tampabay.com

Three school districts could face penalties

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published July 19, 2006


TALLAHASSEE - Three school districts could face financial penalties unless they can satisfy state officials they are taking steps to improve chronically failing schools.

The Florida Board of Education on Monday gave the Miami-Dade, Orange and Duval county districts three weeks to make changes, including replacing principals, explaining how much extra money is being spent to help failing schools, proving faculties have a record of improving student test scores and offering more parental contact.

The districts would lose an amount equivalent to the salaries of their superintendents, a largely symbolic penalty, and competitive grants that could run into the millions of dollars if they fail to comply by Aug. 7.

The financial penalties would be the first the state has ever imposed to prod districts into improving schools that have received an F grade more than once since 1999. The grades are based largely on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test results.

"We're at a point where we have to go to the next level, which is withholding funds," said Florida Education Commissioner John Winn.

Until this year, students from public schools that received an F twice within four years could receive a voucher to attend a private school at public expense. The Florida Supreme Court in January ruled the voucher program violated the state constitution's provision requiring a uniform system of free public schools.