Florida schools roundup: Bright Futures, hurricane help, ESSA plan and more

Bright Futures: A bill that would make the expansion of Bright Futures scholarships permanent passes a Florida Senate committee and is headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee next month. S.B. 4, filed by state Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, provides full funding for tuition and fees and summer classes to Bright Futures academics scholars, plus $300 for books. Bright Futures scholars must have a 3.5 GPA and score a 1,290 on the SAT test or a 29 on the ACT. The bill also covers 75 percent of the expenses for medallion scholars. Sunshine State News.

Help for states: The U.S. Education Department is making $2 million available for Florida officials to help students and educators who were affected by several devastating hurricanes. The money will go to the Florida Department of Education for mental health assessments; overtime pay for teachers, counselors and law enforcement; substitute teachers; and emergency transportation. The U.S. department has already awarded the Texas Education Agency $2 million, and the Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands education departments also will get $2 million each. U.S. News & World Report. The 74.

ESSA plan questioned: Civil rights and education groups are lobbying U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to reject Florida’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In a letter to DeVos, the groups allege Florida’s plan does not protect minority, disabled and low-income students and those who are learning English. “ESSA plans that allow schools to shirk their responsibility to all children, especially groups of children who have been shortchanged for too long, fail to meet the intent of the law and should be rejected,” the letter states. Gradebook. Politico Florida. Education Week.

Survey on superintendent: The Hernando County School Board will spend $10,000 for a second districtwide evaluation of Superintendent Lori Romano. In the first survey, Romano’s overall average rating was 2.86 on a 5-point scale, with criticism for her communication skills and her “fear-based” management style. Like the first survey, this one will be conducted by the University of South Florida and give all district employees a chance to comment on Romano’s performance. But it’s expected to change slightly as board members provide input. Tampa Bay Times.

Contract negotiations: The Pasco County School District offers its union $1.086 million for teacher raises. That’s $3.15 million less than what the union asked for last week. Half of the $1.086 million would provide bonuses to teachers who don’t qualify for the state’s Best and Brightest bonus program. Gradebook.

Child-care program: The Marion County School District will open a child-care program at the Marion Technical Institute in January after a $600,000 renovation to a campus building. The child care is part of the Young Parent Program that helps teenage mothers stay in school and graduate. About 30 children are expected to be in child care. Several school board members say they were blindsided by the renovation. Superintendent Heidi Maier reminded those members that the board approved the project. Ocala Star-Banner.

Past allegations: The former principal at Gainesville’s Buchholz High School was transferred to the Alachua County School District’s transportation department after he was accused of making inappropriate comments to a student and staff members. Now, personnel records show that Michael DeLucas was slapped with a sexual harassment complaint in 2002 when he was an assistant principal in the Levy County School District. Gainesville Sun. A Polk County teacher resigns after it’s discovered that she was fired from the Highlands County School District a year ago for being overly flirtatious with male students. Bridget Silva had been a teacher at Ben Hill Griffin Elementary School in Frostproof. Lakeland Ledger.

Burned student had lighter: The Pinellas County student who was burned in a fire at High Point Elementary had a lighter at school, according to district officials. Tampa Bay Times.

Employee put on leave: An employee of the Florida A&M University Development Research School is placed on leave while allegations of inappropriate conduct with several high school students are investigated. Tallahassee Democrat.

School bus problems: Wheels have flown off two new Hillsborough County school buses recently, and lug nuts were loose on at least 20 other buses. The 40 propane gas buses were bought from Bluebird Bus Co. in Georgia. Jim Beekman, the transportation director for the district, says he’s never seen anything like this happen before, and he believes it’s a factory problem. WFTS.

Opinions on schools: It’s time for Miami-Dade County School Board members and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho to follow Marion County’s lead and accept the science. Homework in elementary school is not only worthless; it may be harmful. Let’s just get rid of it. Ana Menendez, Miami Herald. Florida should become an educational leader by requiring students to pass a financial literacy course in order to graduate. TCPalm. In order for tax increases to pass, Manatee and Sarasota school officials must clearly state why the money is needed and how it will be spent, and provide regular updates to the voters. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Whether you agree with the Hillsborough County School District  district or the teachers over a pay dispute, the walk out by students merits respect. Ernest Hooper, Tampa Bay Times. Bravo to those Hillsborough County students who stood up for their teachers and for something bigger than themselves. Joe Henderson, Tampa Bay Times. If charter schools are the panacea to all of our educational woes, why not close all public schools and make them all charter schools? James L. Elmore, Ocala Star-Banner.

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