Charter schools, principal removed, Pink’s claim checked, and more

Around the state: A study of charter schools’ performance in nine U.S. cities shows that their students made greater academic gains than students in traditional public schools even though charter schools received less money, a Martin County high school principal is reprimanded and will be removed after having a student strip to his underwear in a search for a vaping device, nearly 1,000 Volusia students may have to switch schools next year as the district considers rezoning to accommodate enrollment growth, out-of-school suspensions in Leon County are 80 percent higher than the state average, a contract agreement is reached between Escambia school employees and the district, and the singer Pink’s claim about banned books in Florida gets a fact-check. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Superintendent Peter Licata and other administrators toured underenrolled schools on Monday to gather information that will help decide what five schools will be repurposed, and how. “We do want to look at the K-8 model,” Licata said. “I’ve had success with that. We also want to look at 6-12 model — is it working, worth replicating? We’ll look at technical centers — can we build on that?” The next step is a series of town hall meetings. Licata is expected to make a recommendation to the school board next June. Sun-Sentinel. WFOR. WTVJ. WSVN. Another group of U.S. lawmakers took a tour Monday of the building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 students and staff were gunned down on Feb. 14, 2018. The tour was led by U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat who attended Stoneman Douglas and represents the area in Congress. The 1200 Building will be torn down after the school year. Sun-Sentinel. WPLG. WSVN. WTVJ. WFOR.

Central Florida: Nearly 1,000 Volusia students may have to switch schools next year because explosive development will force rezoning, say district officials. More than 200,000 homes are projected to soon be built in the southeast part of the county. Seventeen schools are already over capacity. A plan is expected to go before the school board by March, and changes would take effect next fall. WKMG. Teachers unions in Orange, Seminole and Volusia counties are scrambling to boost membership to meet new state eligibility requirements. Unions must prove 60 percent of eligible members are paying dues or risk decertification. Orange County’s teachers union is already over 50 percent and has until March to get to 60 percent. Seminole’s union also expects to hit the target, while Volusia’s does not. If it doesn’t, it will have to go through a recertification process to continue representing its members. WMFE. Two more Volusia elementary schools have started Dual Spanish-English Language Programs in which students learn science, math and language arts in both English and Spanish. Discovery Elementary in Deltona and Freedom Elementary in DeLand joined Holly Hill and Spirit elementaries, which started the program last year. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WFTV.

Palm Beach: A benefit concert last weekend by country star Luke Bryan in Jupiter has raised about $300,000 to help support county arts and music students. Half of the money will go to the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, and $50,000 is headed for Bak Middle School of the Arts. Bryan said it was important to him “to be able to raise money for these two schools and to make sure that the instruments are great and to make sure when kids go to learn about music, the technology’s there.” WPTV. WPEC.

Pasco: Some school districts in Florida and around the country have had uneasy or even adversarial relationships with charter schools. Pasco is not one of them. Led by deputy superintendent Ray Gadd, Pasco has partnered with charters as a way to deal with rapid enrollment growth and offer students a wide choice of educational options. “It’s an experiment in innovation,” said Gadd. “We want to have positive relationships with charters, especially those we know and like.” NextSteps.

Brevard: A new school tax approved a year ago is starting to show up on homeowners’ property tax bills, and many of them have called the tax collector to express their unhappiness. Bills have gone up an average of $175 for properties with homestead exemptions, and about $240 for properties without homestead exemptions. The four-year tax is expected to generate $70 million in the first year, and 80 percent of the money generated will be used to increase pay for all school employees. For example, teachers with five years of experience will get $2,191 and educators with 10 or more years on the job will receive $3,651. Florida Today.

Escambia: A contract agreement was reached last week between the teachers union and the school district. All teachers will get 3 percent raises, which will range from $1,400 to $2,200 a year, and the minimum teacher pay is going up to $47,500. Teachers who receive “highly effective” ratings will also get $400 bonuses, and those rated as “effective” will receive $200. All eligible support staff except bus drivers will be moved up one level on the salary schedule. Bus drivers will receive an 8 percent hourly rate increase. And all eligible instructional personnel and educational staff professionals will receive $500 bonuses on Dec. 20 and May 24. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Leon: Out-of-school suspension rates in the school district totaled 3,493 for a rate of 11 percent during the 2021-2022 school year, according to Florida Department of Education data. That’s 80 percent higher than the state average of 6.1 percent. During the 2017-2018 academic year, Leon’s rate of 7 percent was 35 percent above the state average. The rates are calculated by dividing suspensions by enrollment. Tallahassee Reports.

Martin: South Fork High School principal Timothy Aitken violated school district policy in August when he had a student strip to his underwear to see if he was hiding a vaping device, according to a district investigation. It said Aitken “engaged in misconduct in office, incompetency and willful neglect of duty,” and Superintendent Michael Maine is recommending to the school board that Aitken be reprimanded and transferred to a job as principal on assignment at the district office for the remainder of the school year. School board members will consider the recommendation at their meeting today. WPEC. WPBF. WPTV.

Gilchrist: A proposal to put speeding cameras in front of the city of Trenton’s two schools was tabled last week and is expected to come back before the city council at its Dec. 11 meeting. Public safety chief Matt Rexroat asked for the cameras after a study indicated 3,000 drivers exceeded the speed limit in those zones in a week. WCJB.

Monroe: Sue Woltanski has been elected chair of the school board by her colleagues, Andy Griffiths, who recently announced he would not be running for re-election in 2024. Florida Keys Weekly.

Colleges and universities: State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, is calling on University of Florida President Ben Sasse to fire a professor for sharing a social media post comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. Sasse also was critical of the post, but pointed out that the professor, Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, retired in 2019, and that “the antisemitic drivel was shared on social media, not in any UF classroom.” Politico Florida. The University of Miami had the lowest admission rates among state colleges in 2021 at 28 percent, according to U.S. Department of Education records. Second was the University of Florida at 30 percent, followed by Florida A&M University at 35 percent, University of Central Florida at 36 percent, Florida State University at 37 percent, DeVry University at 41 percent, Johnson University at 42 percent and Trinity Baptist College at 43 percent. Palm Beach Post.

Study finds charter benefits: A new study of charter schools’ performance in nine U.S. cities shows that students from charters made greater academic gains than students in traditional public schools, even though charters received less money. The study also shows that for every $1 invested in charters by the nine cities, students could expect to gain $6.25 in lifetime earnings, compared to $3.94 for students from traditional public schools. In Indianapolis, one of the cities surveyed, charter students showed greater gains in math and reading than the neighboring traditional schools despite spending $8,000 less per student. The 74.

In the Legislature: High school athletes would be forbidden from competing on school teams if they’ve been sentenced as adults for certain serious crimes under a bill filed for the 60-day legislative session that begins Jan. 9. The bills, SB 530 and HB 545, list homicide, sexual battery or lewd and lascivious crimes as disqualifying offenses. News Service of Florida.

Around the nation: The College Board continues to push for low-income students to take Advanced Placement courses and tests even though the failure rate has been high for the past 20 years. College Board officials say it’s a matter of equity. Another might be money. As revenue from the SAT test has dropped because an increasing number of universities no longer require the exam for admission, income from testing and exams has shot up, with a significant chunk coming from government agencies. New York Times. Joseph Novak, a pioneer in education who invented “concept maps” to help students learn, died in September in Lakewood Ranch at the age of 92. Cornell Chronicle.

Debate participation up: More than 400 students from around the country participated in Florida’s National Civics and Debate competition last weekend in Orlando. That’s more than triple the number who took part since a statewide debate initiative was launched by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019. The tournament tested students’ civic knowledge and communication skills. Florida’s Voice. Office of the Governor.

Opinions on schools: How accurate was the singer Pink when she listed 13 books as banned from Florida schools? We judge it to be mostly false. None of the books has been banned statewide. Ten have been temporarily or permanently removed or restricted from shelves in at least one Florida school district, and seven of these books were removed from schools in four districts. And by PEN America’s most liberal definition of a “ban,” 10 books Pink named were restricted or removed temporarily or permanently from schools in 17 of the state’s 67 school districts. PolitiFact.

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BY NextSteps staff