Florida schools roundup: Spending on education, its potential impact and more

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Education spending: The Senate Appropriations Committee approves a bill that would spread federal Title I funding to more schools, including charters, and give districts less control over the grants. Gradebook. The committee also approves a bill that would automatically put teachers and other public workers into a 401 (k) investment program instead of the state’s pension plan if they fail to choose a retirement plan option when hired. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Two bills (S.B. 1314 and S.B. 902) that would increase eligibility and funding for private school choice options also are approved by the committee. redefinED. Politico Florida.

Legislative effects: Duval County school officials say the district may have to close schools as a result of decisions made in the Legislature this year. They’ve called a community meeting tonight to discuss how the Legislature’s decisions could affect the district. Florida Times-Union.

Budget discussions: As mostly secret state budget negotiations continue, the Senate approves the placement of a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot that would increase the nonschool homestead exemption by $25,000. The Senate’s appropriations committee also approves a three-day back to school tax holiday. Because there’s a 72-hour “cooling off” period required, the budget must be finalized today in order for the Legislature to end as scheduled Friday. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Associated PressTampa Bay Times. Sarasota Herald-TribuneNews Service of Florida.

Federal budget impact: The impact of President Trump’s budget would be devastating to south Florida schools, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten says at a rally. Miami-Dade County could lose $21.6 million for after-school programs, she says, and teachers could lose $17 million for professional development. Miami Herald.

Grading by performance: The Pasco County School District is considering taking steps to separate academic performance from behavior on students’ final grades. School officials saying they’re trying to standardize how teachers decide to weigh performance against misbehavior. “The idea is, did you learn what you were expected to learn? If you did, you deserve a grade that reflects that,” says Rayann Mitchell, the district’s director of teaching and learning. Gradebook.

Mixing PE, academics: Chester Taylor Elementary School in Zephyrhills is mixing academic lessons with traditional physical education classes as a way of engaging students and showing them there are many ways to be involved in a sport even if you don’t play it. Students announce games, keep and calculate statistics, set budgets, trade players, design uniforms and study the history of games. “When you play softball, you have kids sitting and one person hitting. This way, the whole class is involved,” says phys ed teacher teacher Belinda Brown. Tampa Bay Times.

School meal rules: The Trump administration is delaying or eliminating some of the federal nutrition requirements for school lunches that were enacted during the Obama administration. Cutbacks in salt and an increase in the use of whole grains are delayed, and schools may serve whole milk instead of nonfat. Associated Press.

District decentralizing: The Lake County School Board approves a plan to divide the district into three regions – north, south and central – with executive directors to provide schools in each region with more direct support. Each director and his or her staff will be responsible for 14 or 15 schools. Daily Commercial.

School expands: The School of Arts and Sciences charter school in Tallahassee opens two new buildings with 12 classrooms today to house grades 4-8. Tallahassee Democrat.

School programs canceled: Palma Sola Presbyterian Church’s before- and after-school programs are ending Aug. 4 after 50 years of operation. The church has decided it can’t handle the oversight necessary for the programs, says Rev. India Dennis. Bradenton Herald.

Personnel changes: Ryan Saxe, executive director of curriculum and professional learning for the Manatee County School District, is leaving to become superintendent of the Cabell County Schools in West Virginia. Bradenton Herald.

Employees arrested: A teacher at Palm Beach Gardens High School is arrested and accused of video voyeurism. Bill Weed, 50, who used to be the school’s athletic director, is alleged to have hidden a camera inside a digital clock in a girl’s bedroom. Weed has been placed on an alternate assignment by the school. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel. The lacrosse coach at Atlantic Coast High School is arrested and accused of depositing more than $4,000 in stolen checks from a Jacksonville Beach business. School officials say the case against Caitlin Powderly, 35, isn’t related to her employment at the school. WTLV. WJAX. A teacher at Garden Grove Elementary in Winter Haven is arrested and accused of felony burglary and two misdemeanor counts of battery. Police say Breronnie Covington Jr., 35, entered the home of his aunt uninvited, argued with her and struck her. Lakeland Ledger. An after-school program worker is arrested and accused of asking several teenage boys to engage in sexual activity with him. Roosevelt Miller, 20, worked at Plantation Middle School. Sun-Sentinel.

Teen sentenced: A 17-year-old boy is sentenced to eight years in prison for the 2016 stabbing of a fellow student at Royal Palm Beach High School. Jose Perez Decorcho pleaded guilty three months ago to attempted first-degree murder with a deadly weapon and two other charges. Sun-Sentinel.

Student arrested: A Miami high school student is arrested for making social media threats against John A. Ferguson, Felix Varela and South Dade senior high schools. Patch.com.

Opinions on schools: Sixty years ago today, Gov. LeRoy Collins took the unpopular position of denouncing a Florida Legislature resolution that declared the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark public school desegregation decision in Brown vs. Board of Education “null, void, and of no force or effect.” History has indeed judged him right. Carol Weissert and Lester Abberger, Tampa Bay Times. We must be vigilant in deterring any attempts to use school choice for racist ends. At the same time, we can’t ignore the good these tax credit scholarships are doing, and their potential to do even more (Note: Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the state’s tax credit scholarship program). R.B. Holmes, The 74. Miami Lighthouse and the Miami-Dade County School System launch an early learning inclusion pilot program in pre-kindergarten to mix sighted and visually impaired students. Virginia Jacko and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, Miami Herald. Educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune won the vote overwhelmingly as the people’s choice for a statue to represent Florida in the U.S. Capitol, replacing a Confederate general, and it is time for the Legislature collectively to do the right thing. Put Bethune in the statuary in Washington now, and stop fighting the Civil War over again. Randolph Bracy Jr., Orlando Sentinel. Which comes first: improving the schools as a means of lifting more people out or poverty? Or finding a way to lift more people out of poverty, which will improve schools? Gil Smart, TCPalm.

Student enrichment: Pinellas County wins the Division 1 championship in the state’s Commissioner’s Academic Challenge. Martin County wins the Division 2 title, and Walton County the Division 3 championship. Thirty-nine counties entered the competition, in which teams answered questions about language arts, math, science, social studies, fine arts, French, Spanish, physical education, health and technology. Gradebook. Jewish students at Lake Brantley High School use the painting of swastikas on school property as motivation to educate the school and community about Jewish history and traditions. Chabad.org. Sarasota school officials and nonprofits prepare programs to combat summer learning loss. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Members of the Springfield Elementary School’s Guardian Club unveil their anti-bullying mural on a wall at the school. Panama City News Herald. The River Ridge High School Royal Robotics team wins the Creativity Award at the 2017 FIRST Championship in Houston. Tampa Bay Times.