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ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of April 22. 2019

A collection of news and views from the past week.

One more week to go in the Florida 2019 legislative session. We’ve seen the chambers take up some controversial measures, including ones to allow for teachers to carry guns, school districts to share tax revenue with charter schools, and more. But they have yet to agree on all the details. 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. Send a note to jsolochek@tampabay.com.

Top of the Times

Florida House passes bill to require school districts to share referendum money with charters, Emily L. Mahoney

“When voters choose to hike their local property taxes to help schools in their county, that money would need to be shared between districts and charter schools under a bill passed by the Florida House.”

READ IT: HB 7123

Florida Senate passes bill that allows classroom teachers to be armed - nearly along party lines, Emily L. Mahoney

“More than a year after last year’s Valentine’s Day shooting in Parkland that shocked the state and blurred party lines in the state Capitol, the Florida Senate passed a follow-up bill that has become increasingly partisan because of its expansion of a program that would allow classroom teachers to be armed.”

READ IT: SB 7030

Florida Senate passes major education bill that creates new school voucher, Emily L. Mahoney

“The Florida Senate passed a massive education bill Thursday that marks a key departure from the state’s traditional financing of public education. The measure, Senate Bill 7070, passed 23-17 along party lines, a major victory for advocates and parents wishing to expand different school options paid for by the state. It steers money from the state’s per-student funding currently reserved almost solely for Florida’s 67 public school districts into private school vouchers for students from low-income families, called Family Empowerment Scholarships."

READ IT: SB 7070

Plato Academy charter schools in turmoil over management, family feud, Megan Reeves

“One of the largest charter school operators in the Tampa Bay area cut ties with its management company this month, amid legal action that could affect the future of nine schools.”

Financial literacy graduation requirement fades away in Florida legislative session, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“Florida high school students are among the first to admit it: They need lessons in managing their finances, and school might be the best place to get the the information. Yet for the sixth consecutive year, the Florida Legislature appears unwilling to add a financial literacy course to the list of high school graduation requirements — despite several lawmakers saying they wanted to do so in memory of the late Sen. Dorothy Hukill, who pushed for the concept throughout her tenure.”

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

Around the State

District gives students 100% on final exams after computer system failure, St. Augustine Record, Travis Gibson

“There were sure to be plenty of happy students in St. Johns County on Tuesday afternoon after St. Johns County School District Superintendent Tim Forson let students know they would all be receiving a grade of 100 percent on their final district exam.”

School Board orders training, review of how investigations of teachers are handled, Miami Herald, Colleen Wright

"The Miami-Dade County School Board unanimously approved two proposals that will provide training sensitive to survivors of trauma for police and school staff and take a hard look at current procedures used to investigate district employees."

Volusia union chief: Violence against teachers a ‘dirty little secret’, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Cassidy Alexander

“A Volusia County teacher filed a criminal complaint against a 9-year-old student who punched her last week, according to a report from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office. What seems like an unusual step in an unusual situation is actually permitted in teachers’ contracts — and it happens more than you might think.”

Not enough nurses, but limited space in state nursing schools, Herald-Tribune, Ryan McKinnon

“Getting accepted to a community college for a two-year associate’s degree program is not usually considered a monumental academic accomplishment. But students who land a spot in State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota’s nursing school have plenty to brag about. Last year the school received more than 700 applicants for the nursing program but could accept only 160, an acceptance rate similar to top public universities such as Georgia Tech or the University of North Carolina. It’s a trend mirrored in public community colleges across the state.”

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

Other Views

Robbing Pinellas teachers and kids to subsidize charter schools, Tampa Bay Times guest column, Citizens for Pinellas Schools chair Beth Rawlins

“In 15 years of advocating for this local option funding, I’ve made hundreds of presentations to citizens groups. Not once has a voter suggested sharing the revenue with charter schools. Instead, I have repeatedly been asked to assure voters that the money would not go to charters. But HB 7123 makes a mockery of voters’ intentions.”

Parents should be able to put their kids in safe schools, Heartland.org columnist Robert G. Holland“Some school choice opponents claim the Hope Scholarship program is an invitation to rip off taxpayers for an extra school subsidy. However, the scholarship’s current maximum value of $7,111 is less than 78 percent of the amount spent per public school student. In other words, the subsidy would be greater if the bullied student stayed in the public school, not the other way around.”

Florida Virtual School CEO says she’s a knighted ‘genius.’ Um … what?, Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell

“The Florida Virtual School has been a hot mess lately. The school’s former attorney has been investigated. Board members are fleeing. The governor vowed action. And now the Sentinel has learned that the school’s new CEO — the woman who is supposed to clean things up — claims she’s not only a knighted dame (something an expert says she isn’t), but also one of the “500 Greatest Geniuses of the 21st Century” (a designation from a bogus and bankrupt organization). It’s like someone walked into the virtual school and said: ‘You guys couldn’t possibly make a bigger mess.’"

Answering some really bad arguments against arming teachers in Florida, Conservative Review, Nate Madden

“Indeed, public school teachers are overburdened these days, thanks to the need to pick up the slack created by the decline of the American family structure and social fabric, plus the burdens placed on them by politicians’ and bureaucrats’ efforts to centralize control and oversight of public education. But allowing them to opt into a program like this isn’t going to make those problems worse.”

Tackling the crisis in reading in Hillsborough schools, Tampa Bay Times editorial

“The next step should be involving a greater cross-section of the community. Tampa’s incoming mayor, Jane Castor, and several new city council members who take office in May have called for a greater focus on at-risk youth and stronger involvement with the school system. A community-wide literacy campaign could be a vehicle for getting the private sector more engaged with the most struggling school populations. The entire region has a stake in the quality of Hillsborough’s schools, and the reading gap seems a perfect fit for an ambitious civic effort.”

Reports of Note

Anxiety disorders on college campuses, University of California-Berkeley

“Nationally, the percent of students who reported being diagnosed or treated for anxiety disorder in the last 12 months doubled between 2008 and 2016 from 10 percent to 20 percent. ... Financial stress, computer use and mother’s education are all correlated with higher rates of anxiety.”

Most Teachers Don’t Teach Climate Change; 4 In 5 Parents Wish They Did, NPR

“More than 80% of parents in the U.S. support the teaching of climate change. And that support crosses political divides, according to the results of an exclusive new NPR/Ipsos poll: Whether they have children or not, two-thirds of Republicans and 9 in 10 Democrats agree that the subject needs to be taught in school.”

Coming Up

April 29-May 3: Florida Legislature, final week

May 8-9: Education Practices Commission, Tallahassee

May 22: Florida Board of Education, 9 a.m. Mort Elementary School, Tampa

June 11-13: Florida Board of Governors, University of South Florida, Tampa

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: Parent rights in Florida schools — Should they be stronger?

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


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