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

A collection of news and views from the past week.
Published March 30

School board term limits. They got tossed off the November 2018 ballot as part of a bundled proposed amendment that didn’t meet court muster. But now they appear headed to voters in 2020 as a stand alone question. Is eight really enough? 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

School board term limits inch closer to 2020 vote, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“With broad bipartisan support, a resolution that would ask voters to decide whether ‘Eight is Enough’ for Florida school board members headed on Thursday to the state House floor.”

READ IT: HJR 229

Florida spent $69M on mental health after Parkland but didn’t mention suicide prevention, Elizabeth Koh

“When lawmakers gave more than $69 million in mental health to school districts after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, many cast the funding as a way to help prevent future mass shootings and identify troubled students who needed help. But there was little discussion while crafting the bill — and no mention in the final 105 pages of legislation — that specifically directed schools to consider suicide prevention efforts, the most pressing mental health challenge facing a generation and the second leading cause of death for young people under 35.”

Should parents be able to ‘opt out’ their children from having an armed teacher?, Emily Mahoney and Colleen Wright

“A bill that would allow classroom teachers to carry guns passed yet another committee Tuesday in the Florida Senate along party lines, leaving it with just one more committee in each chamber before it reaches the floor. But amidst the emotional debate surrounding the bill, a new idea emerged that caught the attention of a prominent Republican senator. Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami proposed an amendment that would allow parents to ‘opt out’ their child from a classroom with an armed teacher.”

READ IT: SB 7030

Florida House panel advances financial literacy bill, with changes, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“In its final act before ending its business for the legislative session, the House PreK-12 Quality committee on Tuesday gave its full-throated support a bill that would require high school students complete a half-credit financial literacy course before graduation.”

READ IT: HB 73

Prekindergarten teachers ask Florida lawmakers to count them, too, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“Two Broward County preschool teachers had a simple plea Monday for members of the Florida House: Please include them. ‘It’s very disheartening to not be considered a classroom teacher when we are,’ Emily Wiskoff of Broadview Elementary in North Lauderdale told the PreK-12 Appropriations committee.”

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

Around the State

Nease transgender bathroom case could set precedent, or go to Supreme Court, St. Augustine Record, Travis Gibson

“Since the July ruling, [Drew] Adams has returned to life as a senior preparing for college. But the fight isn’t over. The St. Johns County School Board decided to appeal the decision of U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. In doing so, some believe the case has a chance to be a watershed moment in advocates’ push for transgender rights, and it’s capturing national attention.”

Indian River County Schools Superintendent Mark Rendell faces heat from School Board, TC Palm, Colleen Wixon

“School Board members could decide to start looking for a new superintendent as early as next week. Mark Rendell notified the board Monday he is seeking employment outside the county. Per his contract, he has to give the board 30 days’ notice, prompting board Chairwoman Laura Zorc to ask at Tuesday’s meeting for his resignation with a finite date.”

This defunct Wellington charter school says it’s bankrupt. Its ex-teachers are still fighting to be paid., Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra

“Eagle Arts Academy, the problem-plagued Wellington charter school forced to close in August, has filed for bankruptcy, as the school’s former teachers and landlord hound it in court for unpaid wages and rent.”

Florida Attorney General wants Brandon 'diploma mill' to shut down, Fox 13

“Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a court action in Hillsborough County to close Ellenwood Academy, LLC. following a string of complaints that recipients couldn’t obtain or maintain employment because of the fake diplomas. According to a press release from Moody’s office, the high school diplomas are not accepted at any school within the State University System.”

'In God We Trust' seal fixes separation-of-church-and-state problem for schools, Sun-Sentinel, Lois K. Solomon

“Some Florida public schools, now required to post the words ‘In God We Trust’ in a prominent place, will display the state seal as a way to comply with the law and reduce complaints from teachers.”

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

Other Views

Here’s why Florida can’t afford private school vouchers, Tampa Bay Times editorial

“Florida’s public schools are under funded, under staffed and under performing. Yet the solution supported by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature is to gradually starve them to death. They want to directly spend tens of millions in public tax dollars to pay for private school tuition for thousands of additional kids. It’s unconstitutional, unaffordable and unfair to the vast majority of Florida kids who would continue to attend public schools.”

Term limits for school boards are an overdue idea, Orlando Sentinel guest column, Nick Tomboulides of U.S. Term Limits

“It is the most popular and bipartisan issue in our state. After all, reasonable people wonder, why would any school board member need more time to learn his or her job than the leader of the free world? Our president, governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner, state representatives, state senators and countless local officials all have eight-year limits. In that relief, it is absurd to let school board members keep power for life.”

Florida bill to arm teachers advances — and maybe that's a good thing, TC Palm columnist Gil Smart

“Will this bill ultimately become law? My money’s on yes. Despite the objections, Republicans seem determined to push this through. But critics are correct when they say teachers have enough on their plates as it is. Now they have to be the first line of defense, too? But here’s the thing: They do.”

Law students participating in democracy not akin to ISIS, Tallahassee Democrat guest column, FSU students Adam Wood, Bianca Báez and Chad Sinckler

“It came as a surprise that, during the committee’s debate on the bill [to allow renaming of a law school building], Sen. Dennis Baxley compared us to ISIS and the Taliban by stating, ‘This is what they do ... ISIS and the Taliban ... try to eradicate any cultural history marker that is there.’ While it’s true that ISIS and the Taliban take down monuments they dislike, this was an unfair comparison. ISIS and the Taliban are groups that impose their ideas on others by threat of force. We, however, were proud American citizens engaging in the democratic process.”

Reports of Note

NEPC Review: The Effects of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program on College Enrollment and Graduation: An Update (Urban Institute, February 2019), Jaekyung Lee, SUNY Buffalo

“In light of the controversies on the effects of school choice, this report is timely and policy relevant. Through expanded data tracking, it helps bring new evidence to inform school choice debates. While this report does not directly address the underlying question, ‘Is private school more effective than public school?’, this also leaves many questions unanswered such as, ‘How does it work better?’ and ‘Better for whom, all students or specific subgroups, and for what purpose?’ If FTC students do have significantly better success of college enrollment than non-FTC students with similar characteristics, the reason remains to be investigated and fully explained. This study takes a purely outcome-driven approach, leaving the underlying student selection mechanism, school organization and schooling process hidden away in a black box. In this respect, the findings do not give very useful guidelines for policy and practice.”

The teacher shortage is real, large and growing, and worse than we thought, Economic Policy Institute

“We argue that, when issues such as teacher quality and the unequal distribution of highly qualified teachers across schools serving different concentrations of low-income students are taken into consideration, the teacher shortage problem is much more severe than previously recognized.”

Coming Up

April 1: House PreK-12 Appropriations, 12 p.m. • House Higher Education Appropriations, 12 p.m.

April 2: Senate Education, 10 a.m. • House Appropriations, 3:30 p.m.

April 3: House Education, 9 a.m.

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The latest: Who’s listening to Florida’s teacher union?

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