Florida schools roundup: New education laws, budget woes, security and more

New education laws: More than 100 new state laws go into effect Sunday, including several related to education. H.B. 7055 will allow public school students who are bullied or harassed to be eligible for state scholarships to go to private schools. The Hope Scholarship will be funded by motorists who agree to contribute the sales taxes they would normal pay for vehicle transactions to the scholarships. The bill also boosts funds for Gardiner scholarships for students with disabilities. Other new laws set a back-to-school sales tax holiday in August, and authorize the placement of a statue of famed black educator Mary McLeod Bethune into the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. News Service of Florida.

Budget problems: Budgets analysts for the Hillsborough County School District now project a $70 million gap between revenues and expenses for the 2019-2020 school year. The district will get $41 million extra from the state, but about $36 million of that goes for growth and state mandates. The extra $5 million is swallowed by higher expenses for school security, insurance and employee raises. Tampa Bay Times. Pasco County school officials are projecting a $1 million deficit in next year’s budget, but are reluctant to ask voters for additional revenue. “It sounds great,” says Superintendent Kurt Browning about the $28 million a year a 1-mill property tax hike could raise. “But when people get accustomed to having that additional money in their paychecks, and the voters don’t approve it again, that just stops. I am very hesitant.” Gradebook.

School security: All 51 Marion County schools will be staffed with sworn resource officers in August, the school board decides, but less expensive alternatives could be considered for the 2019-2020 school year. The cost for 56 officers from three law enforcement agencies will be about $3.7 million, leaving the district to find $1.3 million to add to the money it will receive from the state. Ocala Star-Banner. Pinellas County school and law enforcement officials are conducting security checks at all 123 schools, checking gates, locks, doors and more. WFTS. Lake County school resource officers are being trained in crisis intervention, such as dealing with mental disorders, trauma, students and guns, de-escalation practices, and recognizing symptoms of students in crisis. WKMG.

School shooting developments: Attorneys for accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz are asking a judge to stop the Broward County School District from releasing its report that includes Cruz’s educational, disciplinary and some counseling records. After initially refusing to release the material, the district recently asked a judge to decide if the public’s right to know outweighs Cruz’s privacy. Sun-Sentinel.

Guns at schools: At least 41 people have died and 74 have been wounded in school shootings in the first half of this year. In nine of the 13 incidents, the accused shooter was a student at the targeted school, and all the shooters were male. The shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and at Santa Fe High School in Texas accounted for more than half the deaths. The 74.

Mental health services: The Volusia County School District will receive about $1.5 million from the state to provide additional mental health services for students, and the school board will discuss how school officials propose to use the money. Each district’s plan is due to the state by Aug. 1. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Monroe County School Board will also consider its district’s plan to expand mental health services to schools today, and vote on whether to go ahead with a one-year trial to drug-test student-athletes. Key West Citizen.

Help for low-income students: A University of Virginia study suggests that a Montessori approach to education can help low-income students catch up and keep up academically with their peers. “In my opinion, because children who come from lower income families don’t have the same family support the student needs a more enriched environment,” says Jeanne Weigel, head of academics at the Emerging Minds Montessori School in Boca Raton. “It is a self-motivating curriculum that allows the children to follow their already holistic needs.” redefinED.

School board elections: School board races are set at districts around the state. Lakeland LedgerHolmes County Times Advertiser. Residents ask four Duval County School Board candidates at a community forum how they would cut the $1.7 billion budget by $62 million and still have safe schools, maintain or improve test scores and close the achievement gap. Florida Times-Union.

Educator appointments: Donald Fennoy, who recently became superintendent of the Palm Beach County School District, is one of four people named to the nonprofit educational group Chiefs for Change. Fennoy joins four other Florida educators who are members: Fennoy’s successor, Robert Avossa; Brevard Superintendent Desmond Blackburn; Orange Superintendent Barbara Jenkins; and Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie. School Zone. Miami-Dade County School Board member Lubby Navarro is chosen to co-chair a national commission that is trying to have a question about citizenship removed from the 2020 census. WLRN.

Opinions on schools: The secrecy surrounding the deal between Volusia County school officials and Florida Hospital puts a stain on what otherwise should have been a significant win for students and taxpayers. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Student enrichment: Leesburg High School’s Students in Action chapter will be honored for its community service projects at the Jefferson Awards Foundation in Washington, D.C. The group’s latest project was to support underprivileged and vulnerable people in Leesburg. Orlando Sentinel. About 27,000 uninsured Orange and Seminole county students are eligible for free physicals this summer from Shepherd’s Hope, a nonprofit that provides free medical services to uninsured adults and children. Orlando Sentinel. Northwest Florida high school students are taking part in a “mini med school” at Florida State University. Tallahassee Democrat. Students at an Escambia County preschool write to the president, and are surprised and thrilled to get a response. Pensacola News Journal. Summer internships give high school students a glimpse of possible careers. St. Augustine Record. Twenty-two students from Raines High School in Jacksonville say their 11-day trip to Costa Rica to teach English to elementary students has inspired them to appreciate what they have. WJAX.

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