ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of April 29, 2019

A collection of news and views from the past week.
SCOTT KEELER   |   Times

Rep.  Jennifer Sullivan, R- Mount Dora, answers questions about her bill, Tuesday, April 30, 2019,  that would arm teachers in schools.
SCOTT KEELER | Times Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R- Mount Dora, answers questions about her bill, Tuesday, April 30, 2019, that would arm teachers in schools.
Published May 4, 2019

Guns. Vouchers. Teacher bonuses. Those are just some of the issues that Floridians debated over the past week as the Legislature pushed to end its 2019 session (nearly) on time. It almost obscured graduation season, which got under way, too. 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

Top of the Times

Florida House passes bill allowing teachers to be armed, sending it to Gov. DeSantis, Emily L. Mahoney

“After about seven hours of angry, sometimes deeply painful debate about race and gun violence that spanned two days, the Florida House passed a bill Wednesday that would allow classroom teachers to be armed, expanding a program lawmakers created last year after the Parkland shooting..”

READ IT: SB 7030

RELATED: Deputy’s gun fires in Pasco middle school cafeteria

Major education bill to create new school voucher and redo teacher bonuses passes Florida House, Emily L. Mahoney

“Senate Bill 7070 achieves a goal that has been sought by Republicans since Jeb Bush was governor: funding a voucher for low-income families to send their children to private schools by using the state pot of per-student funding for public schools.”

READ IT: SB 7070

USF’s youngest grad ever: He’s 16 and will get a degree in cell and molecular biology, Megan Reeves“Drew Falkowitz was born wildly intelligent. He started reading before he turned 2 and took his first high school class at 9. On Friday, at 16, he will graduate from the University of South Florida in Tampa — the youngest person ever to earn a degree from the institution since its founding in 1956. And he is set to start a master’s degree program there in the fall."

Hillsborough school leaders will look outside for answers to their reading riddle, Marlene Sokol"Stung by falling scores and determined to get more students reading, the Hillsborough County School District is poised to bring in outside expertise for a seven-month audit."

Visit for more education news from the Times staff.

Around the State

Florida Legislature passes anti-Semitism bill for public schools, Associated Press"

A bill prohibiting anti-Semitism in Florida’s public schools and universities is going to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Senate unanimously passed the bill Monday, two days after a gunman opened fire in a California synagogue, killing one and injuring three others."

A wary Broward School Board considers changes to Promise program, Sun-Sentinel, Scott Travis

“Promise, which started in 2013 to reduce the number of black students being arrested for minor offenses, was once considered a national model for reducing the schoolhouse to jailhouse pipeline. But it’s received increased scrutiny since the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High on Feb. 14, 2018.”

Hundreds of PBC teachers protest over charter school bill, Palm Beach Post, Sonja Isger

“Can state legislators change the terms of a referendum that voters decided months ago, redirecting millions of dollars to charter schools — money explicitly denied them by that referendum in Palm Beach County? That’s the question that drove more than 300 teachers and county school board members as well as various other elected leaders to protest Tuesday at the Supervisor of Elections Office.”

Teachers are being injured by students more and more in Sarasota schools, Herald-Tribune, Ryan McKinnon

“The number of teachers being injured by students in Sarasota County Schools is on track to nearly double this year.”

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

Other Views

Florida Really Is the Worst, Curmudgucation blog, Peter Greene

“There are plenty of states in the country that are not very friendly to public education, but Florida under its new governor has established itself as the very worst state for public education. The worst. Its hatred of public school teachers and its absolute determination to dismantle public education so that it can sell off the pieces to privatizers and profiteers puts the sunshine state in the front of the pack.”

Finally! Guns in our classrooms, Ocala Star-Banner columnist Brad Rogers

“It is baffling that in the face of so many educational shortcomings in the Gunshine State, that the one priority of the Legislature when it comes to school safety is to make sure your kid’s third-grade teacher can strap on a 9 mm if she wants. Oh, she’ll have to undergo 140-plus hours of training and mental health evaluation and so on — just so she’ll be ready when a mentally ill gunman storms her hallway looking to kill.”

New scholarship will continue to strengthen public education in Florida, Tampa Bay Times guest column, state Sen. Manny Diaz Jr.

“In recent days, the House and Senate voted to pass legislation, supported by Gov. Ron DeSantis, that will create a new K-12 scholarship. The Family Empowerment Scholarship is another in a series of calibrated expansions of educational choice, and, like the state’s other scholarships, will undoubtedly prove to be academically effective, fiscally prudent — and hugely popular with parents."

Do state lawmakers want Florida’s kids to fail?, Florida Phoenix guest column, FEA president Fed Ingram

“They say they don’t. This year we’ve heard lots of nice words from politicians about ‘ensuring every child has a world-class education,’ ‘family empowerment’ and providing students with ‘opportunity, regardless of their ZIP code or status.’ But actions speak louder than talking points, and the message is crystal clear. State leaders have gone to war against our neighborhood public schools, and the great majority of Florida’s 2.8 million school kids stand to lose.”

Anti-Semitic reading material on Florida education website needs to go, Orlando Sentinel guest column, Wendy and Eric Nissan

“We can naively pretend the assignment was put there without bias, in an attempt to showcase different cultures, and in particular, Palestinian culture. Then I think about all the wonderful things in their culture: exotic foods, language, history, etc. Why this passage? Why is this a one-sided, evil portrayal of another group? Unfortunately, as I am writing this, my heart is hurting from another shooting. This one at a synagogue near San Diego. There should be no question as to our motives to remove passages like these. This further creates a dangerous situation for our children.”

Reports of Note

Personalized Learning and the Digital Privatization of Curriculum and Teaching, National Education Policy Center

“Our analysis reveals questionable educational assumptions embedded in influential programs, self-interested advocacy by the technology industry, serious threats to student privacy, and a lack of research support.”

Principal Pipelines: A Feasible, Affordable, and Effective Way for Districts to Improve Schools, RAND

"Districts matter in shaping school leadership. The work they do to manage through pipeline activities—is important. Our study provides compelling that if districts approach these pipeline activities strategically, paying attention component and the coherence of the efforts, they set up their newly placed for success. Student achievement outcomes are better, and newly placed more likely to stay in their jobs."

Coming Up

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

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