- - Wednesday, December 7, 2011

FLORIDA

Charter schools enroll more than 2 million

MIAMI | The number of students attending charter schools has soared to more than 2 million as states enact laws lifting caps and encouraging their expansion, according to figures released Wednesday.

The growth represents the largest increase in enrollment over a single year since charter schools were founded nearly two decades ago. In all, more than 500 charter schools were opened in the 2011-12 school year. About 200,000 more students are enrolled now than a year ago, an increase of 13 percent nationwide.

“This 2 million student mark is quite significant,” said Ursula Wright, interim CEO of the nonprofit National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which released the study. “It demonstrates increased demand by families who want to see more high quality education options for their children.”

Ms. Wright and others attribute the boom in large part to the Obama administration’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition, which rewarded states for taking on ambitious education changes that included expanding charter schools.

ALABAMA

Law raises questions on holiday gifts to teachers

MONTGOMERY | An Alabama student who gives a teacher a Christmas ham or a $25 gift card will be violating the state’s tough new ethics law. The possible penalty? Up to a year in jail and a $6,000 fine.

The law allows public officials and employees to accept gifts with only “de minimis” value, but it doesn’t give any dollar amount. As schools get ready to let out for the holidays, the State Ethics Commission has been flooded with calls about what students can give their teachers.

The commission said Wednesday that “hams, turkeys or gift cards with a specific monetary value are not permissible.” Homemade cookies, coffee mugs and fruit baskets are OK.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Alabama’s ethics law is applied more broadly than any other state.

CALIFORNIA

Overnight police raid clears out Occupy camp

SAN FRANCISCO | Police gave protesters at San Francisco’s Occupy encampment five minutes to gather belongings before taking down about 100 tents and arresting 70 people as officers dismantled the camp in an overnight raid.

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