Florida schools roundup: Education bill, Bright Futures, testing, recess and more

Education bill: The Florida Association of School Boards has already urged Gov. Rick Scott to veto the Legislature’s education bill, H.B. 7069. Now the group says it wants Scott to also veto the proposed Florida Education Fund Program, which sets per-student spending. The board says 90 percent of the the $240 million increase in the program will go for school enrollment growth and increased retirement plan contributions, and what is left is not enough to “adequately serve our students.” Gradebook. News Service of Florida. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, praises Rep. Roy Hardemon, D-Miami, for being the only Democrat in the Legislature to vote for the education bill. Miami Herald.

Bright Futures: The boost in money for Bright Futures scholarship winners in the education bill would expand the program significantly, but it also renews concerns about fairness in who qualifies. In 2015, about 51,200 students were eligible. Less than 4 percent were black, and 20 percent were Hispanic. “When you pour most of your money into your top-tier scholarship, you are giving that money to upper-middle-class white kids,” says Bob Schaeffer of FairTest, a nonprofit advocacy organization. Tampa Bay Times.

Certification tests defended: Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says the state’s teacher certification exams are useful and appropriate, despite failure rates of 30 percent on some portions and the escalating costs to the test-takers. “We have a lot of research that shows the exams are not flawed,” said Stewart. “I think it’s a reflection of we’ve raised standards for students and, consequently, we need to raise standards for teachers and make sure that they are experts in the content area that they’re teaching.” WFTS.

Daily recess: All public K-5 elementary school students in Marion County will get 20 minutes of recess every day, starting in the fall. Superintendent Heidi Maier made recess an issue in her campaign for the job last fall, and in following through, she wrote: “It is the right thing to do. We have the research which shows recess is needed for kids to retain information.” Ocala Star Banner.

Courtesy busing fee: Most Martin County students who live within 2 miles of their school but want to be bused during the 2017-2018 school year will have to pay $425 and apply for a seat. Students within 2 miles of their schools who face “hazardous walking conditions,” as determined by the school district, will continue to receive free service. TCPalm.

Charter schools: Plans to build a charter school just west of Coral Gables are rejected by the Miami-Dade County Commission. In a 9-0 vote, commissioners said allowing the Somerset Academy to put a K-12 school with 1,400 students on Sunset Drive near the Palmetto Parkway would significantly worsen the already congested traffic in the area. Miami Herald. A Sunrise charter elementary school is under investigation for alleged misappropriation of funds. The Paramount Charter School’s bank account has been frozen, and some parents say the physical condition of the school is “disgusting” and the academic performance is half that of the state average. WPLG.

Educational choices: Hybrid-like education is growing in Florida, and some experts think it could become a model that more states adopt. In such a plan, parents mix public and private schooling in a variety of ways, such as having students take core subjects online at home, attend a local school for classes in the arts and physical education, and go to a private tutor for specialty lessons in something like music. Florida makes the educational choice possible through the Florida Virtual Schools’ Flex program, which allows students to attend the virtual school part-time. Forbes.

Black history lessons: Some Madison County parents are critical of the district’s history books, saying too little is taught about black history. School officials say the textbooks conform to the state standards of teaching black history in the contest of U.S. history. Madison County Carrier.

Notable deaths: Steve Ekeli, the athletic complex manager for the Seven Rivers Christian School in Lecanto and a longtime soccer coach, is killed in a car crash in Citrus County on his way to work. Citrus County Chronicle.

Graduation gifts: Residents of Mount Dora raise more than $6,300 to replace gifts for graduating seniors that were stolen in a burglary May 4 at Mount Dora High School. The GoFundMe fund-raising drive for Project Graduation set a goal of $5,000 to replace the GoPros, laptops and other items that were taken, and easily met it in about 48 hours. Orlando Sentinel.

Personnel changes: The St. Johns County School District appoints several principals and administrators to new roles. St. Augustine Record.

Students killed: Grief counselors are at Riverview High School in Sarasota after a popular student dies from injuries suffered when he was hit by a car last weekend. Matthew Batchie, 16, was hit when he tried to cross a road at Siesta Key Beach. Erica Ross, 15, was with him and was seriously injured. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Grief counselors also are available at Taylor Middle-High School in Seville after a 17-year-old died in a car crash. Darian Dearborn was killed when the car she was driving ran into a tree. A passenger also was seriously injured. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Teaching license revoked: A retired 74-year-old Palm Beach County teacher has his teaching license revoked for five years. Barry Grace, a longtime third-grade teacher at Indian Pines Elementary School and named one of the district’s best teachers in 2005, retired in 2012. But allegations of inappropriate contact with female students surfaced recently, prompting the suspension by the state’s Education Practices Commission. Palm Beach Post.

Students arrested: A freshman at J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs is arrested after bringing a toy gun to school. The scare brought dozens of police officers to the school and prompted a lockdown that lasted several hours. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. A Chiles High School student is arrested for scratching the paint of trucks in the school parking lot with a key. Earlier in the week, several students in trucks came to school with Confederate flags displayed. Tallahassee Democrat.

Fire affects schools: Smoky conditions from a huge fire at Callaghan Tire forces schedule changes for several schools in Manatee County. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Opinions on schools: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Rep. Manny Diaz and Rep. Michael Bileca are among legislators who stand to profit from the charter school industry they have just helped with H.B. 7069. It’s truly outrageous, and Gov. Scott should veto the bill. Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald. With H.B. 7069, at least 55 different bills concerning public education were jammed together at the last minute in a conference report that was sent straight to the floor of the House and by rule could not be amended. This isn’t how the process should work. State Rep. Shevrin Jones, Sun Sentinel. Charter schools are growing in number, giving parents choices, and they’re showing positive results. That’s why Gov. Scott should charter this bill’s passage. Elaine Parker, Sun Sentinel. H.B. 7069 is perhaps the worst public school bill imaginable, both for the way it was passed and the myriad of questionable components it contains. Gov. Rick Scott would do well to veto the measure and force the Legislature to rethink this train wreck of a plan. TCPalm. If those who want Gov. Scott to veto the education budget get their way, special needs children like my autistic daughter will be hurt. Lee Anne McGee, Orlando Sentinel. Because the bill itself would ultimately lead to destruction of public schools, and because the process by which it was passed was deceitful and excluded meaningful input and feedback, I call on Gov. Scott to veto H.B. 7069. State Sen. Gary Farmer, Sun Sentinel. School choice will lift up the black community. T. Willard Fair, Pensacola News Journal. Chiles High School officials turned a potentially explosive incident of Confederate flag-waving into a teachable moment for students. Tallahassee Democrat.

Student enrichment: Former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy returns to his alma mater, Miami Palmetto Senior High School in Pinecrest, to advise students about the dangers of e-cigarettes. Miami Herald. Students from Lee High School in Jacksonville meet with law enforcement and city officials to describe the reality of their lives at the At-Hope Youth Advisory Forum. Florida Times-Union. Students at Immokalee High School celebrate their heritage during Haitian Flag Day. Naples Daily News. Cutler Bay High School students learn about the dangers of driving under the influence at an interactive presentation by the Miami-Dade Police Department, Miami-Dade school police and Students Together Against Negative Decisions. Miami Herald.

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