Florida Phoenix, Diane Rado

“Should a teacher be in the classroom for three years or more but never pass a fundamental exam? The legislation has prompted a range of opinions and even a quandary for educators, teacher preparation officials, administrators, advocacy groups and teacher’s unions.”

High school principals suggest relaxing Volusia’s uniform policy, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Cassidy Alexander

“Volusia’s high school principals said in a survey the current uniform policy, meant to replace a more relaxed dress code in 2016, is still hard to enforce — in part because students have so many options of what to wear. Their suggestion for fixing those enforcement problems: add more options for what students can wear.”

Judge: School districts must assign safety officers at charters, News Service of Florida

“Judge John Van Laningham sided with Renaissance Charter School Inc., which operates six schools in Palm Beach County and wanted the school board to provide “safe school” officers. The School Board refused, leading to the legal battle.”

READ IT: Final DOAH order

Florida bill defining anti-Semitism as racism advances, Watchdog.org, John Haughey

“A bill that defines anti-Semitism as racism and requires Florida schools and universities to regard it as racism was unanimously approved by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Tuesday. But free speech advocates warn House Bill 741 faces a potential “Pandora’s box” of legal challenges unless hate speech directed against Jews is not clearly separated from political criticism of the state of Israel.”

READ IT: HB 741

IMG director charged as part of college admissions scam, Bradenton Herald, Sara Nealeigh

“An IMG Academy director implicated in a college admissions scam appears to be cooperating with federal investigators. Court documents allege Mark Riddell, of Palmetto, was paid to take an exam in place of a student.”

READ IT: Department of Justice filing

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

Other Views

Conservatives, It's Time for Us to Focus on Teacher Professionalism, Education Week guest column, former Florida Rep. Michael Bileca, Mary Scott Hunter and John Eichelberger

“We know that conservative state lawmakers are intensely interested in this big-picture issue. We believe it is time for this discussion. We encourage our colleagues across the country to consider the many policy facets of teacher professionalism.”

Repeal the revision commission? Why not the Florida Legislature instead?, Sun-Sentinel editorial

“Proposals to abolish the Florida Constitution Revision Commission have zipped through six committees in the Legislature with only one member voting ‘no,’ so the issue most likely will be on the ballot next year. Lawmakers have often wanted to be rid of the commission that meets every 20 years, but they shouldn’t count on the voters being down on it, too. The proposals are SJR 362 and CS/HJR 249. Here’s an idea that might be more popular: Repeal the Legislature instead. It might even stand a better chance of winning the necessary 60 percent of the voters.”

What’s the end game with school vouchers?, Orlando Sentinel guest column, former Florida Sen. Paula Dockery

“Little by little further efforts are made to remove students and the education dollars that follow them from our public schools. What’s the end game? Some fear it is to do away with public schools through total privatization for profit and control. We can’t let that happen.”

As DeSantis ramps up 'school choice,' Florida must ramp up oversight of private schools, TC Palm editorial

“Depending on ‘the market’ to sort the bad schools from the good ultimately involves hanging kids out to dry. There’s simply no way around it. It is long past time to not merely crack down on ‘bad actors’ but to strengthen the regulatory apparatus that governs Florida’s private schools.”

Teaching the Bible in Florida high schools could backfire on Christians, Orlando Sentinel columnist Lauren Ritchie

“Over and over, fervent Christians who get elected to office keep trying to push their religion on other people and keep trying to use government money to do it. Stop it. It’s not just wrong, there’s a whole body of law and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting it. What if, say, Muslims wanted to teach the Quran — objectively of course — in American high schools? That thought never slows down the likes of Daniels, a Democrat, and her extreme right-wing Republican buddies who seem to think that it’s some kind of game to subvert the law and shove Christian doctrine of their choice down the throats of others. With Daniels’ bill, however, they should be careful what they ask for — they might just get it, and it might go all swarm-of-locusts on them.”

Reports of Note

Safe and Orderly Schools: Updated Guidance on School Discipline, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Max Eden

“The most rigorous social science suggests that adult bias plays, at best, a minimal role in disciplinary ‘disproportionality.’ Differences in discipline are driven largely by differences in student behavior, and these differences are driven largely by social and economic factors.”

Social-Emotional Learning: K–12 Education as New Age Nanny State, Pioneer Institute

“Often, the new highly touted technique is merely a repackaging of an old—and failed— highly touted technique. But some fads can be so widely embraced, globally as well as nationally, and so turbo-charged by technology that they threaten to linger and inflict harm long after their expected expiration date. This is true of social-emotional learning (SEL).”

Coming Up

March 19: Florida Board of Education, 9 a.m., Tallahassee (On the agenda: A rule to lower the retake fees for teacher certification exams, updates to progress on three executive orders) • Senate Education Appropriations, 10 a.m. (On the agenda: SB 7070 education omnibus, budget proposal) • House PreK-12 Innovation, 12 p.m. • House PreK-12 Quality, 3:30 p.m. • House Higher Education Appropriations, 3:30 p.m. • Senate Education, 4 p.m. (On the agenda: Bills relating to alternative high school graduation requirements, charter school rules, and civics education, among others)

March 20: House PreK-12 Appropriations, 8 a.m. • House Higher Education, 8 a.m. • Senate Education Appropriations, 10 a.m. (On the agenda: Budget proposal) • Senate Infrastructure and Security, 4 p.m. (On the agenda: SB 7030, school safety — includes allowing armed teachers)

March 21: House Education, 8 a.m.

**House committee agendas were not posted as of 2 p.m. Friday.

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: A Democratic approach to Florida education, with Rep. Anna Eskamani

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

Advertisement