There’s nothing like a late breaking surprise to shake up a legislative session. This time, a Miami-based political spat over sharing of school tax revenue spilled into legislation that could affect dozens of other school districts throughout Florida. The plan would require districts to provide a piece of their local-option taxes to charter schools — regardless of whether that aspect was included in the districts’ proposals to voters. Read on for all that, plus 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top of the Times
Bill in Florida House would require school districts to share local referendum money with charter schools, Emily L. Mahoney and Jeffrey S. Solochek
“Florida school districts that successfully pushed for a special local property tax to better fund public education would have to share that money with charter schools, under a bill filed this week in the Legislature.”
READ IT: HB 7123
School board term limits move in Florida Senate, with some hesitation, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“A measure that would let Florida voters decide whether to impose eight-year term limits on school board members advanced through its second state Senate committee on Wednesday. During debate in the Education Committee, though, a handful of senators said they weren’t yet sold on the bill.”
READ IT: SJR 274
“In Florida, children have to be vaccinated to attend public or private schools. There are two exceptions: parents can get a doctor to say a vaccine would be medically dangerous, or they can opt out of vaccines on religious grounds. That religious exemption has been granted with greater and greater frequency in the past decade, according to state data reviewed by the Tampa Bay Times.”
Will Florida teachers get a raise instead of a bonus? 'There is a chance.', Jeffrey S. Solochek
“Florida teachers want raises, not the bonuses that state lawmakers keep talking about. Their goal might be within reach this year. ‘I would say there is a chance,’ said Rep. Chris Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who chairs the House PreK-12 Appropriations committee.”
“Democrats in the Senate have an agreement with the Republican majority to at least consider not making all teachers eligible to have guns in the classroom, according to Sen. Perry Thurston, Jr. The chances are ‘60-40,’ Thurston said, with the higher percentage going toward the idea that arming teachers would be removed.”
READ IT: SB 7030
Visit tampabay.com for more education news from the Times staff.
Around the State
Palm Beach County School Board poised to approve 2 charter schools after 4-year legal battle, Palm Beach Post, Andrew Marra
“After more than four years of legal battles, Palm Beach County public school leaders have agreed to stop blocking the opening of two campuses operated by Charter Schools USA.”
RELATED: Four new charter schools win approval to open in Palm Beach County, Palm Beach Post
'They failed me that day': Parkland families sue over school massacre, Sun-Sentinel, Rafael Olmeda and Skyler Swisher
“The families who lost their loved ones in the Parkland massacre are now facing a web of politics and bureaucracy as they fight for compensation that never can adequately make up for their loss. One more step came Wednesday, when family members of 26 victims in the Stoneman Douglas shooting announced lawsuits against the school officials and law enforcement agencies they say failed them in their hour of need.”
Parental rights bill picks up steam in Senate, Herald-Tribune, Ryan McKinnon
“A ‘parental rights’ bill that supporters say would restore parents to their rightful decision-making place and fend off ever-encroaching government advanced through the Florida Senate Committee on Education on Wednesday. The bill would require school districts to share information about children with parents, even if that information was not something the students wanted their parents to know.”
READ IT: SB 1726
‘Resignation in lieu of termination.’ Manatee School District spotlights alleged abuse, Bradenton Herald, Giuseppe Sabella
“House Bill 495 requires school districts to make it clear when they accept a resignation or fire an educator amid ongoing allegations. If a district is investigating misconduct that affects the health, safety or welfare of a student, it must now update the employee’s file if he or she leaves during an active case. As a result, Tuesday’s school board agenda included wording not seen in the past: ‘resignation in lieu of termination.’”
For the latest roundup of Florida education news, visit the Gradebook weekday mornings.
Don’t freak out, but some books should be banned from Florida schools, Orlando Sentinel columnist David Whitley
“It’s good that people get alarmed at the thought of ‘Angela’s Ashes’ going up in smoke. It’s also good that people want to police what kids are exposed to. Not all critically acclaimed books belong in school libraries.”
Let us educators pack some decent heat!, Florida Phoenix column, Diane Roberts
“Hell, yeah, teachers should be armed. It would totally cut down on the whining about next week’s trigonometry test. And that kid Dwight? Next time he mouths off, I’m going to pull the Glock 9mm out of my paperclip drawer and say, ‘Hey, Dwight: Why don’t you shut up and solve that quadratic equation? Make sure you show your work.’ Kidding! But true Constitutionalists have waited a long damn time for Senate Bill 7030 , which would let us educators pack some decent heat.”
Don’t divert state money to private schools, Gainesville Sun editorial
“Florida lawmakers have failed to adequately fund public education and would only make matters worse with a proposal to funnel more taxpayer money into private schools.”
Ron DeSantis Has ‘Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals’ for Florida Education and That’s Bad, The Progressive guest column, Kathleen Oropeza of Fund Education Now
“During the current sixty-day 2019 Florida legislative session, which ends May 3, 2019, new bills revolve around a radical expansion of these policies. Despite public opposition, GOP legislators yielding to influencers like Jeb’s Foundation for Florida’s Future, Americans for Prosperity, the NRA, the Florida Chamber and a host of lobbyists, are earnestly voting ‘yes.’ Pay attention, because what happens in Florida usually shows up in the thirty or so other states under GOP control.”
School board member term limits: A fix for problem that doesn’t exist, Sun-Sentinel columnist Randy Schultz
“In fact, ‘very few people’ who deal regularly with Tallahassee would claim that term limits have made the Legislature better. Privately, the consensus is that term limits have empowered lobbyists, drained institutional knowledge and bestowed power on legislators who aren’t ready for it.”
Let’s Talk About the “Waiting List”, Florida Education Association Action Center
“One of the most often repeated talking points used by legislators, as well as Governor DeSantis is the need to reduce the ‘waiting list’ for students who use vouchers. So, it is worth asking who is on the ‘waiting list’ and why? The short answer is we don’t know who or even how many students are on the waiting list.”
Reports of Note
Breaking Through: Shattering the Glass Ceiling for Women Leaders, Chiefs for Change
“The underrepresentation of women—and women of color—in K–12 education leadership is a crisis that demands action. Our nation and America’s schools are diverse, and research confirms that a diverse teacher and leader workforce makes a strong, positive impact on our students and schools. Nevertheless, the large majority of system-level leaders in our school districts and state agencies are white men.”
Districts At Work, ERS
“School districts across the country struggle with increasingly rigorous academic standards, more varied student needs, and persistent achievement gaps. We visited eight school systems — all serving high populations of low-income, black, and Latinx* students — that are gaining traction and getting results across these systemic challenges. We wanted to understand how they are doing it. Although these eight school systems range from large, traditional districts, to charter networks, to an ‘empowerment zone,’ they wanted the same things for their students as many other school systems — for example, improved early literacy, enhanced social and emotional learning, and more equitable access to rigorous coursework — all in service of preparing every student for college and career, regardless of their race or income. And like many other districts, they set clear strategic priorities. What sets these eight school systems apart is that they didn’t stop there.”
April 16: Senate Education, 9 a.m. • House Appropriations, 10 a.m. • House Education, 1:30 p.m.
April 17: Senate session, 10 a.m. • House session, 11:30 a.m. • Senate Rules, 2 p.m. (On the agenda: SJR 274 school board term limits)
April 18: Senate Appropriations, 9 a.m. • House session, 1 p.m.
May 22: Florida Board of Education, 9 a.m. Mort Elementary School, Tampa
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