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Latest developments in education: national, state and local updates

Policies and legislation from every level of government affect Duval County’s public schools. Staying up to date on what's going on in education helps Jacksonville citizens make informed decisions and serve as the best advocates for our students and our city’s future.

National: U.S. Department of Education deadline for states to submit ESSA plans

September 18 was the deadline for states to submit their accountability plans to the Department of Education (DOE) under Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Most did so, although a couple states, including Florida, were granted an extension due to the recent hurricanes. Florida, which submitted its plan last week, originally planned to request a waiver from ESSA's requirement that states evaluate schools by factoring in the performance of specific groups of students: racial and ethnic minorities, those from low-income families, and other historically disadvantaged kids. In the past, Florida has just looked at the lowest-performing students, regardless of these statuses. When the plan was submitted, however, it was devoid of a formal waiver request, and the Florida’s Department of Education spokesperson explained that the state no longer believed a waiver was necessary and was aligned with federal law. If the DOE disagrees, it can deny funds to Florida, require Florida to make revisions to the plan, or approve the plan despite its failure to comply. We’ll be reviewing the plan and comparing it to other state plans as well as keeping a pulse on the DOE's response so check back for an update in the upcoming weeks. 

State: Duval joins other districts in lawsuit against HB 7069, Schools of Hope Bill

Three more districts, Pinellas, Clay, and Alachua, joined the lawsuit against the state over HB 7069. In total, thirteen districts have joined the lawsuit so far: Alachua, Broward, Clay, Miami-Dade, Orange, Duval, St. Lucie, Volusia, Lee, Bay, Hamilton, Pinellas, and Polk. Manatee, Collier, Sarasota, and Hillsborough recently voted not to join; many districts have not decided either way yet. Choosing to abstain from the multi-district lawsuit, Palm Beach voted to pursue litigation against the state on its own.

In the meantime, several of these districts, including Duval, are waiting to hear from the state whether their schools have been selected to receive "Schools of Hope" funds -- up to $2,000 per student for wraparound services, such as after-school programs and community partnerships. Twenty-five out of the 93 eligible schools will be selected.

In Duval, these schools are Arlington Heights Elementary School, Arlington Middle School, George Washington Carver Elementary, George Drive Elementary School, and Ramona Boulevard Elementary School. Hurricane Irma delayed the selection process, which was supposed to be finished October 1, and the Florida Department of Education Board's next meeting is scheduled for October 18 here in Jacksonville. Several districts have acknowledged the potential hypocrisy of applying for money under this section of HB 7069 while simultaneously suing the state over the legislation, so it'll be interesting to see how this plays out. School Board member Scott Shine mentioned this concern in the board meeting during its discussion about joining the lawsuit but he was outvoted.

Local: Duval County School Board identifies items for legislative platform

At its meeting last week, the school board identified items for the district's 2018 Legislative Platform. These include: maintaining the required local effort, flexibility of millage rate, state funding for teacher raises, state funding for the district to run emergency shelters, and opposing elimination of the PERT test. You can read details about the meeting here.

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