Florida roundup: Special needs students, privatization fears, AP and more


Teacher’s aides put on leave. Five of them, in Hillsborough, as the district investigates the death of a special needs middle school student and a PE coach accuses them of slacking on the job, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Says Hillsborough Superintendent MaryEllen Elia: “We have to do everything we can to retain and regain the confidence of parents who entrust us with their children.” In Broward, meanwhile, the district plans to fire a bus attendant accused of choking an autistic student, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports.

Privatization gone wrong. At the Department of Education, within the Division of Blind Services, editorializes the Tampa Bay Times. The paper uses the issues there to take a dig at charter schools: “Ever since then-Gov. Jeb Bush took office in 1999, state government has been moving more toward hiring private vendors to do state business — from handling state park reservations to opening private prisons. And Gov. Rick Scott, a former health care executive, has only accelerated that push, for instance by making it easier for charter school companies to qualify for money that used to be dedicated to public schools.”

AP Honor Roll: Eleven Florida districts are among 539 nationwide on the College Board’s latest annual Honor Roll, awarded to districts that increase access to AP classes at the same time they maintain or improve AP test pass rates. Among the 11: Pinellas, which was the subject yesterday of an oddly critical story. (Hat tip, Orlando Sentinel School Zone blog)

Tony Bennett watch. Comments from acting Florida ed commissioner Pam Stewart.

Charter watch. From the Sentinel ed blog late last night: “The Orange County School Board approved one charter school application, rejected two others, and agreed on a contract with a school that the state forced the school district to accept.”

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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.