Florida 8th in charter students’ testing, recess at risk in school deregulation drive, Broward enrollment, and more

Charters’ report cards: The first-ever state rankings of charter school students’ performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests place Florida eighth out of 35 states and the District of Columbia, according to a report from Harvard University. States were ranked on the adjusted average scores for their charter students from 2009 to 2019 as compared to the average scores for all U.S. charter students in that same period. The study also found that students at schools run by charter networks outperform students at independent charters, on average, and students at schools run by for-profit organizations have lower scores on average. A spokesperson for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools called the results “sobering in many respects.” The 74. Education Next.

Around the state: A legislative proposal to lessen regulation on K-12 schools could jeopardize the state’s requirement that students get 20 consecutive minutes of unstructured recess every day, Broward’s superintendent said underenrolled schools could be repurposed or even closed, St. Johns County School Board members approve a rezoning plan to fill two new schools that will affect students from at least six other schools, the contract of Florida Atlantic University’s interim president has been extended through 2024, and contract agreements with teachers have been reached or approved reached in the Collier, Sarasota and Bay school districts. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: School board members narrowly voted Tuesday to elect Maria Teresa Rojas as board chair and Monica Colucci as vice chair. Both votes were 5-4 as the conservative majority — four of whom were either endorsed or appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis — maintained the political shift that began in 2022. “I’m honored, humbled (and) elated to serve for a second year,” said Rojas. “We truly have given our kids the world and we will continue to do so.” Miami Herald.

Broward: Superintendent Peter Licata said Tuesday that some schools could be repurposed or even closed due to low student enrollment. The process of making those decisions will start as early as next week, he said after a tour of underenrolled county schools was prompted by a decline in student enrollment by 25,000 students, or 10 percent, over the past decade. “We have some tough decisions to make,” Licata said, mentioning that the district could also sell some property. “We know that we can’t budget for the size we used to be.” He did say “closing schools is the last bullet,” and that the district won’t make any decisions “for at least 16 months.” Miami Herald. WPLG. WTVJ.

Hillsborough: School board members elected Karen Perez as their new chair at Tuesday’s meeting, and Jessica Vaughn as vice chair. Perez, who represents District 6, replaces Nadia Combs. The board also approved the appointments of four principals: Scott Weaver, now at Roland Park K-8, will be the principal of Adum K-8 Magnet School when it opens in February; Colin Gerding, 48, at Randall Middle School; Dustin Robinson, 35 at York K-8; and Aliya Norman, 37, at Redick Elementary. Gerding, Robinson and Norman were all assistant principals at the schools they will now lead. Tampa Bay Times.

Pinellas: District 5 school board member Carol Cook announced Tuesday that she would not run for a seventh term in 2024. Four candidates have already declared their intention to run for the seat: Katie Blaxberg, Brad DeCorte, Stacy Geier and Bronson Oudshoff. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: Megan Wright was elected chair of the school board at Tuesday’s meeting, replacing Matt Susin, and Gene Trent succeeds Wright as the vice chair. Board members also unanimously approved two policies that will allow the district’s book review committee to resume work, and establishes the review process. The committee will first read challenged books, then send recommendations to the school board for consideration. Florida Today.

Collier: A proposed contract that increases teacher pay by $4,000, with additional increases based on performance, was approved Tuesday by the school board. The deal will cost the district $26 million. WINK.

St. Johns: A school rezoning plan to fill two new K-8 schools that will affect students from at least six other schools was unanimously approved Tuesday by the school board. The two as-yet-unnamed schools are scheduled to open next fall. WJAX. District officials reached an agreement with the union representing school bus drivers, custodians, teacher aides and other support staff that will raise their pay. Workers with 13 years of experience or less will receive at least $450, while those with 14-plus years will get $500. The district will continue paying $1,000 bonuses for new drivers. WJXT.

Sarasota: A tentative contract agreement has been reached between the school district and the union that represents teachers and other workers. Starting teacher pay will be bumped up to $55,000, or $60,000 with a master’s degree, and employees will get raises ranging from 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent, plus an immediate 2 percent bonus that will be paid before the winter break. The agreement has to be approved by union members and the school board. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Okaloosa: District officials have applied for an $8.35 million grant from Triumph Gulf Coast to build a north campus of Okaloosa Technical College in the Crestview area. The grant would cover about 40 percent of the project’s cost, with the rest coming from donations, other grants, the school district and the sheriff’s office. If the grant is awarded, construction would begin immediately and be completed within a year. Northwest Florida Daily News. John Spolski, the principal of Fort Walton Beach High School, has been approved by the school board as the assistant superintendent overseeing management information systems. Okaloosa County School District. A bookkeeper at Max Bruner Jr. Middle School in Fort Walton Beach was fired this week for alleged misappropriation of school funds. A criminal investigation of April Briggs’ actions is also underway. WEAR.

Alachua: Members of the community continued to speak out against the proposed school attendance boundaries at Tuesday’s public hearing, mostly citing no interest in their children changing schools because of increased travel times and because many schools would remain overcrowded even after rezoning. The second reading of the plan is now scheduled for January. Main Street Daily News.

Santa Rosa: The mother of a 17-year-old Jay High School student has accused Escambia County English teacher Vicki Baggett of using the girl to check the book Storm and Fury out of the school library so Baggett could turn it over to the conservative activist group Moms For Liberty, which then asked Santa Rosa officials to investigate. Baggett has challenged hundreds of books in Escambia and Santa Rosa because they discuss racial discrimination or include LGBTQ characters. “I’m very angry that my daughter was used to do someone else’s dirty work,” said the mother, who was not identified by name. She said the book “has never been read by my daughter,” and that Moms for Liberty “should not use children that they are supposedly trying to protect.” Popular Information.

Bay: A contract between teachers and the school district has been approved by the school board. It will boost starting pay to $48,000, and also provide increases to veteran teachers. “If you had zero to 17 years you were paid the same.,” said Superintendent Mark McQueen. “… What we wanted to do is acknowledge and recognize years of experience. And so that we have been able to distribute that and create bands of pay that recognize years of experience.” Union members must still approve the deal. WMBB. WJHG.

Columbia: School board members voted Tuesday to sue the Pro Sports Consulting Group, alleging the company never finished a new track at Columbia High School. The board paid the company $192,000, then had to hire another company to finish the job, pushing the costs to $314,000. WCJB.

Colleges and universities: Florida Atlantic University trustees have extended the contract of interim president Stacy Volnick through the end of 2024, and said if a new president isn’t found before then they may consider her for the permanent job. FAU’s search was suspended by the state in July over allegations that the search committee engaged in “potentially illegal conduct.” Politico Florida. Sun-Sentinel. WLRN. Palm Beach Post. The University of Florida is appealing a federal judge’s ruling that the school must pay $372,000 in attorneys’ fees for a lawsuit over UF’s restrictions against educators testifying as expert witnesses. The judge issued a preliminary injunction in January 2022 against the restrictions, saying they violated the professors’ First Amendment rights. The case was dismissed after UF revised the policy. News Service of Florida. More than $5.3 million in grants from the University of Florida have been announced to finance projects related to artificial intelligence, innovation and technology. Last month, UF awarded $9.2 million for 19 projects related to student experience, research and technology. Gainesville Sun. Florida A&M University trustees have extended President Larry Robinson’s contract for another year and are paying him a bonus of 18 percent, or about $81,000 over his salary of nearly $452,000. WFSU.

In the Legislature: More details about proposals to cut back on state regulations for public schools have emerged in three bills that have been filed for the legislative session that begins in January. SPB 7000 would modify requirements for workers, both starting and continuing, and make changes in the ways school districts can recruit, hire, manage, pay and evaluate teachers. SPB 7002 would remove “unnecessary” and “burdensome” regulations on school districts in administrative processes, facilities management and financial requirements. SPB 7004 would give school districts more authority over prekindergarten programs, retention and graduation, assessments, school improvement, instructional materials and reporting. If approved, all the bills would go into effect July 1, 2024. Pensacola News Journal. A social media group that calls itself “Recess for All” is mobilizing to fight a provision in SPB 7004 that would end a requirement that elementary schools provide 20 consecutive minutes of unstructured recess every day. “Obviously it’s disappointing that, of all the things they choose to deregulate, the opportunity for kids to get free play is what they are choosing,” said recess advocate Stephanie Cox of St. Petersburg. Tampa Bay Times. WTVT.

Opinions on schools: You will know you are winning with policy interventions designed to increase family options in K-12 when your fancy, suburban districts start taking open-enrollment students. You will never achieve this with means-tested or geographically restricted private or charter school programs. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. Government officials and others with political agendas can’t impose blanket bans on what your kids can read. That’s your decision to make as a parent. Will Creeley, Tallahassee Democrat.

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BY NextSteps staff

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