Florida schools roundup: A call for reform, teacher pay, KIPP and more

A call for reform: Legislators and local school officials are calling for better oversight of private schools that get millions of dollars from the state’s three scholarship programs. A series in the Orlando Sentinel last week detailed how some of those schools hired uncertified teachers with criminal backgrounds and submitted falsified fire reports for years without the state taking action against them. State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, remains a supporter of the tax credit, Gardiner and McKay scholarships, but agrees that “there’s some place between no regulation and over-regulation.” Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit and Gardiner scholarship programs. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher pay: Gov. Rick Scott has pushed for higher teacher pay in the past, but now is saying that the decision is out of his hands. “The way our system is set up in our state those decisions are made at the local level,” Scott said during a discussion with teachers. “What I tell everybody is, ‘You have to be active with your school board members, your superintendents.’ ” Associated Press. Scott did say that his budget proposal will include $63 million for teachers to help buy classroom supplies, an increase of $18 million over last year. That would bump the $250 a year teachers receive for supplies to $350. WTLV.

‘Schools of hope’: The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter school network is working on establishing a “school of hope” in the Liberty City area of Miami. The tentative agreement calls for the Miami-Dade County School Board to provide KIPP Miami with a facility, and KIPP would receive a state grant to help disadvantaged students and share its training programs with the district. The “schools of hope” program was set up by the Legislature to offer financial incentives so charter companies could move into neighborhoods with persistently struggling schools. KIPP is the nation’s largest nonprofit charter school network. redefinED.

Recess reconsidered: After working for years to get daily recess required in state elementary schools, those in the “recess moms” movement are disappointed that the Florida School Boards Association is now proposing a repeal to the 150-minutes-a-week requirement for physical education. Citrus County School Board member Thomas Kennedy is behind the proposal, arguing that the decision should be made at the local level. “They lost on recess so now they’re focused on PE,” says Angela Browning, an Orange County mom who led the fight for recess. The state’s school boards will vote on the proposal today. Gradebook.

Displaced students: More than 7,000 students from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are now attending schools in Florida, state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart tells the Senate Budget Committee. If that number grows, more money might be needed from the state. Most of those students are headed for south Florida and the Miami area, according to the Department of Education. Meanwhile, five school superintendents describe to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on pre-K-12 Education the money spent on hurricane preparation, and ask for help in removing an insurance cap imposed by the state. Politico FloridaSunshine State News. Capitol News Service. Naples Daily News.

Turnaround schools: Duval County school officials are making turnaround plans for three struggling schools that will go into effect if the schools don’t get a grade of C or better from the state next summer. The choices: The schools could close, be turned over to an outside operator, be turned over to a charter school, or be converted into a “district-run” charter school. The decisions are due to the state by Friday. Florida Times-Union. Hillsborough County school officials also have until Friday to file plans for seven schools that will be subject to state intervention if they don’t get a C grade from the state next summer. WTSP. Opposition is growing against a turnaround plan to remake Ridgewood High School in Pasco County into a magnet technical school. Some parents are upset that their students will get reassigned and have to apply to return, and that they will lose their community school. Gradebook.

School choice group folds: The Black Alliance for Educational Options, a prominent voice in the school choice movement, announces it will cease operations at the end of the year. For almost 20 years, the alliance lobbied for more choice programs for disadvantaged students, for greater local control, and for stronger accountability. redefinED. Chalkbeat. The 74.

Charter schools: A Polk County charter school committee is recommending that the school board approve the application of Navigator Academy, a K-8 charter school in Davenport that will emphasize science, technology, math, art and reading. The committee is not recommending two other applications. Lakeland Ledger. The Volusia County School Board rejects an application for a K-8 charter school from the Florida Charter Educational Foundation and its educational service provider, Charter Schools USA. Board members say the companies have no ties to the county, and the schools planned to offer limited services for students with disabilities. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Algebra II test: The algebra II test has been dropped by Florida as a statewide end-of-course exam, but it’s still causing anxiety. Districts now mix the algebra II exam into their own grading formula. But some are adjusting past scores, which helps students, and some are not. In the districts that are not, some parents worry it’s putting their children at a disadvantage for college admission. TCPalm.

Partnership benefits: A partnership between the Leon County School District and Nopetro has saved the district more than $1 million in five years, school officials say. The two are celebrating the fifth anniversary of converting a portion of the school bus fleet to compressed natural gas. It was the first of its kind in Florida when it began in 2012. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU.

Architect chosen: The Bay County School Board will pay an architect $737,725 to design a 35,000-square-foot, $10 million building for STEM subjects at Bay High School. The board is hoping to supplement the funding with money from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill fund. Panama City News Herald.

School housing: The Monroe County School Board delays a decision on building 20 houses for employees behind the Sugarloaf School until the district’s staff talks with utility and county officials. Key West Citizen.

District sued: A federal lawsuit is filed against the Palm Beach County School District over injuries an autistic boy allegedly suffered at the hands of a school bus aide in 2015. Christopher Barker, 30, told police that he did “cause pain” to the Lantana Elementary School student, and resigned after the incident. No criminal charges were filed. Palm Beach Post.

Formal complaint filed: A formal complaint is filed accusing the Okaloosa County School District spokesman of harassing a county resident with text messages. Steve Menchel filed the complaint against Henry Kelley with the superintendent, Mary Beth Jackson. Kelley’s messages focused on Menchel’s sharing of articles on Facebook that were critical of the way the district handled a child abuse investigation. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Teacher fired: An Orange County teacher is fired after angrily throwing a pair of scissors across a classroom and hitting a student in the face. The incident happened in an 8th-grade science classroom at Westridge Middle School in Orlando. WKMG.

Principal transferred: The principal at Buchholz High School in Gainesville is transferred to the transportation maintenance department after an investigation concludes he violated district ethical conduct standards and anti-harassment policies. Michael DeLucas made students and staff uncomfortable with his statements on how they looked, according to the investigation. Gainesville Sun.

School vandalized: Vandals scrawl hateful graffiti on the walls of Venice High School the day before the school celebrates Unity Day. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Opinions on schools: It seems the pottymouth bullies in Hillsborough County schools are on the school board. Daniel Ruth, Tampa Bay Times. Other stories will get bigger headlines, but Gov. Rick Scott’s announcement that he has proposed $63 million for teacher supply grants in his 2018-2019 budget deserves recognition. Nancy Smith, Sunshine State News. The Polk County School Board can demonstrate goodwill to many of its employees by approving a proposed raise for unionized workers who are not teachers. Lakeland Ledger. It’s a sickening step toward the back of the bus — and an ominous sign for education in America — when a state that once led to desegregation efforts finds its public-school system growing more segregated. Benjamin Crump, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: Anna Mott, a Key West High School senior, is one of 12 Florida students chosen as a finalist for a Leaders 4 Life Scholarship through the Take Stock in Children program. Keynoter.

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BY NextSteps staff