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Local control of Florida schools tested by state officials

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, on left, along with Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran during a roundtable discussion at Winthrop College Prep Academy in August 2020. The two state officials have exerted increasing pressure on local schools to meet their demands.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, on left, along with Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran during a roundtable discussion at Winthrop College Prep Academy in August 2020. The two state officials have exerted increasing pressure on local schools to meet their demands. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Mar. 9
Updated Mar. 9

In Florida, as in other states, children’s education largely has come under the purview of local communities and their elected representatives. That authority to operate and control the schools is written into the state’s Constitution. Yet time and again, lawmakers and the Governor’s Office have sought to wrest those powers away, whether through dictating how money gets spent or attempting to limit the service of voter-selected board members and superintendents. The power struggle has come into clear focus during the pandemic. Read on for more on that story and other Florida education news.

Who’s in charge here? The state’s demand that Monroe County schools fully reopen despite local health concerns reflects only the latest incarnation of the “tug of war” over public education, WLRN reports.

The testing debate continues. Large groups of educators and parents have called on state to cancel testing consequences for the spring. Education commissioner Richard Corcoran held firm that results are needed, but wouldn’t commit to how the scores will be used, as he spoke to teachers in a Zoom town hall, Florida Politics reports.

Bring us your talented students. A Florida House committee advanced legislation that would grant in-state tuition to out-of-state students whose grandparents reside in Florida, Florida Politics reports.

Republicans vs. teacher unions. A separate House committee approved two bills aimed at how teachers pay union dues. Opponents say it’s another effort to harm the labor organizations, the News Service of Florida reports.

What’s going on today? The Senate Education Committee has postponed consideration of a controversial bill to alter student financial aid and Bright Futures rules when it meets at 3:30 p.m. • The House Early Learning and Elementary Education subcommittee meets at 9:30 a.m. • The House Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning subcommittee meets at 1 p.m. • The Senate Criminal Justice Committee will consider legislation that would allow people to carry weapons in schools attached to places of worship, when it meets at 3:30 p.m.reports.

Coronavirus concerns

Some parents have started planning for next year. Nearly one-third surveyed said they’re considering sticking with remote learning, NPR reports.

Substitute teachers have been approved to get the coronavirus vaccine. Some are having trouble proving they’re eligible at the sites, WFTV reports.

It proved a problem for college and university faculty, too. Initially eligible, many were turned away from federal sites in Tampa, WUSF reports.

About prom and graduation ceremonies ... Volusia County parents are fighting their district’s decision to limit the events, and appear to be gaining traction, WOFL reports.

A local paper has accused the Indian River County school district of misrepresenting the numbers of coronavirus cases in schools. District officials denied the allegation, WPEC reports.

School diversity

Is your school military friendly? State lawmakers want to create a “Purple Star” designation to help military families determine if it meets certain criteria, the Pensacola News Journal reports.

Many schools disproportionately discipline Black students. Several in the Tampa area are working to eliminate the implicit bias among teachers, WFTS reports.

In other news

An Alachua County principal was found to have violated district policies. She was demoted, not fired as recommended, the Gainesville Sun reports.

That was fast. A Sarasota County private school’s new, larger site has gone from nothing to nearly done in the span of months, the Herald-Tribune reports.

A Broward County school’s roof collapsed during construction. Students will learn from home the remainder of the week, while engineers try to figure out what happened, WSVN reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s the link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... In recognition of Women’s History Month, take a moment to learn about Hillsborough County’s Pat Frank, active in local and state politics for nearly five decades until her retirement at 91 last year. Bay News 9 offers a glimpse into the story of one of the first women to earn an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida, who later served on the School Board and County Commission, as well as in the state Legislature and as clerk of courts. She didn’t win her first three attempts at office, but persevered, Times columnist Sue Carlton wrote. Now she has a courthouse named after her.

Pat Frank wins a school board race in 1972.  Times
Pat Frank wins a school board race in 1972. Times [ Tampa Tribune ]