Pensacola, Florida
Friday October 24th 2014

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The Buzz 6/2/11

GOP BUDGET SPIN The Republican Party of Florida paid for automated phone calls from Gov. Rick Scott to Republican “super” voters in the area. Gov. Scott praised his “jobs” budget and how it meets his commitment to “put job creation front and center.” He also bragged about his line-item vetoes that eliminated “wasteful special interest spending”— $615 million in expenditures put in the budget by the Republican leadership of the state legislature.

Although we all know that the budget cut school-district budgets by 9 percent, Scott boasted of his saving $150 million for schools and school children. He also said he had asked the state legislature to redirect some of his veto cuts to education.

How will the lawmakers do that now that the session had ended? Does Scott plan to call a special session? Unfortunately, ‘robo’ calls can’t reply to questions.

THIRD GRADERS LEFT BEHIND Looking at the third grade FCAT scores that were released last week, the IN studied how prepared these children were when they started school as kindergarteners in the 2007-08 school year and how much they have improved.

Under the No Child Left Behind program, kindergarteners are tested for their school readiness. How well have Escambia County and Santa Rosa County school districts done in improving these children’s reading skills?

When the third graders entered kindergarten they were screened using the Florida Kindergarten Readiness Screener, which includes testing for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) for Letter Naming Fluency (LNF) and for Initial Sound Fluency (ISF).

The IN found that a larger percentage of this year’s third grade class in Escambia County started kindergarten in 2007-08 not knowing their letters or sounds than in Santa Rosa. The Letter Naming Fluency Readiness for Escambia County was 67 percent, Santa Rosa 75 percent.

Four years later, the Escambia County third graders showed less improvement on the FCAT reading over the DIBELS LNF. Escambia County had 72 percent score 3 or above–a five-point improvement over the kindergarten percentage. Santa Rosa County had 88 percent of its third graders score 3 or above–13 points above the DIBELS LNF percentage.

It appears a third of Escambia County students start behind in reading and less than 10 percent catch up with their peers by third grade.

DOW MADE IT WORK How can Mayor Hayward be so sure that functional consolidation can work? Because it has been done successfully in Mobile, Ala.

Hayward had lunch last week with Mike Dow, the strong mayor that turned around that city. Dow said that his city and the county have saved money by combining their emergency dispatch operations. Mobile has been asked to add Baldwin County to the system.

Dow got the Mobile director on the phone to help set up the tour of the system for local officials. The director said that there are Homeland Security grants available to help with the consolidation.