Florida roundup: Vouchers and testing, rockets and ed reform, school choice and Ford Falcons & more

Vouchers and testing. A new report from the Fordham Institute finds that mandated testing – and even public reporting of test results – isn’t that big a concern for private schools worried about government regs tied to vouchers and tax credit scholarships. Coverage from redefinED, Choice Words, the Cato Institute’s Andrew J. Coulson and Gradebook. AEI’s Michael McShane says Florida’s tax credit scholarship program (which, altogether now, is administered by Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog) finds the “sweet spot” with its testing and financial reporting requirements: “These regulations don’t sound too crazy to me; they seem to strike a good balance of accountability for safety, fiscal responsibility, and academic performance without being overly dictatorial in how schools must demonstrate any of those.”

flroundup2Shooting rockets. Senate President Don Gaetz tells the Associated Press that Florida needs to slow down on ed reforms until it rights the new teacher evaluation system and other changes in the works: “We need to quit shooting rockets into the air. We need to give schools and school districts, teachers and parents time to institutionalize the reforms that have already been made. We need about a two-year cooling off period.”

Ford Falcons. Schools need competition. EdFly Blog.

School choice. Education Commissioner Tony Bennett says at a National School Choice Week event in Tampa that some Florida districts deserve credit for expanding public school options such as magnets and career academies, reports redefinED. More from Tampa Tribune.

Charter schools. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ranks Florida fifth for its charter laws.  SchoolZone. Gradebook. South Florida Sun Sentinel. StateImpact Florida. The Pinellas school district postpones a decision on whether to close a long-struggling Imagine school in St. Petersburg, reports the Tampa Bay Times and Tampa Tribune. The Volusia district’s decision to shut down a struggling charter in Deland is headed to appeals court, reports the Daytona Beach News Journal.

School security. Two charter schools in Lake County add school resource officers, reports the Leesburg Daily Commercial. Private schools in South Florida team up to form the Independent School Safety Coalition, reports the South Florida Sun Sentinel. A plan to ask Broward voters to pay more taxes to beef up school security gets support from local lawmakers, reports the Sun Sentinel.

School technology. StateImpact Florida takes a look at how the Orange County school district is preparing for the future here, and at an outfit that rates ed tech products here.

Jeb Bush and the Corporatist Conspiracy. To be unveiled today!, reports SchoolZone. The latest ALEC report card is also set for release, SchoolZone notes.

Jeb Bush in Arkansas. Associated Press.

ESE. The Hillsborough school board will consider dozens of changes to improve services for special education students in the wake of two deaths, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Gradebook has the latest on a related lawsuit.

Crumbling. A piece of ceiling at a Broward County high school gives out – and the Miami Herald suggests state funding is to blame.

Unspeakable. Palm Beach Post: “Jury selection is underway in a trial, accusing the Palm Beach County School Board of not protecting a 3 1/2-year-old autistic Pahokee girl from being raped by a teenager on a school bus.”

Wish list. Duval’s legislative priorities. Florida Times Union.

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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.