Florida schools roundup: Budget battle, Hope Scholarship, charters and more

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Education budget: Battle lines are forming over the House’s nearly 200-page education bill, H.B. 7055. The House Democratic caucus says it will oppose the bill, calling it an “attack on public education,” and even some Republicans in the Senate are critical of the way the House has put so many issues into a single bill. The House could vote on the bill as soon as today, and the Senate is expected to begin considering its version today as well. Florida Politics. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. The House Education Committee approves a proposal to create a scholarship for bullied students, called the Hope Scholarship, after hearing stories from parents whose children have been victimized. The program is part of the omnibus education bill. Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer the tax credit and Gardiner scholarship programs and would help administer the Hope Scholarship program if it is created. redefinED. WZVN. WFLA. News Service of Florida.

Funding for charters: The House’s education bill would set aside $120 million in state funding for charter schools’ capital needs, lifting the burden off school districts and undercutting one of the reasons many of them are suing the state over last year’s education bill. The benchmark amount would increase annually with inflation and the growth of charter school enrollment, and school districts would have to chip in with local property tax money only if the state funding fell below that benchmark. redefinED. WLRN.

Turning over schools: Six struggling Polk County schools will be turned over to an outside operator in August, district officials have decided. Bartow Middle, Garner Elementary, Griffin Elementary, Kathleen Middle, Lake Alfred Polytech Academy and Lake Marion Creek Middle have all received grades of D or F from the state for three straight years, which requires the district to close them, reopen them as charters or turn over their operation to an outside company. Three companies have submitted proposals, and school officials expect one will be chosen to manage all six schools. Lakeland Ledger.

Help for schools: The two-year U.S. Senate budget agreement reached Wednesday includes $2.7 billion for schools in Florida and other states that have enrolled students who fled their homes due to natural disasters. It still must be approved by the full Senate and House, and signed by President Trump. More than 12,000 students from Puerto Rico and other areas are now attending Florida schools. Tampa Bay Times.

State motto bill: A bill that would require all school buildings in Florida to display the state motto, “In God We Trust,” is approved by the House Education Committee. The Senate version of the bill has yet to be assigned to a committee for consideration. Florida Politics.

Superintendent search: The Duval County School Board is negotiating with a firm to handle the search for a new superintendent. The majority of the board selected Hazard Young Attea & Associates over two others that bid for the job. Duval has to replace Nikolai Vitti, who left last summer to lead the Detroit school system. Florida Times-Union.

Board approves raises: The Pasco County School Board approves a contract agreement that calls for raises for teachers and other school workers. The deal, which had already been approved by the unions, will cost the district about $11 million in salaries. Gradebook.

School turnaround: Chester Taylor Elementary School officials and teachers credit the adoption of the “learner-activated, technology-infused” instruction to a turnaround in the Pasco County school’s grades from the state. The LATI approach has teachers preparing activities to fit various students’ levels, then has the students work at their own pace. If students have problems, they can ask the teacher or get help from a classmate. “When you take a standard and create a ‘felt need,’ they really want to learn,” says principal Julie Marks. “These students are making choices about what they’re doing, how they’re going to do it. It teaches everything.” Tampa Bay Times.

Book challenge policy: The Pasco County School Board is reviewing its policy on dealing with challenges from parents and other members of the public to textbooks and other classroom materials. Gradebook.

Conduct rules updated: The Palm Beach County School Board is updating its no-tobacco-on-campuses policy to include vaping. And the policies apply to parents, who can be escorted off campus for violations. Sun-Sentinel.

School expansion: St. Johns County school officials are proposing to convert Mill Creek Elementary School into a K-8 academy to help with overcrowding at nearby Pacetti Bay Middle School. The school would open for the 2019-2020 school year. St. Augustine Record.

Personnel moves: Tim Kitts, who resigned in March 2016 as CEO for the Bay Haven Charter Academy after allegations of sexual and religious discrimination, is removed as principal of the Rising Leaders Academy in Panama City after just seven months on the job. No reason was given for his departure. WJHG. Panama City News Herald. Robin Livingston, head of the Sarasota Military Academy’s high school, resigns to become assistant principal at Suncoast Polytechnical High School. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School board elections: Marcus Nicolas, a 36-year-old administrator at Tallahassee Community College, will challenge incumbent Georgia Bowen for the District 5 seat on the Leon County School Board. Tallahassee Democrat.

Suit against coach dismissed: A federal judge dismisses a lawsuit filed against the former boys basketball coach at Fort Myers High School. A student sued Scott Guttery for a hard foul committed during a pickup basketball game at the school last May, claiming it was the equivalent of corporal punishment. Guttery was placed on leave and reprimanded after the complaint was filed, but eventually was reinstated. He later left the school to coach at another school. Fort Myers News-Press.

Complaint dismissed: A complaint by a Leon County School Board member against an assistant principal over an incident on a golf course is dismissed by the district’s director of labor and employee relations. Board member Alva Striplin alleged that Deerlake Middle School assistant principal Julie Lawson acted “irrationally, aggressively and in a threatening manner towards me wanting her child to be allowed to ‘play through’ my group.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Vandalism suspects arrested: Two juveniles are arrested and accused of vandalizing Endeavour Elementary School in Cocoa last weekend. Police continue to search for the third suspect. The three stole laptops and iPads and sprayed parts of the school with a fire extinguisher. Florida Today.

School bus incident: An Escambia County school bus driver is under fire for forcing a 10-year-old girl off the bus after she missed her stop. School officials are investigating. WEAR.

Opinions on schools: Duval County is at the epicenter for what ails education in Florida. Here we have a school board member who roots for schools to fail so union teachers can be fired and for-profit charter schools can make even more money. Chris Guerrieri, Folio Weekly magazine. A debate between House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, and Florida Education Association president Joanne McCall would be one of the great confrontations in state political history. Joe Henderson, Florida Politics. I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say that the only reason for a House bill that decertifies certain public labor unions that have less than 50 percent membership is about punishing teachers. Anthony S. Colucci, Florida Today.

Student enrichment: Volusia County car dealer Gib Dannehower donates $100,000 to launch a homework assistance program for Palm Terrace Elementary School students. Daytona Beach News-Journal.