ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of May 6, 2019

A collection of news and views from the past week.
Published May 11

Gov. Ron DeSantis took no time in sealing the deal on his education agenda. As quickly as the bills to establish vouchers and allow teachers to serve as school guards landed on his desk, he signed them, offering praise for lawmakers who turned his priorities into reality. The next question is, how quickly will the lawsuits come? 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

Changes to Best and Brightest bonus will leave good teachers behind, critics say, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“From the moment Florida launched its Best and Brightest teacher bonus in 2015, critics have blasted its reliance on educators’ college entrance scores to help determine who got the money. That’s why lawmakers approved new rules that remove those scores as a factor. But disdain for the bonus plan remains, perhaps stronger than before. Many say the new criteria are worse.”

Ron DeSantis signs arming teachers bill, law goes into effect Oct. 1, Emily L. Mahoney

“With little fanfare, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Wednesday that allows teachers to be armed in classrooms of public schools. Although the 54-page Senate Bill 7030 sparked days of debate and was one of the most contentious bills of the 2019 legislative session, DeSantis drew as little attention as possible in making it law, holding no news conference or ceremony. Instead, his office blasted a late afternoon, two-paragraph email stating that he signed it at some point Wednesday, the same day that he had received it from the Legislature.”

READ IT: SB 7030

RELATED: Guns could be in the classroom as soon as next year. Here’s what some Florida teachers have to say about that., Elizabeth Djinis

Florida’s ‘Schools of Hope’ plan is just now taking off. Tampa, Miami are first in line., Marlene Sokol

“A state program approved two years ago to give Florida families an alternative to struggling public schools is finally taking root, and Hillsborough County will be one of its earliest proving grounds. The controversial ‘schools of hope’ concept, championed by Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran when he was Speaker of the House in 2017, set out to lure high-quality charter school operators to Florida, provided they established campuses in areas of poor school performance. Lining up the operators took awhile. But now two of them are ready to do business, even as the program continues to be challenged in court.”

Changes to Bright Futures test score requirements passed by Florida Legislature, Emily L. Mahoney

“The change in scores will likely result in thousands of high school students no longer being eligible, and Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said low-income and minority students would be disproportionately affected.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis signs bill allowing private school vouchers, Jeffrey S. Solochek and Josh Solomon

“Florida’s government will set aside $130 million this year to pay private school tuition for up to 18,000 low-income students under a wide-ranging education bill signed into law Thursday by Gov. Ron DeSantis.”

READ IT: SB 7070

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

Around the State

School board votes to mothball St. Andrew School, move students to Oakland Terrace, Panama City News Herald, Genevieve Smith

“The board unanimously agreed upon the mothballing of St. Andrew School, per Superintendent Bill Husfelt’s recommendation, after the campus sustained significant damage from Hurricane Michael. Positioned in the heart of historic downtown St. Andrews, the campus is a historic site in Panama City and is the oldest continuously operating school in Bay County.”

Broward schools cries out for an image overhaul. Can 3 new positions help?, Sun-Sentinel, Susannah Bryan

“The Broward County School District has come under blistering criticism for its spin, hide, deny culture. The complaints arose from parents, teachers and students in the days following last year’s Parkland massacre. Kathy Koch, the district’s top spokeswoman, has told board members she needs help getting out positive stories and dealing with negative press. On Wednesday, the School Board approved the request to beef up her four-member communications staff by adding three positions.”

Students failing Florida’s VPK test, providers say the $400 million system is flawed, WPTV, Sam Smink

“The real test is given to VPK students once they reach kindergarten. According to the latest scores available, nearly half of all kids (45 percent) in Florida failed, meaning they ‘aren’t ready for kindergarten.’”

After exam debacle, school district tries to move forward with solutions, St. Augustine Record, Travis Gibson

“There will be one big change to the District exams moving forward. Forson said that the District is migrating to a new platform with the same vendor, Performance Matters, that will make things simpler on the internal side, a move that was already scheduled to take place. It’s a platform that is used by most of the school districts in Florida. The new platform will be in place in time for 2019-20 school year first semester exams.”

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

Other Views

What’s behind a low performing school? Crummy parents, Florida Today guest column, Bob Barnes of The Children’s Hunger Project

“I do not challenge the fact that there is a correlation between poor academic success and poverty. But poverty is not the main reason our kids are not educated properly. Moreover, it is not the condition of buildings, books, or system support. Poor parenting is the root of the problem. Until we realize this, we will be having the same discussion 50 and 100 years from now.”

Black boys will be the primary victims if teachers bring guns into the classroom, Miami Herald guest column, state Rep. Shevrin Jones

“The truth is that black students are far more likely to face harsher punishment in school than their white counterparts. From suspensions to arrests, schools have provided us with a first-hand look at the racial disparities that affect the way students are disciplined. Now that Florida Republicans have passed HB 7093, a bill that allows armed teachers in Florida’s classrooms, the threat of harsh punishment, or worse, will be further intensified for black students.”

Charter schools deserve fair share of public funding, Sun-Sentinel guest column, Lynn Norman-Teck of the Florida Charter Schools Alliance

“Charter schools are public schools. Their students are public school students. Their teachers are public school teachers. Charter school parents pay the taxes that fund them — as do charter school teachers. They have a right to a fair share of public funding.”

Florida’s teacher shortage: Did we just take a step backward?, Bridge to Tomorrow blog, FSU professor Paul Cottle

“The Florida Legislature just reduced the signing bonus amount for new FSU grads going into math and science teaching to $4,000. Will that hurt the recruiting of math and science teachers? That remains to be seen. But it will not help.”

Giving students school choice or ripping off public education? Hard to tell in Florida., Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago

"Lawmakers are supposed to be funding and defending public education. But instead they take money for the vouchers to fund private businesses from general revenue funds that should go to improving public schools that are historically short-changed."

Teacher Appreciation Week, Tallahassee Style, Teacher Voice blog, Hillsborough County teacher Ryan Haczynski

“Whether it’s arming teachers, using the public’s money to provide private school vouchers to religious schools, subverting the will of local voters, or just flat out ignoring the wishes of Florida’s majority, the Florida Legislature did what it does best – pass legislation no one wants or is asking for.”

A Florida Teacher of the Year that would be music to the ears, Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino

"Every year, the Florida Department of Education oversees the process of honoring the best teachers in Florida’s traditional and charter public schools. Each district nominates a teacher and five are selected statewide as finalists.This year, two of the five finalists who will be on the stage for the July announcement are music teachers. That’s out of a pool of 176,900 public school teachers in the state. This is worth noting because music, like the rest of arts education, is sometimes relegated to the cut list in budget sessions."

Reports of Note

Teachers Increasingly Struggle with Housing Affordability, Apartment List

“While teaching has long been a comparatively low-paying profession, rapid increases in housing costs have exacerbated the struggle of teachers. While rates of housing cost burden among teachers are lower than the national average, they are higher than that of other Americans with college degrees, and in certain parts of the country — particularly the nation’s high cost coastal metros — teachers are especially strained.

Credentials Matter Report 1: A National Landscape of High School Student Credential Attainment Compared to Workforce Demand, Foundation for Excellence in Education

“In many cases, state education agencies promote and include measures of knowledge and skills in their industry recognized credential lists that are not valued by employers. This is especially true for CTE Assessments and many General Career Readiness credentials. Both CTE Assessments and General Career Readiness credentials can be developed by individual states or offered to students off-the-shelf through assessment vendors or other entities.”

Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year 2015–16 (Fiscal Year 2016)​​​​​​​, National Center for Education Statistics

Coming Up

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

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The latest: Vouchers, teachers with guns and other Florida legislative highlights

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