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Florida education news: Prekindergarten, turnaround schools and campus closures

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Prekindergarten students at James B. Sanderlin IB World School in St. Petersburg, show the peace sign during an assembly in 2012. New state data show children in prekindergarten are better prepared for kindergarten than those who don't attend. [SCOTT KEELER | TIMES]

READY FOR SCHOOL? The latest Florida kindergarten readiness rates are out, and state education officials say that attending a voluntary pre-k program really makes a difference. Nearly two-thirds of children who completed VPK were ready for kindergarten, according to the latest stats, compared to just over one third who didn’t take the classes. That information prompted a flurry of pushback on social media, where many educators and parents contended that the state is judging readiness wrong, as kindergarten expectations are not age appropriate.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: State Sen. Dennis Baxley says it’s time to ‘step on the gas’ and require struggling schools to improve even faster. His bill to change the state’s ‘turnaround’ rules advanced through its first committee, but not without bipartisan concerns raised that the proposal needs some scaling back. A companion measure is up for consideration in the House Education committee today.

EXODUS: Thousands of Broward County children have left the school district to attend charter schools. District officials are now contemplating the closure or merger of about 30 under-enrolled campuses, the Sun-Sentinel reports. “We are doing a disservice to our students by keeping them in these critically under-enrolled schools,” board member Laurie Rich Levinson said.

SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH: The Marion County School Board is beginning to look for its first-ever appointed superintendent. First, it’s fighting back rumors that a hand-picked internal candidate has already been selected, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. • Flagler County’s superintendent search gets some added input from a special education advisory group, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

YOUR TAX DOLLARS: The City of Jacksonville has spent about $200,000 in legal fees to fight the Duval County School Board over when the school system might hold a sales tax referendum, the Florida Times-Union reports.

HOLOCAUST LESSONS: A bill to require more Holocaust education in Florida schools has found an unexpected opponent in the Anti-Defamation League, whose officials worry about provisions that would allow families to opt out of the classes or even censor some of the materials, WPEC reports.

PARENTAL RIGHTS: A bill to write a ‘parental bill of rights’ into Florida statute is proving controversial, as critics say its approach could endanger the rights of some children. Supporters contend that parents, not government entities, should decide how to raise children, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. More from the News Service of Florida.

SECURITY: The state’s insistence that every Florida public school have an armed guard or officer on campus prompted quick action by most school districts. Some hires have been less than high quality, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

NIMBY: Plans to build a new K-8 school to alleviate crowding in Santa Rosa County schools has neighbors complaining about the potential for traffic and safety problems at the proposed site, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: A new STEM-based charter school breaks ground in Brevard County, Florida Today reports. It also will be a dual-language immersion school, the first of its kind in the county. • The lawyer for a closed Manatee County charter school says a federal lawsuit against the school district will ‘exonerate’ the school and lead to its reinstatement, the Herald-Tribune reports.

LEAD IN THE WATER: Two years after concerns surfaced about high lead levels in Florida school water supplies, little has changed, WFTS reports.

TODAY: Senate Education Appropriations, 1:30 p.m. (SB 70, panic alarms) • House Education, 3 p.m. (HB 7079, testing and accountability)

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup