ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of May 13, 2019

A collection of news and views from the past week.
[Associated Press | 2016]
[Associated Press | 2016]
Published May 18

Are Florida’s 4-year-olds being shortchanged in the state’s Voluntary Prekindergarten program? Gov. Ron DeSantis has called for increased accountability for the providers, after seeing data that 42 percent of participants entered kindergarten unprepared. But how far will he go, knowing so many of the pre-k centers that accept the vouchers are privately run? DeSantis hasn’t been too keen on accountability measures for private schools that will take the state’s new Family Empowerment voucher, approved this spring. 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

Florida sets aside $15 million to settle Best and Brightest bonus lawsuit, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“When Gov. Ron DeSantis talked after the 2019 legislative session about putting $300 million into teacher bonuses for next year, it seemed like a bit of extreme rounding. The education budget that Florida lawmakers approved showed only $284.5 million for the Best and Brightest program, after all. But tucked into another part of the budget — line 142A, to be precise — the Legislature had placed $15.5 million for settling a federal lawsuit referred to as ‘Educ. Ass’n v. Dep’t of Educ., Case No. 4-17-cv-414-RH/CAS.’”

School mascots are changing in Hillsborough to reflect sensitivity to Native Americans, Marlene Sokol"To show its respect to the Native American community, the Hillsborough County School District is changing school mascots at six schools and traditions at two high schools."

Hernando County schools look for balance in navigating school-safety tech boom, Jack Evans"School security has taken center-stage in Florida over the past year, with conversations and coverage about school “hardening,” resource officers and arming teachers. But school districts also are considering technology focused on making schools safer, and at least one vendor’s product soon will make its way onto smart phones and computers in the Hernando County School District."

Gov. Ron DeSantis: Too many Florida kids not ready for kindergarten, Thomas C. Tobin"Florida officials on Wednesday lamented a newly released figure showing that 42 percent of children in the state’s Voluntary Prekindergarten program were not ready for kindergarten last year, and said they planned to address the issue with more accountability measures."

SEARCH: Florida VPK provider readiness rates

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

Around the State

Not many people noticed, but lawmakers just changed Florida’s graduation requirements in math – for better or worse, Florida Phoenix, Diane Rado

“Students, parents, and even math educators probably don’t know about a little-noticed paragraph in a bill the Legislature approved this month: It changes graduation requirements in math, helping or hindering students and potentially ‘dumbing down’ math curriculum.”

DeSantis Signs Controversial Bill Requiring Schools Districts To Share Local Money With Charters, WLRN, Jenny Staletovich

“The bill, which largely addresses tax relief following hurricanes and tax cuts for business leases, drew opposition from school districts that object to sharing tax dollars with charters run by for-profit companies. The change in law means that districts will have to share money collected through special voter referendums.”

Broward schools consider more lenient student absence policy, Sun-Sentinel, Scott Travis

“Broward students could soon face fewer consequences for missing schools without permission. Most School Board members voiced support Tuesday for relaxing a three-year-old policy that allows teachers to give bad grades to students with unexcused absences. Students can be penalized 10 percent on tests they miss and get a D on homework they turn in late due to an unexcused absence.”

Studies Show Florida Has Teacher Shortage, Underpays Them, Florida Daily, Ed Dean

“Recent studies by the liberal leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and 24/7 Wall Street show that Florida has a teacher shortage crisis and several local school district ranks as some of the worst in the country when it comes to teacher pay. The EPI study details the ‘large and growing’ teacher shortage which, the report finds, is approaching a tipping point because of low pay.”'

Silent strike': Demoralized and underpaid, 625 teachers have walked away from Brevard schools, Florida Today, Caroline Glenn

“[Kara] Mathews is one of many teachers who has abandoned teaching in Brevard Public Schools. Saying they are sick of the low pay, overcrowded classrooms, hulking workloads, unruly students, disrespectful parents and demanding administrators, these erstwhile educators — men and women, young and old — quit their jobs for other careers or other schools that paid better.”

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

Other Views

The Tallahassee yoga studio shooter was a teacher — could he have been a ‘Guardian’?, Tallahassee Democrat columnist Eve Samples

“Imagine a teacher spooked by a practical joke or threatened while breaking up a fight. What if an armed school guardian faces a mental health crisis? The result of this law (SB 7030), [Parkland parent Fred] Guttenberg is convinced, will be more school violence — not less. Is he being hyperbolic? Is it outrageous to think a firearms-trained classroom teacher could commit the very crime the law aims to prevent? We don’t have to look far back in Florida’s history to consider the possibility.”

Frequent Misconceptions About Charter Schools, UCF Today, UCF educational psychology professor Michele Gregoire Gill

“Ideally, in my opinion, there would be multiple public school options available to families, with differing approaches to learning, and parents would be able to choose a school that best fits their child’s needs and interests. These schools would have authority to make decisions that are responsive to their communities. However, given the heavy pressure on schools to produce high standardized test scores, charter schools act as a buffer and can provide a more independent learning environment for students.”

6 a.m. bus rides. 7:20 bells. Florida high schools operate in the dark ages, Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell

“This is normal life in Central Florida — where high school’s in session by 7:20. But it’s not normal in America. Fewer than 5% of schools start this early. And for good reason — because research clearly shows it’s bad for teen learning.”

Florida school vouchers won’t be the death of public education, but we need reforms, Florida Today editorial

“School vouchers aren’t the catastrophic blow to public education that some critics portray them to be. But lawmakers must strengthen the requirements for participating schools to ensure we’re not creating a parallel, unaccountable school system that allows bad actors to get mixed with quality private schools.”

Will Michigan 3rd- grade reading law hurt poor? Florida’s history says yes, Bridge Michigan"

Children from low-income and minority families will be more likely to flunk than wealthier white classmates with similarly low test scores under Michigan’s third-grade reading law, if the experience of Florida is repeated here."

Reports of Note

TWENTY YEARS LATER: The Jeb Bush A+ Plan Fails Florida’s Students, Network for Public Education Action, Sue Legg

“Jeb Bush was elected as a governor bent on dismantling what conservatives called a public-school monopoly. In 2001, Florida’s schools were large and crowded. The schools had the largest average number of students in the nation. Only four states had a larger average class size. Promoting privately run charter schools and diverting funding to private schools were supposedly less expensive. Classroom space would increase without raising taxes. Twenty years later, Florida schools are nearing a fiscal crisis, and awareness of social costs has grown.

Recently passed voucher plan may drain nearly $1 billion from Florida’s public schools over the next five years, Florida Education Association

“According to an FEA analysis, the expanded use of vouchers will drain $131 million from Florida’s neighborhood public schools in the 2019-2020 school year. Based on the track record of the current Florida voucher program, which has grown by 21 percent each year, FEA projects a total loss to public schools of more than $986 million over the next five years.”

Number of Low-Performing Schools by State in Three Categories (CSI, TSI, and ATSI), School Year 2018-19, Center on Education Policy

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

We’re podcasting, with newsmaker interviews and chats about the latest issues to crop up. Please take a listen, and send any thoughts, tips and ideas to jsolochek@tampabay.com.

The latest: Indians, Chiefs and Warriors no more — Hillsborough schools to drop Native American mascots

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