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Schools and Education School Board Debates Proposals For Upcoming School Year


BRADENTON -- At Monday night's School Board meeting, board members debated prioritizing 10 individual proposals for the 2012-2013 school year that would affect Florida's education system. While the Resolution Opposing Overemphasis on High-Stakes Testing was unanimously agreed upon as paramount, some of the more heavily-debated proposals were the Class Size Amendment, the Internet Sales legislative proposal and the new school transfer policy for student-athletes, as dictated by the Florida High School Athletic Association.

Board member Barbara Harvey gave a report on the Central Florida School Boards Coalition meeting she attended, and the new Florida High School Athletic Association athletic transfers policy: "The policy started in Lakeland and has really mushroomed," reported Harvery. As the policy currently states, a student who changes schools after initially attending another school "may be ineligible for the remainder of the sport season during which the transfer occurs."

Harvey noted that a violation of the policy took place in Hillsborough County recently, when parents of transferred athletes were found to have falsified the residencies of the students in order to fulfill the transfer policy requirement. Saying that "the parents lied about the homes," Harvey said that the school administrators were reprimanded, but that the parents were not.

"Their State Championship was lost as a result of this. We want to be certain that we do the right thing on this policy." Board member Julie Aranibar agreed, saying, "If we're looking for future policies that we need to address, we need to look at sports so that we're not creating an unfair advantage."

Board member Harry Kinnan responded, "I think the fact we have a school choice program helps us to track this kind of problem. I think we have a pretty good vanguard on this. We have a lot of safeguards on (the athletic transfer policy matter)." Dr. McGonegal spoke up to agree with Kinnan.

Later in the meeting, each board member prioritized 3 out of 10 listed proposals that would affect the Florida education system. Bringing up the Internet Sales Tax proposal, Gause said, "The most structurally-significant thing for our state (is to implement this proposal). I think we're going to see a gradual erosion of the state's budget if we don't implement it."

Aranibar argued that the Class Size Amendment should not be prioritized, saying, "I don't think we have the strength to support this going through. It reminds people of the days we stacked too many kids in the class. For most of the people that vote don't have kids in the schools, it's a non-starter." 

Barbara Harvey stated that her number 1 priority was class size.

The Resolution Opposing Overemphasis on High-Stakes Testing was one of the last items on the list of proposals. The resolution had been passed 5-0 in a prior board meeting. Gause said, "Having 67 districts all developing their own tests is incredibly cumbersome." 

Barbara Harvey expressed concern with the issue: "If a child did not pass an end of course test, then the child would not be able to re-take the test for a year. There are some concerns with making that time period shorter." 

Carpenter agreed with Harvey's sentiment: "Trying to put an element of common sense in this would be very important. It seems to be that some of the assessments for these teachers is overbearing, and don't take into account the art of teaching. This is about local influence and local control."

Superintendent Tim McGonegal dissented, saying that the teachers must not just be evaluated on instruction, but on results as well to which Gause chimed in, "Each proposal on the list has a certain level of importance, no doubt, but some have immediate consequences. This initiative has very immediate consequences. It's going to be taking effect the next year. I see this as at least the second most important proposal on the list ... we need to be taking the bull by the horns (on this issue)."

Carpenter, Harvey, Gause and Kinnan also stated their belief in the importance of the Workforce Education Funding proposal. Gause said, "We need to see if we can't get this issue all the way home. This is supposed to be the year for that." Near the end of the meeting, board member Robert Gause took time to speak out against the Florida DoE's policy of arbitrarily increasing the county's dropout rate by recognizing students that do not graduate within 4 years as dropouts. 


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