Florida schools roundup: Governor’s education budget, H.B. 7069 and more

Governor’s education budget: Gov. Rick Scott’s $87.4 billion budget proposal includes a request to increase per student spending by $200, to $7,497, boost the state’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program by $12 million, add $23 million for Bright Futures scholarships, and give $18 million to help teachers buy classroom supplies. Scott would pay for the increases by keeping property tax rates the same and allowing increasing property values to drive up revenue. The proposal now goes to the Legislature for consideration. News Service of FloridaGradebook. Associated Press. Florida Politics. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. Florida Times-Union.

H.B. 7069 challenge: Nine Florida schools boards contend that the new education law, H.B. 7069, violates the law by dealing with more than one subject, and are asking the state Supreme Court to void it. Two other lawsuits have been filed against the law by school districts, but this one focuses solely on the single-subject issue and is asking for immediate action. “Waiting for a trial-court determination and its subsequent appellate review will allow irreversible damage to the function of the public education system to occur throughout the state of Florida,” the lawsuit states. The nine school boards are from Alachua, Bay, Broward, Hamilton, Lee, Polk, St. Lucie, Volusia and Wakulla counties. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. The Collier County School Board votes to join at least 13 other districts in suing the state over the education bill because it requires public school districts to share property tax revenues with charter schools. Naples Daily News.

ESSA plans: Florida’s accountability plan for complying with the Every Student Succeeds Act is weak in the category of encouraging schools to focus on all students, not just low performers, according to an evaluation by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank. Florida was one of 13 states considered weak in this area. The state was given an evaluation of strong in the other two areas weighed: in the clarity of the ratings to parents, educators and the public, and in the fairness of the rating system for all schools, including ones with high levels of poverty. The 74.

Sales tax votes: The Okaloosa County School Board has decided to withdraw a half-cent sales tax initiative for schools with the district still coping with investigations into child abuse and the failure to report it, harassment and sexual harassment, and a federal lawsuit for alleged racial harassment. “Just like we don’t swim in the Gulf when there are double red flags, I shouldn’t ask people for a task when we have double red flags,” notes Michelle Anchors, a member of the committee trying to raise the money to hold the election. Northwest Florida Daily News. Sarasota County voters will decide on extending a local option property tax for schools in March. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Contract negotiations: After an impasse of 15 months, the Polk County School District reaches an agreement with its teachers that calls for pay raises of 2 percent or less. Lakeland Ledger. WFLA. WTSP. The Santa Rosa County School District reaches an agreement with its teachers union. Teachers and support personnel will get a 1.33 percent raise, and teacher starting salaries are boosted by 0.29 percent, to $36,076. The district will also pay more toward health insurance premiums. Pensacola News Journal. Noninstructional workers at the Pasco County School District drop their pay raise demand from 2.75 percent to 2.45 percent, but the district counters with an offer of 1.75 percent. The sides resume talks today. Gradebook. Hundreds of teachers show up at the Hillsborough County School Board meeting to protest the district’s decision not to honor a promise it made several years ago to give thousands of teachers a $4,000 raise. Tampa Bay Times. Gradebook. Three-dozen teachers express their anger to the school board over deadlocked contract negotiations. Daily Commercial.

Teachers honored: Three finalists are named for the Sarasota County School District’s teacher of the year. They are: Bethany Burnett, a 5th-grade inclusion teacher at Venice Elementary; Allison Cohen, a 6th-grade math teacher at Booker Middle; and Es Swihart, an English teacher at Riverview High. The winner will be announced Dec. 13. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Pep rally problem: An elementary school’s pep rally to promote kindness breaks the law by releasing dozens of balloons into the air with strings attached. State law prohibits the release of more than 10 balloons in a 24-hour period, because the balloons and their strings can harm or kill wildlife. Broward County school officials say the staff and students at Indian Trace Elementary in Weston will use the incident as a learning experience. Sun-Sentinel.

Help for the displaced: Donated school supplies are pouring into central Florida to help students displaced by hurricanes from Puerto Rico and other islands, but more are needed, officials say. Orlando Sentinel. The 74.

Textbook challenge: A Nassau County resident files a challenge to a science textbook, saying the district should “no longer purchase books teaching evolution as proven scientific fact or books that present evolution as proven fact.” It appears to be the first challenge under a new state law that makes it easier for residents to petition school districts to withdraw books based on content. The law says that questions of textbook materials will be judged on valid challenges would be based on whether the materials contained pornography, or were not grade-level appropriate or “suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend.” Gradebook.

Unbalanced books: Computer problems put the Manatee County School District months behind in reconciling the bank accounts of the district. Officials say at one point they were 11 months behind, but are now caught up through April and expect to be caught up through June by November. Bradenton Herald.

Rezoning issues: Complaints from parents prompt the Brevard County School Board to table a plan to redraw school boundaries that would move nearly 400 students out of Melbourne High School. Many are upset that the rezoning would take their children out of the A-rated Melbourne High and put them in lower-rated schools. Florida Today. The St. Johns County School Board approves a rezoning plan that affects students in dozens of schools. The board also approves a five-year plan for five new schools and one renovation. As many as 20 schools could be built in the next 20 years, with five others being expanded. St. Augustine Record.

Environmental concerns: Members of an environmental group want the Duval County School Board to close two elementary schools because of contamination from a nearby Superfund site in Jacksonville. The Fairfax Environmental Committee wants the Susie E. Tolbert and  R.V. Daniels elementary schools closed until the site is cleaned up. WTLV.

M.L.K. Day appeal: The Collier County School Board will reconsider its decision to use Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a makeup day for time lost to Hurricane Irma. About a dozen members of the community complained to the board about the decision. Naples Daily News.

School choice: State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, made millions running gaming and consulting companies and can afford to send his young children to any school. But he believes that all families should have similar school choice options as the wealthy, and has worked on legislation to expand choice in the state. redefinED.

Building new schools: The Lee County School District expects to need seven new schools in the next five years, and the school board is debating how they should be built. The district caps elementary school enrollment at 1,000, 1,200 for middle schools and 2,000 for high schools. But chief financial officer Ami Desamours asks the board, “Are we sure that we want to build the schools the same way that we have them now?” A committee of principals and other staffers is considering the options now. Fort Myers News-Press.

Notable deaths: Michael Larsen, a consulting musical director in the theater department at J.P. Taravella High since 2002, has died at the age of 57. Sun-Sentinel.

Personnel moves: Paula Wright is re-elected chairwoman of the Duval County School Board, and Lori Hershey is elected vice chairwoman. Florida Times-Union. Perla Tabares Hantman is elected chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County School Board for the 10th time. Miami Herald. WLRN. Linda Cuthbert is elected chairwoman of the Volusia County School Board, and John Hill is the new vice chairman. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Stephanie Luke is elected chairwoman of the Lake County School Board, and Sandy Gamble is taking over as vice chairman. Daily Commercial.

Struggling school: Officials at Metcalfe Elementary School in Alachua County develop in-school and after-school programs to try to raise the school’s D grade from the state last year and avoid sanctions from the state. WUFT.

Preschool closing: The Center for Early Learning preschool in Palm Beach Gardens is being closed by Palm Beach State College, which operates it. College officials notified the parents of the 80 children who attend that the school will close June 15 because it’s receiving $1 million less from the state. Palm Beach Post.

District sued: The family of a Leon County student is suing the school district, claiming an uneven sidewalk at Ruediger Elementary School caused the student to fall and injure herself. Tallahassee Democrat.

Principal arrested: A Tampa middle school principal and his wife, an assistant teacher, are arrested and accused of child abuse without bodily harm, a felony. Police say the domestic incident involved a relative. Michael Lynn Hoskinson, 53, is the principal at Coleman Middle School. Kimberly Hoskinson, 49, is an assistant teacher at Plant High School. WFTS. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

Student arrested: An 18-year-old student is arrested when he enters Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach with a stolen gun. Markees Shine was also charged in a strong of car burglaries, grand theft auto and grand theft firearms. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Rape suspect’s return: Many parents are outraged that a 19-year-old student arrested and accused of raping a woman has been allowed to return to Lake Monarch High School in Coconut Creek. Gibson Sylvain’s next court hearing is Nov. 21. A town hall meeting is scheduled tonight to discuss parents’ concerns. WPLG.

A student’s suicide: A Lake Minneola High School senior kills himself with a gun in the bus loop at the school Tuesday morning. There apparently were no witnesses  when 17-year-old Seth Sutherland shot himself, say sheriff’s deputies. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. Daily Commercial.

Teacher loses license: A former Palm Beach County teacher has lost his state license for passing notes to a student saying her eyes were “sexy” and her curves were “spicy.” Samuel Fiore was a math teacher at Seminole Ridge High School in Westlake. He resigned when the school district began the process to fire him. Palm Beach Post.

Teacher’s statements: A Collier County teacher who has posted inflammatory statements on his Facebook page in the past has added another: “Every actress that accepted a role from Harvey Weinstein and was sexually harassed or raped and said nothing about it, is a Whore!” Brian Milner teaches history at Lely High School, and has been critical of gays, NFL players and even a former student. District officials would not say if Milner is facing disciplinary action. Naples Daily News.

Opinions on schools: Legislators who aren’t even willing to defend the state’s scholarship programs need to be fixing them before they even think about expanding them. (Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer two of the scholarship programs, and offers this response to the Sentinel series). Orlando Sentinel. Dropping algebra II from the list of mandated state exams is the wrong thing to do for our children and for promoting education in Florida. William Hanna, TCPalm. Students, parents and taxpayers would all be better off if the Palm Beach County School Board would end its misguided march to the courthouse to litigate against charter schools. Ken Haiko, Sun-Sentinel. In the Lee County School District, students of color are drastically overrepresented in the school-to-prison pipeline. The district should explore entering a more compassionate and effective ways to address children with complex behavior issues. Shirley Chapman, Fort Myers News-Press. If we are going to have the conversation we need to have about the future of the teaching profession, we all need to agree that many teachers are incredibly skilled and working exceedingly hard. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: The Wellington Rotary Club donates $20,000 to cover the lunch debts of 10,000 students in the Palm Beach County School District. Palm Beach Post. Twenty-nine of the 36 schools in Santa Rosa County are given Golden School awards from the Florida Department of Education for programs that promote parent and community involvement in education. Santa Rosa Press Gazette. The Bay County School District opens the Cherry Street Elementary School playground to the public. Panama City News Herald.

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