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.

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Every year, hundreds of thousands of teenagers in the United States quit high school without diplomas—an epidemic so out of control that nobody knows the exact number. What is clear is that massive dropout rates cripple individual career prospects and cloud the country’s future.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was in Sarasota Thursday, laying out his ideas for improving the economy.

Romney’s five-point plan included an education plank.

Romney praised former Gov. Jeb Bush and borrowed a key idea. He also pledged to allow federal dollars to follow the student, which would allow parents to better choose the best school for their child.

Here’s the transcript:

University of South Florida

University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft gave her fall address today, and she described a university that's bringing more money in through grants and research, but having to tighten its belt anyway.

Some Florida School Districts Not Checking For K12 Problems

Sep 16, 2012

Seminole County teacher Amy Capelle had to make a decision.

Her supervisor at the nation’s largest online school, K12, asked her to sign a roster saying she’d taught 112 kids.

She’d only taught seven.

“If you see your name next to a student that might not be yours, it’s because you are qualified to teach that subject, and we needed to put your name there,” wrote K12 supervisor Samantha Gilormini in an e-mail.

Capelle refused, and now state officials are investigating whether K12 used improperly certified teachers and asked employees to cover it up.

In K12 Courses, 275 Students to a Single Teacher

Sep 16, 2012

Student-teacher ratios at K12, the nation’s largest online educator, are nearly twice as high as Florida’s state-run virtual school, according to internal company documents obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and StateImpact Florida.

A high school teacher working for K12 may have as many as 275 students, compared to Florida Virtual School, which has a maximum class size of 150.

As Chicago's teachers took to the streets, Americans were reminded of the importance of education in the national conversation. In collaboration with our StateImpact Florida team, NPR's midday-talk program Tell Me More is guiding an extensive - and inclusive - discussion to spotlight education in America.

Editor’s note: This story was written by Trevor Aaronson with the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

New College of Florida

It's been a rough couple of weeks for Florida schools. Last month, Newsweek ranked a handful of Florida universities among the country's least rigorous and biggest party schools.

And earlier this week, officials launched an investigation against the country's largest online educator, which happens to be based in the Sunshine State.

The Manatee County School Superintendent decided to resign Monday, just days after the district revealed a $3.5 million budget deficit, and less than a week after his announced retirement.

Superintendent Tim McGonegal resigned immediately in a letter sent to school board members Monday, taking responsibility for the lack of financial oversight that led to the budget gap.  

Manatee County School Board Chairman Harry Kinnan said he is disappointed that McGonegal is leaving without helping clean up the financial mess.

Florida Investigates K12, Nation's Largest Online Educator

Sep 11, 2012

Editor’s note: This story was written by Trevor Aaronson of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and John O’Connor with StateImpact Florida.

Florida’s Department of Education has launched an investigation of K12, the nation’s largest online educator, over allegations the company uses uncertified teachers and asked employees to help cover up the practice.

K12 officials told certified teachers to sign class rosters that included students they hadn’t taught, according to documents that are part of the investigation.

The Chick-fil-A/gay marriage debate has hit the Tampa campus of USF. Humanities professor Scott Ferguson has started a petition on to remove the restaurant from the Marshall Student Center.

Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy made remarks against gay marriage in an interview earlier this year and the incident has solicited boycotts against and rallies in support of it.

Joseph C. Gamble / USF Communications and Marketing

Newsweek has ranked the country's least rigorous four-year colleges according to the percentage of applicants admitted, median SAT/ACT scores, workload and student-faculty ratio.

Florida schools didn't do so hot:

1.  University of Central Florida

2.  Florida State University

4.  University of South Florida*

Florida Education Commissioner Submits Resignation

Jul 31, 2012

Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson will resign his position on August 31, the Department of Education announced this evening.

Manatee County Schools Ban Energy Drinks

Jul 24, 2012

Manatee School District is the first in the state to ban energy drinks in school.

Energy drinks like  5 Hour Energy, Red Bull, and Monster won't be allowed on school grounds in Manatee County this upcoming school year.

Monday night, the school board unanimously voted to ban energy drinks.

Manatee Schools spokeswoman Margi Nanney says secondary school administrators brought up the issue.

Young College Graduate Numbers Down in Florida

Jul 12, 2012

The percentage of young adults who graduate with a college degree is up nationally according to the US Department of Education.

More than half of the states have a reason to celebrate but Florida isn't one of them.

The study looked at state by state numbers of college graduates age 24-35 in 2010, the latest numbers available.

It says the number of those adults with a college degree fell by one tenth of a percentage point in Florida. 

USF Saint Petersburg

USF President Judy Genshaft has named William Hogarth as interim regional chancellor of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and appointed Frank A. Biafora, dean of the USFSP College of Arts and Sciences, to lead a search committee for a new regional chancellor.

Hogarth, currently director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography, will assume duties at USFSP on Aug. 6 while continuing his leadership of the marine science consortium. A national search is underway for a new regional chancellor following the resignation of USFSP Regional Chancellor Margaret Sullivan.

Fewer Florida schools earned an ‘A’ on the state’s annual report card, while more schools saw their grades drop to ‘C’, ‘D’ and ‘F,’ according to state Department of Education data released this morning.

Last year 58 percent of Florida elementary and middle schools earned a ‘A’ grade. This year the percentage fell to 43 percent. That’s 357 fewer schools earning a ‘A.’

At the other end of the spectrum, an additional 16 schools earned an ‘F’ — a total of 47.

Gov. Scott's Choice: Education Versus Healthcare?

Jul 9, 2012
John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Gracie Fowler earns $11 an hour at an Orlando title company. It’s just enough that sometimes she earns too much for her two kids to qualify for Medicaid.

That’s what happened for two months earlier this year.

“Luckily they didn’t get sick but that was like the only couple of months where they didn’t have a little ear infection or they didn’t need to be tested for strep,” she says. “If they would have needed to go to the doctor then it would have been an emergency room visit. ”

aepoc / Flickr

Those down and out in a bad economy often turn to the lottery for a glimmer of hope.

Florida is no different and state officials said they set a new record for sales in the budget year which ended June 30.

Gov. Rick Scott is drawing a line on tuition hikes this year. He wants state universities to find other ways to deal with budget cuts.

At a contentious Board of Governors meeting in June,  many universities asked for the maximum tuition increase. A few got it; most did not.

But some colleges are heeding Scott's request.

StateImpact Florida's John O'Connor spoke to Valencia College president Sandy Shugart about why the state's second-largest college is not raising tuition next year.

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is all grown up. But has it grown into a monster?

That’s the question raised by a Tampa Bay Times article recounting the birth and adolescence of the FCAT:

President Obama and Mitt Romney have very different opinions about immigration.    But both of them agree on one thing: giving green cards to international students with advanced degrees. 

What that would mean for Florida?

"I would staple a green card to a diploma for someone who gets an advanced degree in America."

Thats Mitt Romney. He says President Obama hasn't done enough to retain talented foreign students. But Obama seems to agree with Romney:

Tuition Hike Rates Settled for State Universities

Jun 22, 2012

After many votes and re-votes, the Board of Governors finally settled on tuition hike percentage rates for Florida's universities.

On Thursday, universities proposed a range of percentage increases for the upcoming school year's tuition. The Board of Governors was having a hard time accepting many of those proposals.

During its meeting in Orlando this week, the Board of Governors expressed its displeasure with the University of South Florida's graduation rates.

And if USF doesn't get its act together, the group that oversees the state's higher education system might not approve future tuition increases.

The percentage of first-time-in-college students that graduate in four years from USF is 34 percent. About 50 percent graduate in six years.

Florida was the only state that received an 'A' grade for access and success for both it's two and four-year higher education institutions. That's  according to a report card released Tuesday.

The report card is done by the Institute for a Competitive Workforce which is affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It measures performance and policies of universities and colleges from across the country.

Gov. Scott Doesn't Want Tuition Hikes

Jun 20, 2012

Governor Rick Scott is telling the Florida Board of Governors he doesn't support the tuition increases being asked for by the state's universities.

Scott says he wants a great university system for better job growth, but he wants that done without institutions hiking up their tuition.

According to Florida Today, Scott said, "We’re not in a system where we can afford a bunch of ‘nice to haves.' "

USF Looking to Hike Up Tuition 11%

Jun 14, 2012

There's good and bad news today for undergraduate resident students at the University of South Florida. 

The bad news: the board of trustees has approved a tuition increase for the upcoming school year. The good news: it's 11 percent and that's less than last years increase of 15 percent.

With the $300 million budget cuts made to Florida public universities this year, universities are scrambling to make up some of that money.

Q&A With Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush

Jun 11, 2012
Chip Somodevilla / Getty News Images

StateImpact Florida spoke with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush about his role as a national education leader, and how he's using his experience in Florida to convince other states to adopt reforms pioneered in the Sunshine State.

Bush spoke about Republicans and Democrats finding common ground on education, his lukewarm support for federal reforms and the defeat of the parent trigger bill during the last legislative session.

Here's an excerpt:

Standing in front of a banner reading "There is a Voice!" a group of Polk County business leaders and politicians today  rallied in support of the new Florida Polytechnic University.

In attendance was  State Sen. J.D. Alexander, the driving force behind Florida Polytechnic's contentious  split from the University of South Florida. The group said they  wanted to move discussion and press coverage about the school into a positive light and away from the laser-like focus on Alexander.

Jeb Bush Taking Florida Education Ideas Nationwide

May 30, 2012
Joe Raedle / Getty News Images

You won't find much that President Obama and Mitt Romney agree on, but both parties' presidential candidates have praised former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's education ideas.

Bush is taking ideas he pioneered in Florida national, particularly requiring third graders pass a state reading test before graduating to fourth grade.

It's one reason Indiana education superintendent Tony Bennett says Bush is the most influential person in U.S. education.