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Education

We're dedicated to telling you stories about policy and public spending, and how they affect students in Florida schools. Our WUSF News reporters team up with our public media partners across Florida to bring you a more comprehensive look at learning.

To see coverage from our prior StateImpact Florida project, visit here.

Fact Checking Teacher Pay Raises

May 8, 2013
politifact.com

When Governor Rick Scott's "Facebook" page declared recently that "every Florida teacher gets a pay raise," it was only half-true.

That's the word from "PolitiFact Florida."

The Governor is touring the state this week on a "victory tour" for Florida schools. 

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

The small group of parents hovered over a list of words, deciding where to sort “cloud,” “photosynthesis,” and “Google.”  They paid particular attention to words indicating facts, evidence or conclusions.

Words such as "analyze," "convince" or "insight." Students will use these words to support their conclusions, analysis and opinions.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Tim Curtis says the federal government doesn’t have a record of getting things done.

It’s why the Tampa resident is concerned the federal Department of Education offered grants to states adopting new math and English standards known as Common Core.

Lawmakers And Gov. Scott Compromise On Teacher Raises

Apr 29, 2013
The Florida Senate

Lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott reached a compromise on $480 million in raises for teachers and other school workers.

The raises are part of a $74 billion spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Districts will have flexibility in how the money is awarded based on local collective bargaining agreements.

Not For Publication -- StateImpact Audio Files

Apr 28, 2013

Not For Publication -- StateImpact Audio 2

Apr 28, 2013

Dr. Ken Atwater, president of Hillsborough Community College, has taken on a new leadership role as next chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Association of Community Colleges.

After being elected as the president of HCC in 2010, Atwater has taken his role to the national level.

The American Association of Community Colleges was started in 1920 when a group of presidents of various junior colleges got together to serve as a national "voice".

Gina Jordan / StateImpact Florida

Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett says state leaders and lawmakers are listening to teacher concerns about evaluations.

The Florida Education Association is suing Bennett, the Department of Education, and a few school districts over teacher evaluations.

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

The Marion County School Board has voted to reinstate paddling in county elementary schools after a three-year hiatus.

The punishment comes with a few restrictions. From the Ocala Star-Banner:

The board ruled that paddling can be used only if a parent gives a standing written OK once a year. In addition, the principal must obtain verbal permission at the time the punishment is handed down.

321fun.blogspot.com

Right now, schools determine whether to move a student into special education classes.

But a proposed bill in Tallahassee would give parents of children with special needs more power over their education.

Fort Lauderdale sixth-grader Mariah Harris has Down syndrome, and she wants to be a veterinary technician.

“My dream is to go to college with my friends one day,” she told a panel of lawmakers.

Robin Sussingham / WUSF

As state budget negotiations continue, members of the Florida Senate have changed their minds about cutting $22.4 million in operating funds for Florida Polytechnic University.

Florida Poly Chief Operating Officer Ava Parker thanked supporters, and told The Ledger:

"We are focused on continuing our mission to develop Florida Poly as an applied research university that partners with industry and produces graduates ready for high tech jobs."

http://www.theledger.com/article/20130420/NEWS/130429984?tc=cr

Stetson

The University of South Florida can finally compete with the state’s other large public universities that have law schools (University of Florida and the Florida State University).

The state's first law school, Stetson University College of Law, has joined with USF to offer a “3+3” program to students who want to earn a Juris Doctor law degree as well as a bachelor's.

John O'Connor/StateImpact Florida

The Pasco County school board has asked Superintendent Kurt Browning to come up with alternatives to cutting media specialists and literacy coaches to help close a budget shortfall, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Board members don't like the proposed cuts, but say other solutions won't work either:

Board member Joanne Hurley said she was "not really comfortable" with the superintendent's plan, and did not want to approve a staffing formula that might hurt the proper levels of student support in the schools.

Festina Lente, LLP

Several hundred people gathered Tuesday to celebrate the construction of Florida Polytechnic University's signature building, designed by famed architect Santiago Calatrava.

Kim Cook / Facebook

The Florida Education Association and National Education Association filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s teacher evaluation system.

The system was created under a law passed in 2011 known as Senate Bill 736.

Sagette Van Embden / Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Shakira Lockett always got pretty good grades in school. That’s why she was surprised to find out she had failed her college placement exam at Miami Dade College.

Lockett spent a year a half taking remedial classes in reading, writing and math before she could start earning credits toward a degree. She finished her studies — but Lockett’s a rare case for students who end up in remedial courses.

National statistics show just 1 in 10 community college students forced to take a remedial course finish their studies within three years.

Parent Trigger Bill Passes Florida House

Apr 5, 2013
LaCrai Mitchell / StateImpact Florida

Just as it did last year, the Florida House has passed the parent trigger bill following much debate.

The bill’s official title is Parent Empowerment in Education.

It gives parents a say in what changes should be made to a chronically failing school.

FAU / Facebook

Florida Atlantic University's plan to sell its stadium naming rights for $6 million to the private prison company, GEO Group of Boca Raton, turned from a profitable deal to a public relations nightmare as NPR's Greg Allen reported.

Students protested shouting "it's not worth the price" and the school's faculty senate approved a resolution opposing the deal.

FloridaStudentFinancialAid.org

More than half of Florida’s Hispanic and black students at state universities currently eligible for the state’s Bright Futures college scholarship would no longer qualify when new standards take effect on July 1, according to a University of South Florida analysis obtained by the Florida College Access Network.

By comparison, about 40 percent of white and Asian students at state universities would no longer be eligible for the scholarship.

John O'Connor/StateImpact Florida

Sara LaBarbera is teaching 6th graders at Walker Middle School near Tampa how to research poets using an online library.

One student, working on a series of questions about a Lewis Carroll poem, asks LaBarbera for help. He has the pieces, but doesn’t quite know how to put them together.

LaBarbera knows how to ask the right questions.

“Alice seems, like, sad or depressed and the White Knight tries to cheer her up by singing her a song,” the student says of the poem.

“OK, so is it a poem that is telling you a story?” LaBarbera asks.

stpetersburgintheworld.com

The University of South Florida St. Pete will host the first annual St. Petersburg in the World Conference on World Affairs.

Speakers at the two-day conference will include professors, journalists and former government officials from the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Panels will cover topics like a post-Castro Cuba and a post-Chavez Venezuela, the United States' role during a worldwide recession, and the ever-expanding issues surrounding the Middle East.

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford isn't shy about pushing a non-traditional education agenda.

It’s based on his own life experience.

He's in favor of options that are growing in popularity, like virtual classes and charter schools.

StateImpact Florida reporter Gina Jordan sat down with Weatherford in his office to talk about his educational roots. He tells us why he supports legislation known as the parent trigger bill and whether he thinks teachers will get raises next year.


The Florida Senate

A Quinnipiac University poll released today finds Florida voters approve of one of Gov. Rick Scott’s top budget priorities.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents like his proposal to give $2,500 raises to the state’s public school teachers.

Florida House and Senate leaders have set aside less money for education in their initial budget outlines than did Gov. Rick Scott.

Both House and Senate leaders have expressed doubts about Scott's $480 million plan to give teachers a $2,500 across-the-board raise. Scott's budget would have spent $14.3 billion on education.

Best Online Colleges/flickr

Curtis Nyarko is putting in a lot of late nights followed by early mornings at the lab – hoping to snare a high wage job in a high-tech field.

Nyarko is a junior at Florida State University majoring in biology. He wants to stay in Florida and pursue a career in medicine.

Nyarko says his STEM degree — science, technology, engineering and math — will be worth it.

“This degree is not an easy degree at all. But at the end of it all when you have your career – and it’s a good career – it is worth it,” Nyarko said. “You know, nothing great comes without great sacrifice.”

State University System Board of Governors (BOG) Chairman Dean Colson wrote Florida Polytechnic University board of trustees chairman Rob Gidel, requesting that he make a presentation on the status of the polytechnic. "Given the news reports of Florida Polytechnic's intent to request $25 million from the Legislature, I would also ask that the presentation include specific information on any perceived funding shortfalls not covered in Florida Polytechnic's initial budget or by way of exemptions granted in SB 1994," Colson said. The next week, Florida Poly Chief Operating Officer Ava Parker advised the board against asking for additional funds, saying it would be "more prudent to wait at this point." Gidel said he will attend the meeting, which will be held in Tallahassee on March 27 and 28.

Prosecutors are charging 12 former Florida A&M University band members with manslaughter in the 2011 hazing death of a drum major.

Florida school districts will lose more than $85 million after President Obama and Congress failed to reach a compromise to avoid automatic federal budget cuts.

The cuts -- known as sequestration -- trim $85 billion for the military, schools, airports, national parks and other programs.

StateImpact Florida reporter John O'Connor spoke with WUSF's Craig Kopp about just how soon school districts will start feeling the pinch.

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, told The Ledger Wednesday that he did not call Florida's newest university a "disaster," as had earlier been reported. He said his remarks to the editorial board of the Tampa Tribune earlier in the week were directed toward a request by Florida Polytechnic for additional state funds.

While Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford says Florida Polytechnic University is "a disaster" that could use an outside ally, he's looking for an entity more like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and not USF -- the university Florida Poly was spun off from.

Speaking to the Tampa Tribune editorial board, the Wesley Chapel Republican presented what he admits is "a crazy idea... go talk to MIT or CalTech or Stanford and see if they want to have a satellite campus in Florida."

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