Florida schools roundup: Funding formula, H.B. 7069, charters and more

School funding formula: Two Republican state senators are calling for a study of the Florida K-12 school funding formula. Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, and Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast, say the current formula shortchanges smaller districts because larger districts get a bigger portion of state funding to help make up the difference for a higher cost of living. The senators want the study to see if the formula should be “kept, modified or eliminated.” Volusia County, Hukill’s home district, has been pressing for changes. School officials there say the formula has cost the district $140 million since 2004. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: School boards in Lee, Volusia and Bay counties vote to join the lawsuit against the state over the new education bill, H.B. 7069. They join Broward and St. Lucie counties in the challenge over the bill, which forces districts to share local property tax revenue with charter schools and provides financial incentives for charter companies to set up schools in areas with persistently low-performing traditional public schools. The bill also strips local officials from approving charter schools in their districts. Other districts are considering joining the suit, which has not yet been filed. Palm Beach County is expected to file suit individually. Fort Myers News-Press. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Panama City News Herald. Naples Herald. The Miami-Dade County School Board could decide as early as today if it will join other districts in suing the state over the education bill. The district has already spent almost $10,000 researching the constitutionality of the bill. Miami Herald. The Polk County School Board is considering joining the suit. Board attorney Wes Hodges believes the bill is vulnerable because it violates the state’s constitutional single subject requirement for bills, but there could be a political backlash for those districts that sue. Lakeland Ledger.

Charter schools: Charter schools are in line to receive about $146 million this year from state and local governments, or twice as much as they received last year. They get about $50 million from the state, and they expect to collect about $96 million from local schools property taxes thanks to the new education law. Todd Ziebarth of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says Florida’s law is one of two major advancements toward funding equity for charter schools in the United States. redefinED. The NAACP is expected to release a report today calling for a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools. The report, to be released at the group’s national convention, says charter schools lead to segregation and divert money from traditional public schools. The 74.

School budgets: The Collier County School Board approves a $1 billion budget. The board lowered the tax rate, but higher property valuations more than offset the decrease from $5.245 per $1,000 of taxable property value to $5.122. Naples Daily News. The Sarasota School Board tentatively approved a budget of $841 million budget. Final approval is expected Sept. 12. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The St. Johns County School Board tentatively approves a budget that Superintendent Tim Forson says is a conservative spending plan that doesn’t allow for much discretionary decision-making. St. Augustine Record. The Monroe County School Board tentatively adopts a budget that will bring in about $4 million more in tax revenue. Key West Citizen.

District’s finances: The Hillsborough County School District has made some well-documented financial missteps in the past couple of the years as it’s veered into a financial crisis. But a report generated by the district, called Protecting Our Future, places the blame for its financial problems on the shoulders of the state’s “lack of investment in public education.” Gradebook.

Tax hike vote killed: In a 3-2 vote, the Manatee County School Board kills a proposal to put a 1-mill tax increase on the budget in November 2018. The tie-breaking vote was cast by Gina Messenger, who said she didn’t believe the voters would approve it. Also voting against it were John Colon and new board member Scott Hopes. The tax would have brought in an extra $30 million a year, school officials estimated. Bradenton Herald.

Homeless students: Several advocate groups for homeless students file a brief supporting the group that is suing the state for allegedly failing to provide a quality education for all students. “The data submitted to the trial court indicated that this large population of children — in excess of 70,000 statewide — are not doing well, and, in fact, are doing increasingly worse,” says Angela Fiorentino, an attorney working on the case. “It’s our position that the state has an obligation to address this failing and that the trial court didn’t take into consideration all of the data that was submitted.” The plaintiffs, called Citizens for Strong Schools, lost at the circuit court level and again last week before an appeals court. Politico Florida.

Union representation: Santa Rosa County teachers vote to retain the Santa Rosa Professional Educators as their union. About 52 percent of the district’s 1,900 teachers preferred the SRPE. About 43 percent voted for the Santa Rosa Education Association (SREA), and 5 percent voted for no union representation. SREA formed in February after the SRPE decided to separate from state and national teacher associations. Pensacola News Journal.

Closing charter: Letters go out this week to parents whose children attend the Orange Park Performing Arts Academy, informing them to enroll in their zoned school because the charter school is likely to be closed. Orange Park received F grades from the states the past two years and, under state law, must be shut down. The school planned to appeal its grade this year, but Clay Superintendent Addison Davis said there is no grounds for an appeal. About 170 students were enrolled at Orange Park. Officials at the school say if it closes, it will reopen Aug. 15 as a private school. Clay Today. Florida Times-Union.

Technical education: Indian River County School Board members approve a plan to bolster technical education by expanding the Technical Center for Adult & Career Education to include space for classes, and offering new courses in construction, phlebotomy, welding and early childhood education. The cost would be $2.7 million, and school officials plan to complete the project by October 2018. TCPalm.

Teacher evaluations: The Citrus County School Board puts off a decision on whether to stop using the state’s value-added measure in evaluating teachers. Citrus County Chronicle.

New school name: Four names are selected from a list of 60 to be considered for the new high school being built in Parrish. Making the final cut are North River, Parrish, Fort Hamer and Oak Hill. North River received the most votes. The board is expected to make its decision Aug. 8. Bradenton Herald.

Book challenges: The Florida Association of Media Educators is urging school librarians to know district policies so they can be ready for public challenges to books. The new education law broadens the ability of citizens to challenge school books and materials. School Library Journal.

Back-to-school drives: The end of July kicks off the back-to-school season, when backpacks are filled with materials and donated to needy children. Orlando Sentinel. Citrus County Chronicle. The Alachua County School District launches a back-to-school website. Gainesville Sun.

District website back: The Bay County School District website is back online after being hacked over the weekend. School officials say no confidential information was taken. Panama City News Herald.

Pot spot criticized: The principal of a Lake Worth charter school is criticizing a decision to locate a medical marijuana dispensary across the street from the school. Academy for Positive Learning principal Renatta Espinoza says the dispensary will attract burglars, thieves and vandals. WPEC.

Buying a stadium: If the Polk County School District buys Bryant Stadium from the city of Lakeland, it can expect to pay $110,000 a year in operating costs while bringing in about $97,000 in revenue. More than half of the revenue would come from the Lakeland High School football team’s use of the field. The stadium cost would be $1.2 million, paid in two installments of $600,000. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: At a time when politicians in Tallahassee are referring to public schools as “failure factories,” not one of our district-operated schools received a failing grade from the Florida Department of Education. Palm Beach School Superintendent Robert Avossa, Sun Sentinel. The new Manatee County high school should adopt Snooty as its mascot to honor the recently deceased manatee. What better way to keep the legend alive? Chris Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. It’s bad enough that certain narrow, vested interests have succeeded in convincing compliant legislators to meddle in the inherently diverse nature of public schools. What’s worse, for a nation increasingly separated along partisan lines, is that they’ve made public education a new battleground for divisive identity politics. Carl Ramey, Gainesville Sun.

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