Florida roundup: Bulletproof backpacks, charter school standards, second thoughts on teacher evaluations & more

Tweaks coming to teacher evals? Gradebook: “Patricia Levesque, executive director of Jeb Bush’s education foundation and a key voice in state education legislation, meanwhile, is floating a draft bill that would alter the evaluation system, too. She sent an e-mail to superintendents last week seeking input.”

Tony Bennett on charter schools. In a Q&A with the Orlando Sentinel, Bennett is asked whether lawmakers should tighten scrutiny on charter schools. His response: “When the charter movement began, the intent of charter schools was to trade increased freedom and flexibility for a higher level of accountability. Somewhere along the way, we lost track of that, and in too many cases, charter schools are held to lower standards than traditional public schools.”

backpack 2Arming teachers? Teachers don’t like the idea, floated in the wake of Newtown, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm agrees. Brevard schools go into lockdown after a man makes threats referencing Newtown, reports Florida Today. Rumors of violence in Hillsborough, reports the Tampa Bay Times and Tampa Tribune. More security discussions in Broward, reports the Miami Herald. A stranger trespassing on an Alachua middle school campus raises questions, reports the Gainesville Sun. Florida parents are among those ordering stacks of $300 bulletproof backpacks, reports the Orlando Sentinel. (Image from americablog.com). “Schools can’t be prisons,” editorializes the Pensacola News Journal.

More contracting issues. Four employees in the Division of Blind Services, which is under the Department of Education, are ousted after an audit reveals a sweetheart deal in the works over a contract, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

A day in the life. Orlando Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab spends a day with a teacher.

More poor kids. In Broward and Palm Beach counties, reports the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Budget cuts. Brevard Superintendent Brian Binggeli recommends $39 million in cuts in the wake of a failed sales tax referendum. Florida Today.

Fallout over LGBT vote. SchoolZone.

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at rmatus@stepupforstudents.org or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at facebook.com/redefinedonline.