Florida schools roundup: Schools budget, Common Core, scholarships and more

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Governor’s budget: Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing a $91.3 billion budget that includes $21.7 billion for the K-12 public school funding formula, with a spending boost of $224 per student. DeSantis wants to allocate $582.8 million for the Bright Futures scholarship program for high-achieving students and use state funds to replace cuts in local school property taxes. He’s asking for $500 million for the Best and Brightest teacher bonuses program, and wants to scrap the use of teachers’ college entrance exams as a factor in determining bonuses. He’s also asking for $99 million for school safety grants for hardening buildings and wants to carry forward the $57 million in unspent money for school guardians from last year. House and Senate committees will review the request as they prepare a final spending plan. News Service of FloridaAssociated PressOrlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. GateHouse. Politico Florida.

Common Core caution: Much of the reaction to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to eliminate the use of Common Core standards in Florida schools has been positive. But the issue isn’t as simple as just signing an order, and some educators say it could be years before the state fully eliminates the Common Core standards. “Now you have curriculum materials that will be not aligned, probably, to the new standards,” says Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning. “How do teachers teach? … I think we need to be very, very cautious and careful about how we go about doing this.” WTSPWTVT. WJAX. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WLRN.

Scholarship benefits: An updated study by the Urban Institute affirms that low-income students who attend private schools using Florida’s tax credit scholarships are more likely to enroll in and graduate from college than their public school peers. The study shows that students who begin using scholarships in elementary and middle schools have a 6 percentage point increase in college enrollment, and those whose first scholarship is taken in high school have a 10 percentage point boost. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarships. Florida Politics. redefinED.

Helped by repeating: A study of 40,000 English-learning Florida students finds that those who repeated 3rd grade later consistently outperform peers who were simply promoted to 4th grade. Those held back learned English faster, posted higher test scores and more took advanced classes in middle and high school than those who weren’t retained. Education Week.

School chief’s spending: A Miami-Dade School District audit that questioned the school police chief’s spending decisions led to other concerns about his travel, hiring decisions and contracts he approved with vendors. Ian Moffett, 48, retired Jan. 15, shortly after the audit was finished. Moffett had approved more than $34,000 in overtime for officers that he was not authorized to approve. Also retiring was Major Hector Garcia, 52, who was hired by Moffett despite several allegations against him at his previous job in Las Vegas. Miami Herald.

Employees honored: Evan Gould, a chorus and drama teacher at Lake Asbury Junior High School, is named the Clay County School District’s teacher of the year. Deborah Lineberry, a student records secretary at Orange Park Elementary School, is named the school-related employee of the year. Florida Times-Union.

Bible classes in schools: Critics of a bill that would require school districts to offer Bible classes say it’s clearly a step to “codify a Christian America.” But supporters say they’re simply promoting the understanding of religion and how it’s practiced. “Encouraging religion is not establishing religion,” argues Steve Fitschen, president of the National Legal Foundation. Tampa Bay Times.

School facilities issues: The Duval County School District needs $1 billion for construction of new schools and repairs to old ones, but is struggling to catch up because it is just one of two districts in the state that collects money only from property taxes. School officials outlined their situation to members of the community in the first of seven meetings. Florida Times-Union.

A principal problem: John Hopkins Middle School in St. Petersburg was in turmoil at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. Student performance was deteriorating, violent incidents had doubled, teachers were transferring and the principal, Dallas Jackson, was ignoring orders from his bosses, according to district records. Still, Jackson remained on the job to start this school year because district officials said they thought he “had a plan in place to address the issues.” But the problems persisted, and in December Jackson was finally replaced, though he now lead’s the district’s teacher recruiting program and makes $104,000 a year. Tampa Bay Times.

Outside operator for schools: The Duval County School Board is preparing to ask for bids from companies to take over three struggling schools if those schools don’t get a grade of C or better from the state this year. The schools are Arlington Middle, Gregory Drive Elementary and George Washington Carver Elementary. Florida Times-Union.

Turnaround school: Osceola Elementary School in St. Johns County is trying to recover from the D grade it got from the state last year by implementing a series of changes. Student attendance is being stressed, teachers are spending more time collaborating and special math coaches are helping underperforming students. St. Augustine Record.

Racial issues discussed: New Manatee County School Board member James Golden held an unusual one-on-one meeting with board vice chair Gina Messenger over two issues with racial overtones. Golden says he wants the board to understand how its decisions affect the minority community. Golden pointed to the proposed naming of a new high school in Parrish after a man who was a slave-owner, and appointment of a principal who was disciplined by the state in 2013 for making racially insensitive comments. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton Herald.

District protests new plant: St. Lucie County school officials are worried about the effect of dust from a proposed concrete-recycling plant might affect students at nearby Fort Pierce Central High School. Marty Sanders, school district director of growth management, land acquisitions and intergovernmental relations, is urging the developer to build a wall to separate the plant from the school’s athletic fields 1,200 feet away. TCPalm.

Notable deaths: Gary Nelson, an English teacher for the past 20 years at Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange, dies of cancer. He was 71. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Suit over closed meeting: A newspaper is suing the Broward County School Board over a closed-door meeting last week attended by school officials, board members and parents of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The Sun Sentinel says the meeting, the first of four scheduled, violates the state’s open meetings law. Sun Sentinel.

Suspension hearing: A hearing is scheduled today for a special master to begin considering the appeal of Okaloosa Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson, who was suspended in January by Gov. Ron DeSantis after two scathing grand jury reports questioned her ability to lead the district. News Service of Florida.

Teacher arrested: A 41-year-old Broward County teacher is arrested after deputies say he sent a 16-year-old student sexually tinged messages and asked her to be his teenage bride. John Teti was fired from Northeast High School in Oakland Park after his arrest Thursday. The girl’s father alerted authorities after she complained about unwanted attention from Teti. Sun Sentinel.

Four students overdose: Four Manatee County students are treated after overdosing on a prescription drug at Horizons Academy in Bradenton, according to deputies. Horizons Academy is an alternative school for students who have had behavioral and academic challenges. Bradenton HeraldSarasota Herald-Tribune.

Opinions on schools: There is nothing inherently wrong with national education standards; today’s children live in an interconnected world and many will spend at least part of their lives outside Florida. But if the state can do better, great. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Teachers do not want education standards thrown out. We want them revised to be our teaching guides, not our mandates. Debra K. Wellman, Orlando Sentinel. The chairman of the Senate Education Committee should be looking for ways to put more money into schools, since Florida shamefully ranks 44th in the nation in per-student spending. Instead, he’s filed a bill that would exempt certain Floridians over 65 from paying school property taxes. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. Black male elementary school teachers are making a positive difference in the lives of black boys. James F. Lawrence, Gainesville Sun. Florida’s Moneyball approach to education — getting more while paying less – is showing remarkable results. William Mattox, Sun Sentinel. Florida Senate Bill 330 is dangerous quackery because climate scientists around the globe have warned that climate change is real and getting worse. Joe Henderson, Florida Politics.

Student enrichment: About 150 students at Millennium Middle School in Sanford are learning puppetry from Edna Bland in the only such program in Seminole County. Orlando Sentinel. Two therapy dogs are helping students learn to read at Coast Charter school in Wakulla County. WCTV. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School theater students and their drama teacher are the subjects of an HBO documentary, Song of Parkland, which debuts Thursday. Sun Sentinel. Isabel Leija-Cabrera and Fernando Orellana, seniors at Lorenzo Walker Technical High School in East Naples, are named mentors of the year by the Champions For Learning foundation in Collier County. Naples Daily News.

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