Florida schools roundup: H.B. 7069, district tapping reserves and more

H.B. 7069: The controversial K-12 education bill H.B. 7069 has been sent to Gov. Rick Scott for consideration. He must make a decision on the bill by June 27, though there are reports that he intends to sign the bill Thursday in Orlando. The bill creates a fund to recruit high-performing charter schools into areas with persistently struggling schools, requires 20 minutes of recess a day for traditional public elementary school students and sets aside more than $200 million to provide bonuses for teachers and principals, among other things. Orlando SentinelGradebook. Gov. Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, were in Miami to make the first of five stops in a “victory tour” of Florida to celebrate the budget agreement. Miami Herald. Tampa Bay Times. Sun Sentinel. Sunshine State News. Hundreds of teachers protest the education bill at Gov. Scott’s rally in Jacksonville Beach. Florida Times-Union. WJCT. WJXT. Supporters and opponents of the education bill continue to pepper Gov. Scott with emails and calls. News Service of FloridaWKMG. WBBH. Florida Politics.

District finances: The Duval County School Board tentatively agrees to tap the district’s reserves to help make up the difference between the money it expected from the state and what it actually will get. The district was expecting an extra $16 million after the budget deal in the special session. But the state told the district that about half of that needs to be set aside for mandates and charter schools. Florida Times-Union. Polk County school officials say the district will struggle to maintain reserves and give raises to teachers and staff under the level of funding the state has approved for education. The district expects to receive $6,983 per student from the state, which is $110 less than it received 10 years ago. Lakeland Ledger. The Manatee County School Board asks its attorney to write a resolution for a special election in March to raise property taxes for schools by 1 mill. The increase would raise about $30 million a year for the district. Bradenton Herald. The Cape Coral Charter School Governing Board tentatively approves a budget for its four schools that gives employees a 2 percent raise but cuts the number of teachers and administrators by 14. Lehigh Acres Citizen.

Audit raps district: The Broward County School District greatly overpaid asphalt contractors for athletic tracks and playgrounds and didn’t get required permits, according to an internal audit. Forty-seven times between 2010 and 2017, the district paid $150 to $300 an hour for workers. In 2016, auditors say, the Palm Beach County School had similar work done and paid $15 to $45 an hour. The Broward district has a history of financial mismanagement in its facilities department, and is about to begin infrastructure updates covered by an $800 million bond approved by voters in 2014. Sun Sentinel.

Charters encouraged: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urges charter school companies to not create stifling bureaucracies, but to meet the needs of each student. “This administration has sent a clear message: We trust parents, and we believe in students,” she told a gathering of charter school advocates. “A system that denies parents the freedom to choose the education that best suits their children’s individual and unique needs denies them a basic human right.” redefinED. Education Week. Attendees at the charter school conference debate the value of virtual charter schools and of for-profit education. redefinED.

Administrator demoted: A Broward County school administrator is demoted for misusing his position to give special benefits to another school employee with whom he was having an affair. Israel Canales, 55, is moved from directing operations at the K.C. Wright administrative headquarters in Fort Lauderdale to a position of supervisor of custodians. The demotion, approved by the school board, also cuts his salary from $88,000 to $82,500. Sun Sentinel.

Florida DOE sued: A Florida teacher takes the state Department of Education before an administrative judge, alleging the scoring process for the teacher certification testing is flawed. Julie McCue, who has 20 years of teaching experience in south Florida, four times has failed a test she must pass to be compensated for the master’s degree she recently earned. WFTX,

School  name: The Hillsborough County School Board is considering changing the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary School. Board member Tamara Shamburger points out that had Lee’s side won the Civil War, “a majority of our students (there) would be slaves.” Supporters of the change want the name to be Woodson Elementary, after Carter G. Woodson, a 19th century historian. School officials will research what’s required for a name change, which by district policy would take at least 18 months to complete. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP.

New textbooks: The Collier County School Board narrowly approves the purchase of $6 million worth of instructional materials. Two of the five board members agreed with critics who say the books contain “leftist” biases. The board also extend Superintendent Kamela Patton’s contract by a year, to 2021, on another 3-2 vote. Naples Daily News.

New school campus: The Francis Marion Military Academy moves to its new 15-acre campus in Ocala, which is about three times the size of its previous location. The charter high school has a five-year lease on the site. Officials say enrollment should be more than 200 when the doors open Aug. 10 for classes. Ocala Star Banner.

Pride proclamation: The Polk County School Board proclaims June 14-18 as LGBTQ Pride Week, but not without objections from two members. Lakeland Ledger.

School attendance: Jinks Middle School principal Britt Smith initiates a program, Count Me In!, to combat truancy by coordinating with local organizations to find ways to get students to school despite their problems at home. Panama City News Herald.

Personnel moves: Phyllis Benjamin is retiring after working for the Duval Early Learning Academy in Gainesville for more than 52 years in a variety of roles. Gainesville Sun.

Principal arrested: A Manatee County principal is arrested for DUI. Michael Van Hoven, principal at Bradenton Christian School, resigned the day after he was arrested. He had worked at the school for 21 years. Bradenton Herald.

Opinions on schools: When people are incapable of allowing the basic facts to sink in, such as in the case of the Vero Beach student who was stripped of his class presidency for an off-the-cuff political speech, the future of satire — which requires context and subtlety — doesn’t stand a chance. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. The flap over a Vero Beach High School student’s political speech has gone viral. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm. The legislative session didn’t exactly earn a victory lap. Mark Lane, Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Bay County School District is to be commended for reviving a much-needed driver’s education program. Panama City News Herald.

Student enrichment: Ten Miami-area students are headed to Madrid for 10 days, courtesy of the city of Miami and the nonprofit organization Take Stock in Children, which provides mentoring and scholarships for at-risk students. Miami Herald. Fifty-two students at Boca Ciega High School collaborate to write a nearly 200-page history of the historically black Lincoln Cemetery in Gulfport. Tampa Bay Times. Palm Beach State College gets a grant of $1.35 million to continue its Upward Bound program, which helps guide low-income high school students into higher education. Palm Beach Post.

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