Florida roundup: charter schools, school choice lotteries, gifted education & more

florida roundup logoCharter schools. Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano uses the specter of for-profit charter schools to slam state lawmakers who support parent trigger: “They say tomato, I say morons.” Times columnist Bill Maxwell, meanwhile, highlights the success of Urban Prep Academies, a high-performing, all-male, all-black charter school in Chicago where, for four years in a row, every graduate was accepted into a four-year college.

The Palm Beach Post looks at lawmakers with charter school ties. The Lake Wales Charter School system is considering adding a second middle school, with the waiting list for the existing one at 360 and growing, reports the Winter Haven News Chief. The Athenian Academy charter in New Port Richey and the Pasco school district are clashing over whether the school has the right to expand, reports the Tampa Bay Times. A charter school in Miami Shores is getting better at private fundraising, reports the Miami Herald. The state’s charter school appeals commission recommends approval of a proposed Orange Park charter school twice rejected by the Clay County School Board, reports the Florida Times Union. Lawmakers should limit charter school to districts with failing schools, editorializes the St. Augustine Record.

School choice lotteries. A lot of parents in Palm Beach County are about to get bad news:  They did not get their children into the district school  choice they wanted. According to the Palm Beach Post, “At more than half of the choice programs, less than 1 in 3 students that applied got a seat. At four of the 185 choice programs, fewer than 1 in 10 students won a seat.”

Vouchers. The League of Women Voters asks if McKay vouchers and tax credit scholarships are constitutional in a Gainesville Sun op-ed.

Parent trigger. Former Board of Education member Julia Johnson responds to critics in this op-ed in the Tallahassee Democrat: “I don’t understand what a critic of parent empowerment meant when she recently wrote that it would use parents like “cheap napkins.’’ But I do know that low-income kids were used as a cheap paycheck and their schools were oftentimes used as a training ground for novice teachers and a depository for ineffective ones.” The Tampa Tribune writes up the debate. Pensascola News Journal columnist Shannon Nickinson doesn’t like it: “How about the state fulfilling its obligation to the public education system, rather than working to pass off that responsibility under the guise of “parental choice.”

Virtual schools. The Miami Herald writes up the bills that will expand digital education.

Gifted education. The Orange County School District is expanding access to gifted education for low-income and minority students. Orlando Sentinel.

Fund Education Now. The Orlando-based parents group is part of an effort to create a more politically powerful force called the Alliance for Public Schools. StateImpact Florida.

Employee discipline. Tampa Bay Times: “Parents entrusting the welfare of their children to the Hillsborough County School District have a right to know in a timely matter when a school employee is facing disciplinary action. But the school board has violated that trust by voting to delay publishing the names of employees facing disciplinary action until shortly before the board considers action on those employees. The decision is an affront to Florida’s open government tradition and should be reversed. Times columnist Sue Carlton also takes aim at the board’s decision.

Teacher conduct. Duval fires a kindergarten teacher with a history of reportedly neglecting her students, including one incident in which she reportedly failed to see one boy performing oral sex on another,  reports the Florida Times Union. A former St. Johns County substitute teacher is arrested for reportedly having sex with a 16-year-old student, reports the St. Augustine Record.

School grades. Miami-Dade officials try to prepare the public for lower grades in the face of higher standards. Miami Herald.

School safety. A bill that would let voters raises taxes to improve school security is stalled. Naples Daily News.

School spending: Another audit shows financial problems with the Manatee school district, including mishandling federal funds and not contributing enough to cover worker’s comp obligations. Bradenton Herald.

Turnarounds. Once D-rated Largo High sheds its “Larghetto High” label with an A grade, an IB program and a new attitude. Tampa Bay Times.

Testing. Palm Beach County parents are upset that the district is requiring some students to take two standardized tests when the state only requires one. South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Superintendents. The Polk candidates list is down to six. Lakeland Ledger.

Media specialists. The Tampa Bay Times takes a closer look at Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning’s plan to remove media specialists from all schools next year.

Retention. The percentage of first graders at risk of retention under Escambia’s new policy falls from the first nine weeks to the second. Pensacola News Journal.

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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.

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[…] Florida roundup: charter schools, school choice lotteries, gifted education & more | redefinED This may not pertain to the specific school but I found this quickly for the Tampa area. From the article: 1 in 3 applicants get in at half of the Charter Schools and for 4 of the 185 Charter Schools it is less than 1 in 10. So not good odds and I am sure it has to depend on how many open seats there are. […]

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