Florida schools roundup: Budget fight, choice, top teachers and more

Budget battle: Gov. Rick Scott again hints that he’s considering vetoing the $83 billion state budget, calling it the result of “backroom deals.” “I am beginning to review the budget and I have the option of vetoing the entire budget or vetoing the items that circumvented the transparent process and do not have an acceptable return on investment for hardworking taxpayers,” said Scott. Governors often use line-item vetoes, but not since Lawton Chiles in 1992 has a governor vetoed the entire budget. Scott began signing bills Tuesday. Palm Beach Post. Tampa Bay Times. WFSU. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham calls the budget “education-eviscerating,” and she joins school districts and officials in calling on Scott to veto it. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida. Florida PoliticsLakeland Ledger. Gradebook. Here are nine ways Florida schools will change if the education bill is signed into law. Tampa Bay Times. Several legislators missed the vote on the education bill because they were eating lunch or using the bathroom. Miami Herald.

School choice bills: School choice was a winner in this year’s legislative session. Among the bills passed were financial incentives to attract charter schools, more money for tax credit scholarships, broadened eligibility for scholarship money students with disabilities, and money to charters for construction. redefinED. WFSU.

Other education bills: Among the less-noticed education bills that were passed during this legislative session were measures to expand scholarship programs for low-income students and those with disabilities, a state study of best practices for middle schools, and rules allowing parents and community members to challenge classroom textbooks and materials. Some that didn’t pass include an attempt to allow computer coding class to be counted as a foreign language requirement, a move to bring minimum teacher salaries to the national average, and a bill to end mandatory retention of third-graders based on state reading tests. Gradebook. Lake County School Board members express disappointment that the Legislature didn’t provide more relief from standardized testing. Daily Commercial.

Budget-cutting: Changes in the way the state distributes federal Title I funds will force Duval County school officials to cut deeper than they’d like in programs at their high-poverty schools. Previously, the funds came into the district, which could then decide where best to spend the money. Under the education bill passed by the Legislature, the money will be spread around to more schools and go directly to the schools. Florida Times-Union. Volusia County school officials say they have a $7 million gap between expected revenue and expenses for the 2017-2018 school year. Daytona Beach News-Journal. School officials in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties say they expect to cut 5 percent out of their budgets because of the education bill. WEAR.

Teachers honored: The Department of Education names two of the five finalists for the 2018 Florida teacher of the year award. Tammy Jerkins, a pre-calculus teacher at Leesburg High School, and Michael Miller, a fifth-grade teacher at Kissimmee Elementary School, each were awarded $5,000. The winner will be announced July 13. Orlando Sentinel. Daily Commercial.

Superintendent on the move: Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says negotiations to become superintendent of the Detroit school system are going well, and he could begin his new job May 22 or 29. “It appears as if the Detroit school board may consider voting on a final contract this week or next week.” Vitti told Duval board members. Florida Times-Union.

Scouting replacements: Miami-Dade County School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has only said he might be interested in running for the U.S. House seat being vacated by the retiring Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, but school board members already are considering potential replacements. Miami Herald.

Application denials: The U.S. Department of Education denies dozens of requests for federal grants to help poor students get into college because the letters had the wrong font, improper spacing or incorrect margins. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said applications from Upward Bound will no longer be denied for those reasons, but the already rejected applications won’t be reconsidered. Associated Press.

Financial matters: The Manatee County School Board approves a series of budget amendments that will help the district maintain the 3 percent reserve fund balance required by the state. Bradenton Herald.

New behavioral plan: The Bay County School Board approves a plan to change mental health services and discipline in elementary schools. The district will hire an early childhood education behavior interventionist for pre-K and kindergarten students, behavior interventionists at five target elementary schools, and paraprofessionals for the district’s new in-school suspension program, called the PROMISE program. In that program, character development will be emphasized over punishment. Panama City News Herald.

Personnel changes: The principal of Jones High School in Orlando resigns after Orange County School District officials say they are “looking into some questionable student record issues at the school.” Roderick Waldon said he was resigning for personal reasons. An official from the Florida High School Athletics Association said the agency was contacted about a potential issue at the school, and is investigating. Orlando SentinelWKMG. New assignments are announced for six Marion County principals who were removed from their schools by Superintendent Heidi Maier. Ocala Star Banner.

Open board seat: Five people have expressed interest in filling a soon-to-open Manatee County School Board seat. Board member Karen Carpenter is leaving at the end of the month to move to Massachusetts. Gov. Rick Scott will appoint someone to fill the reminder of Carpenter’s term. Bradenton Herald.

New school: Hernando County planning commissioners approve a permit for the St. Aloysius Mission Association to build new school in Brooksville. The site will house the Queen of All Saints Academy, a Catholic school, near a planned convent for its teachers, the Sisters of St. Thomas Aquinas. Tampa Bay Times.

Union election: The Palm Beach County teachers union is defending its decision not to certify the results for the president’s race until a committee decides if a recount is needed. Justin Katz defeated Gordan Longhofer by 28 votes out of 1,356 cast, and Longhofer is asking for a recount. The union tried to bar Katz from the race on a technicality, but relented after the state union suggested it do so. Palm Beach Post.

Graduation tickets: For the first time, Booker High School in Sarasota will be issuing tickets for its graduation ceremony. More students and high demand from the community prompt the change. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School vandalized: Eight vandals glue 30 doors shut at Estero High School, causing about $4,000 in damage. Fort Myers News-Press.

Opinions on schools: The Legislature’s education is a fraud upon the state. Gov. Scott should veto the bill and focus on getting education right. Sun-Sentinel. The public deserves better than the Legislature delivered in rushing through ill-considered changes and cuts to public education. The governor should veto the budget and education bill, giving lawmakers another shot at doing the work they should have done the first time around. Gainesville Sun. The education bill was rushed through with insufficient transparency, leaving lawmakers to acknowledge they will have to go back and fix the things they admit are flawed but voted for anyway. That’s an irresponsible way to legislate. Daytona Beach News-Journal. This whole school choice movement in the Legislature has really always been about private companies cashing in. Ron Littlepage, Florida Times-Union. Our challenge is twofold — how to incorporate coding into grade school science while continuing to reinforce the core principles of inquiry, rigor, and student-centered learning for every student. Adam LaMee, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: All 41,623 Escambia County School District students will get a special edition library card for all seven libraries in the West Florida Public Library system. Pensacola News Journal. The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Club of Christopher Columbus High School wins the cybertechnology and security category at the Conrad Innovation Challenge, a competition against 40 teams from around the world. Miami Herald. Buck Lake Elementary School students will receive 3-D printers, STEM training for teachers and other learning tools through a grant from Florida State University’s Florida Center for Research and STEM. WCTV. Students at Booker High School learn classical guitar from virtuoso Thomas Koch, who has performed all over the world. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. All three Citrus County high schools make the Washington Post list of most challenging high schools in the United States. Citrus County Chronicle.

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