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ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Nov. 5, 2017

By Jeffrey Solochek
Rep. Byron Donalds presents HB 1 to the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee on Nov. 8, 2017. [The Florida Channel]

A Florida lawmaker wants to give scholarships to allow bullied students to leave their public schools. Critics argue the plan opens the door to vouchers for all. It's a House leadership priority. Can it pass? Catch up on this story and other highlights of the week's Florida education news below. You can keep up with our conversation on Facebook, hear our podcast, and follow our blog to get all the latest Florida education news. All tips, comments and ideas welcome. Know anyone else who'd like to get this weekly roundup or other email updates? Have them send a note to jsolochek@tampabay.com.

Top of the Times

Vouchers for victims? Florida lawmakers debate a bill to offer scholarships to bullied students, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"Rep. Byron Donalds calls his proposal to give tax credit scholarships to bullied Florida students the 'Hope Scholarship,' and frames it as assistance to often-ignored victims. 'We're just trying to provide them a path out,' the Naples Republican says."

Hundreds of students at Hillsborough high schools walk out to protest teacher wage freezes, Tony Marrero
“A protest over teacher pay that began with some 15 students early this week mushroomed into much larger movement Wednesday as hundreds of Hillsborough County high school students from eight campuses briefly walked out of their classes.”
RELATED: Hillsborough teachers say they will “work the contract” for a week to protest wage freeze, Marlene Sokol

Should successful Florida school districts get same flexibility as charter schools?, Jeffrey S. Solochek
“Aiming to foster innovation and competition, Florida lawmakers exempted charter schools from the bulk of state statutes governing public education. Miami-Dade lawyer Roberto Martinez, who sits on the state Constitution Revision Commission, contends that successful traditional districts should get the same consideration.”

FSU suspends all fraternities, sororities following death of a pledge, Colleen Wright
“Florida State University president John Thrasher has indefinitely suspended all fraternities and sororities following the death of a fraternity pledge and another student’s unrelated drug arrest over the weekend. The pause was necessary to ‘review and reflect on the loss of a young life,’ the university said in a statement Monday.”

Around the State

Orange, Osceola educators plead for help as Puerto Rican students fill classrooms, Orlando Sentinel, Leslie Postal
“More than 2,500 Puerto Rican students have enrolled in Orange and Osceola County public schools since Hurricane Maria slammed into the island more than six weeks ago, and many more are expected before Christmas. To handle the influx, school leaders say they need more money from the state and a temporary waiver from Florida’s class-size rules and testing requirements, particularly for high school students.”

Investigations place cloud over Okaloosa County School District, Northwest Florida Daily News, Tom McLaughlin
“In early August, after the first Northwest Florida Daily News article regarding a child abuse investigation within the Okaloosa County School District was published, a district employee sent a text to Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson with a simple message: ‘ … and the storm will pass.’ But the storm hasn’t passed, and it isn’t going to pass anytime soon.”

Lee County NAACP files complaint, alleging minority students more likely to be disciplined, Naples Daily News, Pamela McCabe
“A complaint filed by the Lee County NAACP alleges that minority students in the public school system are more likely to be disciplined and end up in the school-to-prison pipeline than their white peers.”

Charter School Company Academica Seeks Approval in Parkland, Parkland Talk
“A charter school company’s media campaign announcing their plans to open a new school has been sent out to residents of Parkland  – one of the few Broward County cities without a single charter school.”

Other Views

The charter school debate, Ocala Star-Banner columnist Brad Rogers
“Unfortunately, now that the Florida Legislature and other states around the country have opened the public education coffers to charter school operators — DeVos wants to commit $4 billion in charter school ‘grants’ — the stampede to get to the public trough is so frantic that innovation and uniqueness is getting left in the dust.”

Why good teachers quit, Palm Beach Post guest column, teacher Janet Meckstroth Alessi
“For most of my career, I’ve loved teaching. I don’t regret having dedicated 34 years of my life to teaching, and it still thrills me when I can make a difference in a student’s life. However, if I were just starting my career, I’m not sure how long I’d last. The simple reason: So much testing has diminished true learning.”

Collective responsibility and leadership: FSU’s fraternities/sororities vs. Florida’s tax credit scholarship program, Bridge to Tomorrow blog
“President John Thrasher’s decisive and courageous decision to suspend all of FSU’s fraternities and sororities invoked the idea of collective responsibility – that all who benefit from being in a group should take on the burden of addressing the failings of individual members. In the space of one week, these failings led to the death of one student and the arrest of two others on drug trafficking charges. … In contrast, a community of publicly supported institutions in Florida – schools that accept tax credit scholarships – has refused to acknowledge its collective responsibility for the good of every child under its umbrella.”

Education Savings Accounts: Giving Every Child the Chance to Succeed, The Heritage Foundation, Jonathan Butcher
“Lawmakers should consider the savings account laws enacted in Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Tennessee as they look for ways to give more children access to a high-quality learning experience.”

Reports of Note

Homelessness and Education in Florida: Impacts on Children and Youth, Shimberg Center for Housing Studies, University of Florida
“The number of Florida’s schoolchildren identified as ‘homeless’ grew from 33,889 in the 2007-08 school year to 72,601 in 2015-16. The increase reflects both the influence of the recent recession and foreclosure crisis and a concerted effort by school districts to train teachers, counselors, and other staff to identify students lacking permanent housing.”

50-State Review: Age Requirements for Free and Compulsory Education, Education Commission of the States
“Research indicates that an additional year of high school is associated with a 10 percent increase, on average, in lifetime earnings, which supports an extension of the upper limit of the age requirements for compulsory attendance.”

Coming Up

Nov. 13: Senate Education, 4 p.m.

Nov. 15: House PreK-12 Innovation, 10:30 a.m.; Senate PreK-12 Appropriations, 1 p.m.; House PreK-12 Quality, 3 p.m.

Nov. 17: Commissioner’s Education Convening (for superintendents and college presidents), Orlando

Week of Nov. 27: Florida Constitution Revision Commission committee meetings

Nov. 28: Florida Board of Education, Leesburg

On File

Lawmakers have begun filing education related legislation in advance of the coming session. Some of the latest notable bills are:

HB 565, Excess credit hour surcharge
SB 732, Home schooling
SB 788, Alternative high school graduation requirements

See also Florida Constitution Revision Commission member proposals. Several relate to education.

Gradebook: The Podcast

We’re podcasting, with newsmaker interviews and chats about the latest issues to crop up. Please take a listen, and send any thoughts, tips and ideas to jsolochek@tampabay.com.

The latest: On Hillsborough County’s teacher pay dispute
Find our past episodes on SoundCloud.