ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week ending July 26, 2019

A collection of news and views from the past week.
Kindergartner Addysen Gilbert, 5, reaches to put her lunchbox on a shelf outside her new classroom at Chocachatti Elementary School on Monday, Aug. 13, the first day of the 2018-19 school year.
Kindergartner Addysen Gilbert, 5, reaches to put her lunchbox on a shelf outside her new classroom at Chocachatti Elementary School on Monday, Aug. 13, the first day of the 2018-19 school year.
Published July 27, 2019

It’s been more than a year since the murderous rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. Have schools made progress improving the safety of their students and staffs? Not nearly enough, a grand jury says in its preliminary report looking into the situation. District officials statewide have questioned the rather vague findings of the brief document. But they’re clearly worried about what might happen next, and continue to take steps to bolster security efforts. That, and more from the past 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 heads back to school soon, this time with even more choices, Marlene Sokol

“Florida enters the 2019-20 school year having just doubled down on its reputation as a choice state. The Republican-led Legislature this year expanded the state’s scholarship program, allowing more children to pay private school tuition with public money. And with a new Republican governor and a choice-friendly education commissioner, it’s a good bet the movement will only expand.”

Florida grand jury on school safety says ‘numerous’ districts not following post-Parkland laws, Emily L. Mahoney

“A statewide grand jury impaneled to investigate school safety found that just weeks before the 2019-2020 school year begins, ‘numerous’ Florida school districts are not in compliance with the post-Parkland school security laws.”

How diverse are public schools in Tampa Bay? The number of languages students speak may surprise you., Jeffrey S. Solochek

“Think diversity in schools, and you wouldn’t be faulted if your mind turned first to race and income. Those criteria are, after all, the main ones that governments use. But schools also face the challenge of dealing with the needs of children from dozens of other countries, speaking something other than English, which remains the primary language for classroom instruction.”

Florida teachers: Did your school do well enough for you to get a bonus?, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“Aiming to clarify the situation, the Department of Education recently released a two-page FAQ explaining how it plans to implement the latest incarnation of the rule. It looks to make it as easy as possible to meet the mark, within the new statutory restrictions.”

Visit for more education news from the Times staff.

Around the State

Professors: Polk students need more high-level math, science classes to prepare for college, Ledger, Kimberly C. Moore

“FSU physics professor Paul Cottle told the Polk School Board about 60% of Polk County’s 12th graders are enrolled in chemistry, while only 10% are taking physics and 7% to 8% are in calculus classes. Part of the issue, he and others said, was students thinking the class is too hard and not wanting to damage their grade-point average.”

Votes on controversial Orange teacher contract to be counted Monday, Orlando Sentinel, Leslie Postal

“Orange County teachers hoping a proposed contract gets voted down should know by Monday afternoon if their campaign to defeat what they call an inadequate salary and benefits package was successful. Though Orange’s public school teachers have never before voted ‘no’ on a contract, many expect they will this year.”

More conflict between city, School Board over tax vote, Florida Times-Union, David Bauerlein

“As the fate of a half-cent sales tax for Duval County schools swings in the balance, two meetings happened concurrently directly impacting its fate.”

Cash incentives announced for teachers at D and F schools, Herald-Tribune, Ryan McKinnon

“The program will help recruit teachers to schools that typically deal with extensive staff vacancies. ... However, the program is sure to stir dissent, as teachers unions across the state have consistently decried legislators and the DOE using controversial bonus programs to reward teachers, rather than increasing funding levels so districts can increase overall pay.”

Lawmaker moves to take away superintendent salaries if schools don’t teach about Holocaust, African American history, Florida Phoenix, Diane Rado

“Democratic state Rep. Geraldine Thompson plans to file legislation that would withhold the salaries of school superintendents whose schools are not complying with the law on teaching about the Holocaust and African American history. ... ‘After 25 years of haphazard implementation, it is time to put some teeth into this law.’”

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

Other Views

Charter schools provide a critical choice​​​​​​​, Florida Times-Union editorial

If a charter public school provides a lifeline, let the parents decide if it’s one they want to seize on behalf of their children.”

Life is, and should be, about choices​​​​​​​, Ledger editorial

“It is a shame that when it comes to educating our youngsters, here in Polk County and throughout Florida, that the grown-ups must be embroiled in this us-against-them, either-or argument. We can achieve a sound education system that benefits all of us by adapting to changing circumstances and empowering parents.”

How curriculum mandates hurt special-needs students, Herald-Tribune columnist Carrie Seidman

“Creating an approach to public education that serves all students — from those headed for advanced degrees and fancy titles, to the many more who, like my son, will contribute to our communities and economy in a less ostentatious manner — will never be easy. But it’s important to recognize that protecting our students’ physical and mental well-being will have every bit as big an impact on their future — and society’s — as expanding their intellectual capabilities.”

Mary McLeod Bethune statue will give Florida a legacy of excellence to uphold in education​​​​​​​, Orlando Sentinel editorial

“Florida’s decision to submit Bethune to the hall sends a message that in our state, education is just as important to survival as air.”

Reports of Note


“We have heard days of testimony from Department of Education, school district and law enforcement officials regarding administrative hurdles, increased costs to their districts, and shortages of the qualified employees necessary to bring these districts into compliance with these important safety measures. Without discussing the specifics of their explanations, suffice it to say we find this testimony wholly unpersuasive.”

Coming Up

Aug. 21: Florida Board of Education, Broward State College, Fort Lauderdale

Aug. 28-29: Florida University Board of Governors, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers

Sept. 16-20: Florida Legislature interim committee week

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