Charter schools, disqualification list, bonuses and more

Charter schools expansion: A bill that could expand the number of charter schools in low-income neighborhoods in Florida is passed by the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee. The bill would allow “Schools of Hope” charters to open in 427 financially struggling neighborhoods with persistently low-performing schools that are designated as “opportunity zones” by President Trump’s tax bill of 2017. The bill also would allow the schools to open near traditional public schools that received grades from the state lower than C in three of the past five years. The current law does not mention “opportunity zones,” and requires those traditional public schools to receive D or F grades for three consecutive years before Schools of Hope would be encouraged to open nearby. Gradebook.

Disqualification list: The Senate Education Committee is considering a bill today that would create a “disqualification list” of teachers who have been involved in serious disciplinary actions. The list would include teachers from traditional public schools, charter schools and private schools that accept scholarship money, and districts and schools would be barred from hiring anyone whose name appears on the list. Private schools that hire an individual on the list could be closed by the education commissioner. Florida Phoenix.

Teacher bonuses: A state administrative judge affirms that the only teachers eligible for bonuses from the Florida Best and Brightest Scholarship Program are those who are in a K-12 classroom. Under state law, teachers who aren’t assigned to classrooms are not eligible regardless of how highly they’re rated by principals, administrative law judge Lawrence P. Stevenson wrote in his recommendation to the Clay County School District. Support teachers from that district, such as counselors, pre-K teachers and others, had filed a complaint saying the district erred in denying them bonuses. Gradebook.

School replacements: Replacing or repairing aging Duval County schools would cost nearly $2 billion, according to a plan being proposed by district officials. The district is asking for community feedback on the plan, which calls for spending $1.03 billion on 30 new schools and $922 million to repair and improve old schools. The plan also projects 17 consolidations involving 42 schools and the elimination of 5,000 seats, calls for upgrading security at all schools and for removing most of the district’s portable classrooms. The school board is expected to discuss the plan at its March 26 meeting. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT.

District spending questioned: A state audit concludes that the Broward County School District has improperly spent about $20 million it’s collected from impact fees on developers. The money was spent on old debts instead of new construction, as the auditor general says is required by state law. School officials dispute that. “As a board, we have been told repeatedly by both our general counsel and our chief financial officer that we are using the impact fees appropriately,” says school board chair Heather Brinkworth. The audit also shows that the district overpaid bonuses for teachers by $881,000, paid some employees after they left the district and failed to conduct required audits at 187 of 226 schools during the 2016-2017 school year. Sun Sentinel.

Achievement gap: The educational achievement gap between low-income students and wealthier ones has not changed since 1970, despite investments made in elementary and secondary education. That’s the conclusion of a study by researchers from Stanford and Harvard universities, published in Education Next. T.H.E. Journal.

No Hopes at USF: Manatee County School Board member Scott Hopes is not among the four finalists for the presidency of the University of South Florida. Hopes is a graduate of USF and a former member of the university’s board of trustees. He was appointed to the Manatee school board in 2017 by Gov. Rick Scott, and applied for the USF job when Judy Genshaft announced she would be retiring. “I want USF to have a great president, and it looks like they’re on track to do that,” Hopes said. “Obviously, I’m a little bit disappointed.” Bradenton Herald.

Arts in education: St. Johns County School Board member Bill Mignon is lobbying for the resurrection of an arts program at Pedro Menendez High School, which has been without for more than 10 years. Principal Clay Carmichael, who decides which electives are offered at the school, said drama was dropped due to a lack of student demand and money. St. Augustine Record.

Kindergarten readiness: Hillsborough County Superintendent Jeff Eakins says only about half the pre-K students in county schools are considered ready for kindergarten. He’s adding pre-K seats and will meet with preschool providers to provide guidance on what the district needs as it tries to reach its goal of 80 percent readiness. Gradebook.

District’s priorities: Polk County School Board member Sarah Fortner tells the county’s legislative delegation that the district’s goals for the legislative session are to get more money, have the general knowledge portion of the teacher certification test revamped, get teacher evaluations and teacher bonuses revised, and improve and fully fund security for schools. Lakeland Ledger.

Counselors at school: Grief counselors and Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho offer comfort to students at Rainbow Park Elementary School in Miami Gardens. Their classmate, 6-year-old Demetrius Wrentz, died last weekend when he got hold of a gun and accidentally shot himself in the head. Miami Herald.

Teacher arrested: A Duval County teacher is arrested during a traffic stop in Palatka. Putnam County sheriff’s deputies say Pamela McCaskill, 53, is charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession. WJAX.

Dog attacks boy at bus stop: A 10-year-old Belle Glade boy is attacked by a pit bull as he gets off his school bus in the Lake Breeze Mobil Home Park. Gerardo Rendon needed hundreds of stitches to close the wounds to his face and legs. WPBF. WPEC.

Opinions on schools: The success of the community school concept at Edward White High School in Jacksonville and others is proof that the holistic approach works and should be replicated. Florida Times-Union. Helping low-income children find the right schools through the state’s tax credit scholarship program shouldn’t be a luxury or an afterthought – it should be a priority of the state. Scott Kent, Orlando Sentinel. Education Secretary Richard Corcoran is on track when he suggests Florida should stop wasting money on new schools and instead pay teachers an average of about $75,000 a year. Gerry Mulligan, Citrus County Chronicle. Florida needs a complete re-imagining of the delivery mechanism for education. Hundreds of thousands of additional students are on the way, along with a far larger increase in elderly population. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. “School choice” is the subtle, seductive mantra guiding the educational debate. Who isn’t in favor of giving students and parents more options? The problem, however, rests with those who would use the school choice mantra as a means for undermining what they disparagingly call “government schools.” Carl Ramey, Gainesville Sun. Welcome to Florida, where, like the universe, voucher programs never stop expanding. Joe Henderson, Florida Politics.

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BY NextSteps staff