The Silly Season Has Overtaken Us?

american-flag-1109393_640In today’s Tallahassee Democrat, Leon County Schools have been chided.  It seems the state legislature passed a measure allowing students to opt out of the Pledge of Allegiance.  The Department of Education said the district went too far by creating a form to do so and putting it in the Student Handbook.  The State is involved in a lawsuit over parent’s rights to opt their children out of tests, but it is OK to opt out of the Pledge of Allegiance as long as you do not tell parents?

What is that Shakespearian line:  Something is rotten in Denmark?  Should we be thinking about other things to improve our educational system?

Testing Reform to Rise Again

IMG_0471Is there hope for a rational testing system?  Senator Don Gaetz has been a moderating voice on Florida’s overwrought testing and accountability system.  He called for the reduction of the weight from 50% to 30% of the student gain scores that are counted in teacher evaluations.  Then, in the 2015 session, he proposed substituting national tests like the SAT and ACT for the FSA.  Since college bound students must take these tests anyway, it is redundant to have them sit for state assessments as well.


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School Boards Divide Over the Road Ahead

divide-39653_1280Little things slip into legislation. The 2016 legislature is supporting a self described conservative group of school board members called the Florida Coalition of School Board Members (FCSBM).  They do not want to pay their dues to the existing Florida School Boards Association (FSBA) that represents 65 of 67 county boards.    The reason why is simple.  Since majority rules in FSBA policy decisions, some want what one member called a ‘like minded association of their own’.  It is the classic issue in a democracy.  Majorities rule must protect the rights of minorities.  How this is done is spelled out in law based on the constitution.

The FCSBM will have a legal right to redirect their dues if Governor Scott signs HB 7069, the School Choice bill.  Rep. Kelli Stargel from Lakeland initially filed a bill that was later folded into the School Choice train bill.  Rep. Erik Fresen requested a separate line item in the state budget that allocates $200,000 in training funds for the new group.  Training already exists, but FCSB wants its own.  Why the legislature should pay for this is subject to debate.  The Florida constitution mandates that school boards be nonpartisan, but choice advocates argue that their policies are not political.  They are, however, ideological.

Differences between the new FCSBM and the existing  FSBA associations are clear.  One supports school choice and the other supports choice within the traditional public school system.  FCSBM opposed the lawsuit for Florida Tax Credit vouchers.  The existing FSBA initially supported the lawsuit and then withdrew when Judge Reynolds dismissed the suit.   FCSBM’s other 2016 legislative positions include supporting the use of test scores, value added model gain scores, and concordance scores.  They also support raising Florida standards to NAEP proficiency levels and sharing capital outlay funds with charter schools.

Founding members include Rebecca Negron, the wife of incoming Senate President Joe Negron along with board members from Collier, Escambia, Indian River, Sarasota and Duval Counties.  Fifty of the 356 locally elected school board members have now joined FSCBM.  It appears the group has national aspirations.  A web site called the American Coalition of School Board Members has been created.  There is not much on it.  They must be waiting for the funds from the 2016-17 budget to roll in.

The Florida Constitution requires the state to provide a “uniform, safe, efficient, and high quality system of free public schools”.  Yet, there is a divide in the road ahead.  We already know that what happens in schools mirrors what is happening in communities.  Must our educational system splinter regardless of the cost?   I hear echoes of the biblical phrase: ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand’.

When President Lincoln used that phrase, he also said that he did not expect the house to fail, but he did expect the house to cease to be divided.   What is the people’s choice? We have fought through differences through out our history.  Once again we are putting our nation to the test.  There has to be a better road than the one we are on. It goes in too many directions to be ‘uniform, safe, secure and high quality’.

Budget Talks on Education Break Down


Representative Fresen refused to accept most parts of Senator Gaetz’s education funding plan.  Now, the talks will escalate to the House and Senate Appropriations committees.  It will be up to Chairmen Lee and Corcoran to hammer out a deal.  According to news reports, the only agreement between the two was to avoid increasing local property taxes to support new education funding.



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Education Funding Strategy Getting Clearer

dollar-726881_1280Senator Gaetz and Representative Fresen are meeting this weekend to hammer out the education budget.  I received a list of Representative Fresen’s proposals.  It shifts $430 million in projected funding increases from local property taxes to the State.  The new per student amount would be $7,178.49 and tops the 2007 level by about $52 per student.  This is long overdue.

There are increases in specific areas and as much total funding as reported earlier.


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Fla. Senator Favors Charters with a ‘Social Conscience’

curriculum plate-413157_1280Senator Gaetz is thinking about what is right.  He and Rep. Fresen (HB 873) are squaring off over charter school funding for facilities.  Both bills would reduce the amount of capital outlay dollars public schools can assess through local property taxes.  According to the Miami Herald, Senator Gaetz’s bill would also crack down on ‘private enrichment’ schemes that charter management firms use to build and lease facilities for which they charge exorbitant rates.



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Charter School System Amendment Advances

The constitutional amendment to create a state charter school system passed the House K-12 subcommittee this morning.  We really do not want this.  Contact your legislators.  It would take a 60% vote in the Florida House and Senate to put it on the November ballot.

State of Florida Independent Charter Authorizing constitutional amendment to be put before the voters November 2016.
Parents, Teachers, Principals, and Non-Profit Governing Board Members,
The House K-12 Subcommittee met this morning to discuss House Joint Resolution (HJR) 0759. The resolution proposes amendment to State Constitution to require SBE to establish statewide system for approval of charter schools.
Our Director of Government Relations, Ralph Arza, was present to support the bill. HJR passed its first hurdle. There is still a battle ahead before this House Joint Resolution passes  and goes before voters. We will keep you abreast with the latest updates. The vote was as follows:
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