League Forum on Schools of the Future


The League of Women Voters invites you to join us in Gainesville on March 4th. We are celebrating the Schools of the Future with Peggy Brookins, CEO of the National Professional Teachers Certification organization.  She is on the President’s Commission on Education.  Peggy was a teacher and innovator in Florida for many years before joining the National Board.

Following her presentation will be a panel of educators who will respond to audience questions.  Panelists include the Deputy Superintendent, Teacher of the Year, elementary and secondary curriculum specialists and the head of the Alachua County Council of PTAs.

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Blended Learning a Threat?


by Krista Sobol

The picture of children sitting in front of computers that track their every thought has many parents alarmed.  In the League, local groups study an issue and bring it to the state convention for consideration.  Blended learning may be on the way to convention!  However, the League has no position on blended learning.

Space Coast League Education Committee Concerned About Blended Learning

 

 

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DeVos Confirmed: Split Vote in Florida

The telephone lines to D.C. were jammed with protest votes over the DeVos nomination for U.S. Secretary of Education.  In Florida, Senator Rubio voted yes and Senator Nelson voted no.  The U.S. Senate was tied and VP Pence broke the tie.

I saw a note about a one sentence bill to abolish the Department of Education.  It was filed by Rep. Thomas Massie RKY.  He thinks local parents and communities should control schools.  He may be right.

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A Good News Bill

A rational voice has filed a charter school bill.  SB 0538  Clemons. 

Charter School applicants must demonstrate that they meet certain needs that the school district does not, or is unable to, meet and share results of innovative methods with the district. 

This is the number one recommendation in the League’s study of charters.  The premise that competition between districts and charters would improve public education has proven to be not only wrong, it is destructive.  The bill responds to the fiscal irresponsibility of unfettered expansion of charters.  This is one of our themes:   School choice means all schools are under funded.  Too many schools competing for the same students dilutes funding required to meet even basic student needs.  Everyone loses.

Possible Compromise on Corporate Charter and Public School Facility Funding?

David Simmons has an idea that may take wings.  To ease the facility backlog for renovations and maintenance, Simmons proposes SB 604 to increase the 1.5 mills that districts can assess from l.5 to 1.7 mills.  This is still less than it used to be, but it would help generate income to remodel outdated science labs or replace dying air conditioning units.  There is a catch.  In a companion bill, SB 376, Simmons would allocate some of this money to charter schools. Districts do not have to share this funding now.

 

 

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Florida: Doing it on the cheap

It is budget time.  The governor wants money $161 million for corporate tax cuts and tourism incentives….again.  Education spending in his budget would support Bright Futures scholarships which have been consistently cut for the last several years. They are funded by the lottery.  He also called for an increase in K12 spending…sort of.  The increase would come from increased revenue generated by local property taxes.  Actually this is a good thing!

Last year the legislature took away the revenue from public schools that the improving economy generated.  The property tax rate was not changed, but the increasing property values meant that more tax was collected.  The legislature rolled it back.  The Governor says the legislature should let districts recoup this funding.  Rep. Corcoran, Speaker of the House has emphasized that even allowing the districts to garner local revenue from increasing property values would not happen.

To help put this in perspective, consider the report just published by Education Law Center.  Florida ranks:

 

  • 43rd across levels on Education Law Center report.  There are four levels.
  • 41st on level of funding.
  • 38th on effort  low fiscal capacity and low effort.
  • 40th on wage competitiveness
  • last on teacher to student fairness ratio comparing low income and high income areas

Florida’s Voluntary Pre K program for four year olds consists of  51% from high income and 45% low income families.

Florida got an ‘F’ in funding effort related to funding capacity, a C in funding distribution, and lower half in funding level (41)  and coverage (43).

Florida needs a pot of gold at the rainbow.  Current proposals make finding that gold improbable.

 

Blow Open School Choice Year?

It’s National School Choice Week, and Florida House leaders say this is their year to get rid of restrictions to the expansion of Florida Tax Credit Scholarships and charter schools.  House Education committee chair Michael Bileca, R.Miami and House PreK-12 Education Appropriations Chair Manny Diaz R. Hialeah are leading the charge.  They may be aided by Richard Corcoran, Speaker of the House, R. Pasco.  Corcoran’s wife started Classical Preparatory School.  It is not a Title I school; it has only 30% minority and FRL children.  The percentage of minority children (30%) is similar to the district percentage.  The difference is that Classical Prep charter has 31% who qualify for FRL while the district percentage was 56.3.  So, this charter is selecting children primarily from higher income families.  It is not clear what need this charter fills.

 

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Annual teacher contract renewals threatened?

Legislation

Rep. Grant filed a bill HB373 that would not allow districts to grant annual contract renewals, as some districts do, for teachers who receive an evaluation of ‘effective’ or ‘highly effective’.  The bill has a long way to go in the legislative process and what the bill accomplishes is not clear.  Teachers rated ‘ineffective’ may already be terminated.    Tenure is gone, and teachers are regularly dismissed.

Reasons for dismissing a teacher are specified in law according to the Florida Education Association which does not support more legislative interference in teacher contracts.  Currently, teachers are on annual contracts which must be reviewed each year.  Some districts automatically renew these contracts if there are no performance issues.

 

In 2011, Governor Scott signed SB 736 that altered the entire teacher evaluation system:

  • Teachers hired after 2011 have a one-year probation and be subject to immediate dismissal. After the first year, they have annual contracts and annual reviews.
  • Teachers hired prior to 2011 continue to have professional service contracts with automatic renewal, but they would be subject to immediate dismissal for just cause.  All teachers, however, must renew their teacher certificates every five years, and those teachers with two sequential unsatisfactory ratings would be dismissed.
  • Teachers receiving marginal ratings must undergo training.  (Whether or not principals are willing to arrange for the appropriate remediation is a concern.  It is suggested that it may be simply easier to give a low rating and dismiss the teacher).
  • Workforce reduction must be based on program needs and performance evaluations, not last hired, first fired policies.
  • Two salary plans performance (merit) or the years of teaching pay schedules are used.  Teachers hired before 2011 are able to transfer to the merit plan, if they wish.

 

New Education Bills

Legislation

It is early days, but education bills are emerging.  Here are two that still need Senate companion bills.

HB 253 Rep. Duran, D. Miami.  The Bright Futures Scholarship recipients must log 30 hours per year volunteer work.    already has a GPA requirement and repayment if grades fall.

HB 303 Rep. Daniels, D. Jacksonville.  The bill will allow religious expression in course work, activities, and personal attire.  School employees must be allowed to participate in religious activities.