Florida schools roundup: Education bill, teacher certification, aid and more

Education bill: Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t announced whether he intends to veto all or parts of the budget or education bills, but some Republicans close to him think he will veto the education bill to force the Legislature to renegotiate education spending and cuts made in tourism marketing. Politico Florida. More educators from around the state are urging Scott to veto the education and budget bills. Miami HeraldOrlando SentinelDaily Commercial. Public News Service. WTVJ.

Teacher certification: The Florida Department of Education’s proposed changes in teacher certification are being put on hold at least until the 2018-2019 school year. Implementing the changes for next school year could have put hundreds of teachers into the “out of field” category. The delay allows districts time to help those teachers qualify for “subject matter expert” certification. Gradebook.

Financial aid boost: State and federal governments have approved increases in financial aid for students going to or already in college. At the state level, the Legislature bumped up the funds available for the Bright Futures Scholarships, and students can now use them for summer classes. Pell grants for college students will also be available for the first time for summer classes. News Service of Florida.

Interim superintendent: The Duval County School Board cuts a potential field of interim superintendents from seven to three, and will conduct interviews Wednesday. Those being considered are Earl Lennard, who was Hillsborough County superintendent from 1996-2005; Pearl Roziers, assistant superintendent in Duval and head of the district’s school choice program; and Patricia Willis, who was a Duval deputy superintendent from 2007-2012. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti leaves next week to become head of the Detroit school system. Florida Times-UnionWJXT. WKOV.

Bullying report: One in five U.S. students are bullied in school, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics and the Justice Department. The same study reports that sexual assaults on college campuses has more than tripled in the past decade. Associated Press.

Teacher honored: Anne Jones, a teacher at Ruth Rains Middle School in Cross City, is named 2018 teacher of the year for the Dixie County School District. Florida Department of Education.

Charter application: The Polk County School Board is expected to deny a charter company’s application to start the K-8 Polk Charter Academy in south Lakeland. The Florida Charter Educational Foundation wants to replicate Winthrop Charter School in Hillsborough County. The board rejected the application in September, saying the company was not a “high performing” charter and the application was vague. The company appealed to the Florida Board of Education, which approved its application. But the school board is appealing the appeal. Lakeland Ledger.

Where the students went: Hillsborough County school officials say school choice and families moving account for the drop in the Van Buren Middle School enrollment, leaving just 412 students in a school built to hold 981. The school board votes today to merge Van Buren with Cahoon Elementary School. Gradebook.

Back on schedule: Two Pasco County schools resume their normal schedules today after a week of later starts caused by early-morning smoke from nearby wildfires. River Ridge High School and Middle School begin at 7:30 a.m. and dismiss at 1:55 p.m. Gradebook.

Student transportation: The Polk County School District and its bus service partner, the Citrus Connection, are creating a marketing plan to boost ridership. When it started in 2014, Citrus Connection gave almost 60,000 Polk County students rides before and after school and during the summer. By 2016 the number was down to about 36,000. The school district pays $47,085 a year for the program no matter how many students use it. Lakeland Ledger.

Teacher arrested: Kyle Parmenter, a 24-year-old associate third-grade teacher at Palencia Elementary School in St. Augustine, is arrested on a charge of solicitation of a child to engage in sexual conduct. Parmenter, who was suspended with pay pending a district investigation, was one of 21 men arrested in a sting operation targeting men who were soliciting children online. St. Augustine Record. WJAX.

Student arrested: A Citrus High School student is arrested and accused of making a false report of planting a bomb, explosive, weapon of mass destruction or threatening to use a firearm in a violent manner. The 15-year-old freshman wrote the threat in a school bathroom stall. Citrus County Chronicle.

Fire destroys portable: A lightning strike starts a fire that destroys a portable music classroom at Workman Middle School in Pensacola. Pensacola News Journal.

Opinions on schools: The notion that House Bill 7069 will gut public education or undermine public schools is hogwash. Instead, it provides the reform and disruption our K-12 education system desperately needs, and Gov. Scott should sign it. State Rep. Jason Fischer, Florida Times-Union. If Gov. Rick Scott signs the bill on religious expression in schools, look forward to lawsuits and agitation by disgruntled school parents. This bill may have consequences that those who voted for it did not understand. Rep. Richard Stark, Sun Sentinel. Public school advocates are troubled that this education bill was introduced at the last minute with no opportunity to make changes. In addition, they feel certain conservative legislators with ties to for-profit charter and private-school corporations are usurping the authority of the locally elected public school boards. School board member Shirley Brown, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, is technically correct that the House’s $24 million for education is “the greatest investment in education in Florida history!” But the per-pupil increase is less than one-half of 1 percent, the increase won’t affect every school district equally, and some counties likely will see less money because of how the state allocates school funds. We rate Corcoran’s statement half true. Politifact Florida. Expanding the music program in Alachua County schools is a path to academic improvement for economically disadvantaged students. Annemieke Pronker-Coron, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: Thirteen graduating Orange County seniors honor Mary Rock, their third-grade teacher 10 years ago at Shenandoah Elementary School. Orlando Sentinel. While some schools are banning fidget spinners, students at Pryor Middle School in Fort Walton Beach are using a computer-assisted design program to make them and sell to students for $10. The money goes to the school’s technology program. Northwest Florida Daily News.

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