Florida schools roundup: Choice growth, open enrollment, new bills and more

florida-roundup-logoSchool choice growth: More than 1.6 million Florida preK-12 children enrolled in school choice programs during the 2015-2016 school year, according to the Florida Department of Education. That’s an increase of more than 74,000 over the previous year, and it accounts for 45 percent of all Florida students. Choice and magnet programs now have 287,568 students, open enrollment has 280,134 and charter schools 270,301. redefinED.

Open enrollment: School districts in central Florida are beginning to implement the open enrollment law passed by the Legislature last year. Under the law, students may attend any public school in the state that has vacancies for them. More than 1,000 parents in Osceola County have already applied for a transfer. Lake County parents can apply Feb. 1, and Orange, Seminole and Volusia will soon follow. Orlando Sentinel. Hundreds of Lee County students apply to change schools in the first day under open enrollment. A lottery and available space will decide assignments. Fort Myers News-Press. The Volusia County School Board will review changes the district must make to bring it into compliance with the state’s open enrollment law. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Citizenship education: In addition to giving students more school choice, Florida House education leaders want them to learn how to become good citizens. “The purpose of education goes to the meaning of man. You want to raise up a great citizen,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, speaking on the Florida Channel. Corcoran also said students get “a well-rounded, think-outside-the-box education,” which would help them become good citizens, parents and employees, no matter what job they pursue. Orlando Sentinel.

Education bills: A House bill that would prohibit religious discrimination in schools now has a Senate companion bill. Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, filed S.B. 436. The House bill was filed by Rep. Kim Daniels, D-Jacksonville. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida. A bill is filed by Rep. Michael Grant, R-Port Charlotte, that would bar school districts from offering annual contract renewal guarantees to teachers who are rated as “highly effective” or “effective.” Gradebook. A higher education bill that would broaden Bright Futures scholarships passes in the Florida Senate Education Committee. Florida Politics. Associated PressNews Service of Florida. WFSU.

Rezoning challenge: Two families are asking the state to reverse a recent rezoning decision by the Pasco County School Board. The families allege the board did not follow state law on the rules when setting new school boundaries for middle and high schools in the southwest part of the county. The petition now goes to the state Division of Administrative Hearings for consideration. Gradebook.

Employees honored: Keli Sare, from Sallie Jones Elementary, is named Charlotte County’s teacher of the year. The support employee of the year is Zelda Smith of Port Charlotte Middle School. Charlotte Sun. Dana Kelly, a first grade teacher at Cunningham Creek Elementary School, is named St, Johns County teacher of the year, Kaley Still, who works with special-needs students at Creekside High School, is the rookie of the year. St. Augustine Record.

Contract impasse: The Manatee County School District and its teachers union will present their positions in their contract impasse to a special magistrate Wednesday. The sides differ on pay and health insurance premiums. The magistrate will hear the arguments and issue a report. If either side rejects it, the impasse goes to the school board. Bradenton Herald.

School board training: Members of the Collier County School Board have a training session designed to help them work more effectively as a team. Naples Daily News.

Schools reopen: Two Palm Beach County schools reopen today after being closed Monday with damage from Sunday’s storm. Official estimate the total damages to Dwyer High School and the Benjamin School at $500,000 to $1 million. Palm Beach Post.

School construction: The Bay County School Board will reconsider the rebuilding of Tommy Oliver Stadium after a pared-down bid came in about 30 percent over the $7 million originally budgeted. If the revised $9.5 million cost is approved, it would be paid out over two years. Panama City News Herald.

Administrator reprimanded: The head of the Academy of Environmental Sciences is reprimanded after a Citrus County School District investigation alleges she belittled and improperly disciplined students and created an uncomfortable atmosphere at the charter school. Sandy Balfour, who left the school board to take the job, denies the allegations and says, “I feel that there is a witch hunt or a conspiracy here.” Citrus County Chronicle.

Student disciplined: An Osceola Middle School student is disciplined but not removed from the school after he left vulgar voice-mail messages for several teachers. WFLA.

Opinions on schools: Long-hidden documents about the exit of new Sarasota County School Superintendent Todd Bowden from his previous job surely could have given the school board more cause to wonder if he was the right guy to run a school district. Tom Lyons, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Guns in schools are apparently a “bear” necessity. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. We want to thank the Florida Supreme Court for recently preserving a popular and still-growing school choice option for the parents of tens of thousands of Florida children. Lakeland Ledger. Here are four questions that Betsy DeVos needs to answer thoughtfully if we are to rescue the next generation from continued academic failure. Sally Butzin, Tallahassee Democrat.

Student enrichment: Sarah Flannery, an eighth-grader at Indian Trails Middle School, wins the Flagler County Spelling Bee. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Kyle Crawford, a student at St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School, wins the Duval County Spelling Bee. Florida Times-Union. Sreeniketh Vogoti, an eighth-grader at Fruit Cove Middle School, wins the St. Johns County Spelling Bee for the second straight year. Florida Times-Union.