Florida schools roundup: Charter schools bills, reading, religion and more

Charter schools plan: State Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, says the House proposal to turn over failing schools to charter schools “creates a separate but unequal system” that violates the Florida and U.S. Constitutions. The so-called “schools of hope” bill calls for traditional schools with D or F grades for three years to become charter schools. “These schools have failed these kids long enough,” said Rep. Manuel Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah. “These are kids trapped in generational poverty, and for us to create this illusion it [schools of hope] is a separate system? It’s not.” The House Appropriations Committee passed the bill, which now goes to the full House for a vote. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. redefinED.

Charter facilities funds: The House Appropriations Committee passes a bill that would nearly double the amount of money set aside from local property taxes for charter schools facilities. But a lobbyist for Charter Schools USA, Chris Moya, says the bill may actually reduce the money available for charters because districts can subtract the amount spent on debt service before the rest of the money is divided, and because sharing formula favors charters that enroll low-income students. Moya argues that the Legislature should “stop thinking about funding institutions or districts or even schools, and really think about funding the student.” The bill now moves on to the House vote. redefinED.

Extra reading narrowed: High-level readers at the 300 lowest-performing elementary schools in the state would no longer have to attend the extra hour of required reading under a Florida House bill that has been approved by the appropriations committee. Students who achieve Level 4 or 5 on the state language arts test would have the option of skipping the reading hour. Students who achieve Level 3 or below are required to attend. The bill would also give schools the option of fitting in that hour instead of requiring it to be an extra hour of school. The changes are at odds with the Senate version of the billGradebook.

Class sizes: The House approves a bill that changes the way class sizes are calculated to meet the requirements of a 2002 voter-approved amendment. If approved, schools could use a schoolwide average instead of counting individual classes. A similar bill is moving through the Senate. Associated Press.

Religious expression: The Florida House overwhelmingly approves a bill that guarantees the rights of students and teachers to express their religious views in public schools. The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration, which is likely to happen next week. Miami Herald. Associated Press.

Jewish schools security: Senate and House committees both pass budget amendments providing money to boost security at Jewish day schools in the state. The Senate approved a $500,000 allocation; the House $254,491. Associated PressPolitico Florida. WFTV.

Scholarship boost: Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits announces it is donating $150 million for the 2017-2018 school year to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. The program provides money for low-income students to attend private schools. About 100,000 students have scholarships this school year. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarship and Gardiner Scholarship programs. Miami Herald. How President Trump’s policies could spread school vouchers and tax credit scholarship-like programs across the United States. Politico Florida.

Retention ruling appealed: Parents who challenged the state’s laws on retaining third-graders are asking the Florida Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision rejecting the challenge. The First District Court of Appeal ruled that the case should have been heard in local courts instead of in Tallahassee, and that the testing helps with the “laudable purpose” of deciding a student needs more reading instruction. Gradebook.

Teachers honored: Eleanna Hurst, a third grade teacher at Collins Elementary School in Dania Beach, is named the Broward County School District’s teacher of the year. Sun-Sentinel. William “BJ” Ivey, an International Baccalaureate World History honors classes and advanced psychology teacher and basketball coach at Riverview High School, is named the Sarasota County School District’s teacher of the year. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Cursive comeback: A Palm Beach County School Board member is asking school officials to study the feasibility and potential benefits of reviving cursive and penmanship lessons. Sun-Sentinel.

Sales tax plans: After voters agree to continue an extra half-cent sales tax for schools, Santa Rosa County school officials are working on a five-year building plan to submit to the state and will begin setting priorities for construction. Pensacola News Journal.

School impact fees: The Pasco County School Board is asking county commissioners to double the impact fee for schools, and an advisory committee formed to explore other alternatives says it may not have any other good options. Gradebook.

School site search: Members of the Lee County School District’s construction advisory committee have prepared reports on two properties being considered as a site for a new high school. Fort Myers News-Press.

Gadsden reconfiguration: The Gadsden County School Board approves a plan to consolidate some schools and close others to provide a better use of resources for the struggling district. Tallahassee Democrat.

Rezoning, merger concerns: Hillsborough County parents are protesting the proposed rezoning that would send 563 children from the A-rated Pride Elementary School to the C-rated Hunter’s Green Elementary. School officials say the rezoning is an attempt to balance out enrollments in the neighborhoods in the north area of the county. Tampa Bay Times. Hillsborough parents also voice their concerns about the proposed merger of Cahoon Elementary and Van Buren Middle schools. If it goes through, Cahoon would lose its designation as a magnet school. Tampa Bay Times.

School calendar: The Palm Beach County School Board gives tentative approval to a 2017-2018 school calendar that would trim the school year from 180 days to 179, turn half-days into full days, and close schools for the week of Thanksgiving. The board will take a final vote April 19. Palm Beach PostSun-Sentinel.

School start times: Rushe Middle School in Pasco County will start at 7:52 a.m. next fall. The school board approved the 75-minute earlier start time, which was made to improve busing efficiency. Tampa Bay Times.

Superintendent honored: Orange County School Superintendent Barbara Jenkins is named the “Hispanic-serving school superintendent of the year” by the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents for closing the achievement gap between Hispanics and other students. Orlando Sentinel.

Trump budget concerns: Palm Beach School Superintendent Robert Avossa says President Trump’s proposed education budget that would eliminate a $450 million grant program that helps district recruit and train teachers would hurt the effort to reform the county’s public schools. Palm Beach Post.

Personnel changes: The head of the Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach will step down in 14 months to return to the classroom. John Klemme, 67, was appointed head of school in 2016 after a scandal ended the tenure of Bob Parsons. School trustees say they will conduct a worldwide search to fill the job. Palm Beach Post. The Brevard County School Board selects Amy Envall of Orange County to become the district’s attorney, despite one member’s plea to keep the current firm. School officials previously decided the district needed its own fulltime counsel. Florida Today.

Contract vote: Manatee County teachers begin voting Friday on the contract proposal from the school board. The board settled a long contract dispute between the district and union, primarily over wages. Even if teachers vote against the deal, state law requires it be put into place. Bradenton Herald.

Payroll system audit: The Manatee County School District is asking auditors to take a look at its antiquated payroll system. Bradenton Herald.

School wins appeal: An appeals court has thrown out a $206,000 judgment against the Palm Beach County School Board. The judges ruled that Leha “Bonnie” Wright must prove she was fired as retaliation for complaining that her supervisor criticized her accent and created a hostile work environment. Palm Beach Post.

Teachers file grievances: Two Vero Beach High School teachers accused of tampering with online skill-certification tests, file grievances against the Indian River County School District. Both teachers drew suspensions for their actions. TCPalm.

School-related traffic deaths: A fourth-grader riding his bike home from Odyssey Charter School in Palm Bay is hit by a truck and killed. Police are investigating. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Today. A woman dies a day after running her motorcycle into a school bus in Seminole County. Orlando Sentinel.

Teachers in trouble: Jason Perry, a teacher at Raines High School in Jacksonville, is suspended after his fourth arrest in two years and for excessive unauthorized absences. WJAX. Daryl Cox, a teacher at Fox Chapel Middle School in Hernando County, is fired after she gives students an assignment asking them to rank how comfortable they are with some situations, such as “your black roommate gets a full-tuition minority scholarship” and “your mother ‘comes out’ to you.” WFLA.

Opinions on schools: The state of Florida began to atone for a horrific chapter in its history this week, more than a century after it began. A pair of resolutions moving through the Legislature formally apologize for the state-run Dozier School for Boys, a torture colony for physical, sexual and emotional abuse that operated from 1900 to 2011, when it was closed after its conditions became public. Tampa Bay Times. Friday is a day of celebration for six Lee County teachers who are winners of Golden Apple awards. Fort Myers News-Press. The concern about the alignment of ACT or SAT with Florida Standards is a bit disingenuous. After all, policymakers scrapped many of the state’s high school science standards without a second thought. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: About 700 Pinellas County students now have mentors in the Raymond James Financial program Lunch Pals, in which volunteers have lunch with students at their schools once a week. Tampa Bay Times. Musicall, a Miami-Dade County nonprofit, offers free music lessons to children as young as 1, as well as three string orchestras. Miami Herald. Twenty-five Immokalee students enrolled in the Guadalupe Center’s Tutor Corps are given scholarships to the colleges of their choice. Naples Daily News. Booker High School Film Academy students are producing a documentary on teen court. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The top two chefs in the Sodexo Future Chefs Competition, both from the Okaloosa Academy Charter School, prepare their recipes for the school board. Northwest Florida Daily News.