Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

Senate Committee Approves In-State Tuition For Undocumented Immigrants

On a 5-4 vote, a Senate committee approved a bill allowing undocumented immigrants access to in-state tuition rates at Florida colleges and universities. The bill still faces significant opposition in the full committee and on the Senate floor.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, cleared its first committee hearing Tuesday. The proposal extends in-state tuition benefits to students who are illegal immigrants through an out-of-state fee waiver, rather than a residency classification.

“It’s just the right thing to do, it’s time,” Latvala said. “The kids whose parents are illegal are still going to be punished. They’re still not going to be able to have Bright Futures (scholarships). They’re still not going to be able to have financial aid. So there is still going to be a difference and I just don’t think this is the appropriate place to have the difference, if they’re residents and taxpayers of this state.”

To receive the out-of-state fee waiver, these students would need to attend high school in Florida for three consecutive years immediately before graduation; enroll in a higher education institution, such as a Florida college or university, within 24 months of graduation; and submit an official Florida high school transcript to prove they attended and graduated from a Florida school.

Read more at: tbo.com

Conversation About The Cost Of College Starts In Florida

Graduation day at Northwest Florida State College.

sean.flynn / Flickr

Graduation day at Northwest Florida State College.

NPR has started a series of conversations about paying for the rising cost of college.

For their first interview, NPR spoke with David Sherker, a student at Coral Reef High School in Miami, and his family. President Barack Obama recently spoke at the school to encourage students to apply for federal financial aid and prod Congress to approve $100 million in ideas to make college more affordable.

The rising cost of college is frightening. From the story:

The College Board says the average at public four-year colleges and universities increased by 27 percent beyond the rate of inflation over the five years from the 2008-09 academic year to 2013-14. After adjusting for inflation, the cost of tuition more than tripled between 1973 and 2013.

That reality has been forcing more and more students to take on staggering debts. Among all students who graduated from four-year colleges in 2012, seven in 10 left with debt.

And that debt load is heavy — an average of , according to the Institute for College Access and Success. Just 20 years ago, fewer than half of college students graduated with debt, and the amount was less than $10,000 on average.

But as we and others have noted: Not going to college will cost you. The earnings gap between those with a bachelor’s degree and those without is at a 50-year high.

Listen to the interview below:

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Florida Schools Chief Picks AIR For Next Statewide Test

Florida schools chief Pam Stewart is recommending the American Institutes for Research to produce Florida's next statewide test.

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Florida schools chief Pam Stewart is recommending the American Institutes for Research to produce Florida's next statewide test.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has recommended the American Institutes for Research produce Florida’s next statewide exam.

The new, as-yet-unnamed test is required because Florida is finishing the switch to new math, language arts and literacy standards largely based on the Common Core State Standards adopted by Florida and 44 other states. The current Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test was not designed for the new standards.

“The new assessment will include more than just multiple choice or simple fill-in-the-blank questions,” Stewart wrote in a letter to parents. “Students will be asked to create graphs, interact with test content and write and respond in different ways than on traditional tests.”

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Explaining The Push For ‘Pay It Forward’ Tuition Plans

A Florida lawmaker has introduced a bill which would make college tuition free, but students would repay the cost over time.

thisisbossi / Flickr

A Florida lawmaker has introduced a bill which would make college tuition free, but students would repay the cost over time.

A Florida lawmaker has proposed allowing students to attend college tuition-free, and then repay the cost with a percentage of their salary after graduating.

The proposal has been nicknamed “Pay It Forward” tuition because students making their payments keep tuition free for future generations of college students. Students might pay their Alma mater between 2 percent and 6 percent of their annual salary for as long as 25 years, depending on the terms of the program.

The idea was first proposed in Oregon, which is creating a pilot program for lawmakers to consider. In Florida, Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, introduced SB 738, which would launch a pilot program to create a Pay It Forward program.

Pay It Forward seems tempting on its face. The University of Florida charges $6,270 a year in tuition. The median Florida salary is $41,334 for a household with one earner. Assuming 3 percent payback over 25 years, that University of Florida degree would cost $31,000.

“It’s disarmingly apparent that it sounds like a good deal,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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FSU Will Examine Florida Colleges’ Remedial Course Changes

Florida State University researchers will study what eliminating remedial requirements means for Florida College System students.

CSUF Photos / Flickr

Florida State University researchers will study what eliminating remedial requirements means for Florida College System students.

Florida State University researchers have won a grant to study the effects of a new state law making remedial math, reading and writing courses optional for many students at Florida’s two- and four-year state colleges.

Students who entered high school in the past decade and earned Florida’s standard high school diploma no longer have to take remedial courses, according to the law passed last year. In the past, about half the students who took the state college placement exam had to take at least one remedial course.

National statistics show students who take remedial courses are less likely to finish their studies. The courses do not earn college credit, and student can not start on their degree until finishing the courses.

Florida college officials say those students are more likely to be returning to school while managing a job and a family. (For more on why this happens, check out our 13th Grade series)

The intent of the law was to make it easier and faster for students to finish their degrees. The Florida State researchers want to find out if that’s the case.

“This is the most significant state law affecting developmental education that we are aware of anywhere in the country,” FSU professor Shouping Hu said in a statement. “Because of its sweeping nature, it is critical that we begin documenting and evaluating its impact from the very beginning.”

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Republican Senator Says Pension Changes Will Not Pass This Year

A Republican state Senator says a proposed bill eliminating traditional pensions for many public employees will pass the same day it snows in Miami, according to the Florida Current. Teachers unions and other have said stopping the bill is a top legislative priority. For the record, weather forecasts predict the lowest temperature in Miami over the next 10 days will be 64 degrees.


wo bills filed by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, would bring sweeping changes to FRS, which earned the title last year as the fifth largest retirement system in the country, with more than 1 million active and retired members and more than 1,000 employers. SB 1114 would create a cash-balance plan and close the defined benefit option to all public workers except for special-risk employees including police and firefighters. The change would only affect new hires entering FRS after July 1, 2015.

Simpson also sponsored SB 1110, in which the state would match up to 2 percent or a maximum of $1,200 toward deferred-compensation accounts.

Differing bills to close the FRS defined benefit plan to new participants failed to pass the Senate during last year’s session.

“I think there was a better chance of passing anything last year than this year,” Evers said, who added positions in school districts and various state and local government agencies that offer FRS do not pay enough.

Read more at: www.thefloridacurrent.com

Gov. Scott Supports In-State Tuition For Undocumented Immigrants

Gov. Rick Scott has asked that Florida give up its duties managing PARCC's money.

Governor Rick Scott/Stacy Ferris/flickr

Gov. Rick Scott said he supports a bill that would allow some undocumented immigrants access to in-state tuition..

Gov. Rick Scott said he will support a Senate bill granting in-state tuition to some undocumented immigrants because the bill also would prevent universities from raising tuition above what lawmakers approve, according to the Associated Press.

Lawmakers have considered in-state tuition the past several years, but the bill has never made it through both the House and the Senate in the same year. House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, supports in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater has introduced the bill in the Senate.

Standing in the way is Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who said he opposes the bill for those in the country illegally.

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Florida Educators Face Unknown Destination As They Wait On Test Decision

Uncertainty about Florida's next statewide test leaves some teachers and administrators uncomfortable.

djking / Flickr

Uncertainty about Florida's next statewide test leaves some teachers and administrators uncomfortable.

Florida schools will be giving a new standardized test about a year from now. But which test is still up in the air until Education Commissioner Pam Stewart announces her choice later this month.

A new test is needed because Florida schools will complete the transition to new math and language arts standards in every grade this fall. The standards are based on the Common Core standards fully adopted by Florida and 44 other states.

So does it matter to teachers if they don’t know yet who will create the test and what it will look like?

Not really, said Christina Phillips, a language arts teacher at Tampa’s Monroe Middle School.

“We’re doing everything in our power right now to prepare them for when they actually take that test,” she said. “Of course, we’re kind of, you know, sailing a ship out in the ocean not knowing exactly where we’re going right now because we don’t know exactly what the new test is going to be.”

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Florida Matters: Choosing The Next FCAT

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart will soon choose an FCAT replacement.

shinealight / Flickr

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart will soon choose an FCAT replacement.

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is expected to recommend a test to (mostly) replace the FCAT this month.

A new test is needed because Florida is finishing the switch to new K-12 math, language arts and literacy standards this fall. The standards are largely based on Common Core standards fully adopted by 44 other states and the District of Columbia.

This evening, WUSF’s Florida Matters takes a look at the test decision with University of South Florida education historian Sherman Dorn, Pasco County assistant superintendent Amelia Van Name Larson, and Melissa Kicklighter, a vice president with the Florida PTA.

Dorn said we won’t know how much will change with the test until the decision is announced.

“It might be tests that are interesting and challenging,” he said. “It might be tests that are very close to what students experience with FCAT — or somewhere in between.”

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Follow-Up: State Rejects Miami Jackson High School’s Grade Appeal

Miami Jackson High School's grade will remain a B, after the Florida Department of Education rejected the school's challenge.

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Miami Jackson High School's grade will remain a B, after the Florida Department of Education rejected the school's challenge.

Miami Jackson Senior High School has lost its appeal to become an A-rated school after disputing test scores , the Miami Herald reports.

The Florida Department of Education said the scores from students learning English would not have changed the school’s grade:

The state’s ruling was expected, even though Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said in January that the “English Language Learner” students in question should not have counted toward the calculation of the school’s 2012-13 letter grade because they had not been enrolled in a U.S. school for a full year prior to the start of testing, as state law requires.

School and district testing officials argued that the disputed test scores caused Miami Jackson, which earned enough points to receive an “A,” to miss out on a requirement that at least a quarter of students test at proficient reading levels in order to avoid a one-grade drop.

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