Florida schools roundup: Tax break’s cost, victims’ fund, budget, charters and more

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Cost of a tax break: Preliminary calculations estimate that Florida school districts would lose millions of dollars in tax revenue if the Legislature approves a bill capping education property taxes for Floridians over 65 who have owned and lived in their homes for at least 25 years, and voters approve it as a constitutional amendment. In Pasco County, for instance, the district would lose about $744,567 if the law eliminates school taxes for anyone 65 or older who qualifies, as originally proposed in the bill, and $201,760 if education taxes are capped at the current level. The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah. Gradebook. Florida Phoenix.

Fund for Parkland victims: If the Legislature approves a $160 million fund to compensate families of the 34 people killed or injured in the Parkland school shooting, it would be be sidestepping the usual state process and give the victims preferential treatment over other people hurt by government negligence. The state already has a process in place for compensating such victims, but the state’s liability is capped at $200,000 for one victim and $300,000 for all victims in the same incident. Payments above that require legislative approval, which can take years. Sun Sentinel.

Trump education budget: President Trump’s budget is proposing a 10 percent cut in spending in K-12 programs from the U.S. Department of Education, from $71 billion to about $64 billion, even as he asks for increases in spending for charter schools and school security, and an expansion of school choice. Among the cuts are the elimination of 29 programs, and spending in Title II grants for teacher salaries and training and in Title IV grants for arts education, technology and more. The 74. Education Week. T.H.E. Journal. ABC News.

Help for charter schools: Three Jacksonville area legislators sponsor bills that would direct $3 million to help two charter schools. Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, and Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, are asking for $2 million to help the KIPP charter schools extend their school days. Rep. Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, wants $1 million for the Tiger Academy so it can start a pre-K program. Both bills have been approved by the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. WJCT.

School security: Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony says the school district needs to make changes in its controversial alternative discipline program that gives students a break for minor offenses. “At this time the Promise program suffers deficiencies that can be and must be modified to gain my full support,” Tony says. He says he wants to work with Superintendent Robert Runcie, the school board and community leaders to develop “a program that meets the safety needs of our entire community.” Sun Sentinel.

School A/C repairs: Manatee County School Board members are being asked to approve spending $9 million to repair heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems for almost 30 schools. Financial problems over the years put the district behind in repairs, prompting the spending of $8 million last year and this year’s request. Bradenton Herald.

Education reform: A new study published in EducationNext suggests that the belief that conservatives dominate and provide most of the financial support for the education reform movement is a false one. Most of the money donated by school reform groups and their employees goes to Democratic candidates and causes, which the study’s authors say suggests that while Republicans are often the high-profile school choice advocates, especially in Florida, the movement is really driven by left-leaning reformers. Florida Politics. The 74.

Religious split on vouchers: A legislative proposal to expand the state’s scholarship programs that help students attend private schools is provoking a mixed reaction from religious schools. Catholic schools are supporters of the proposal, but the Florida Council of Churches is not. “There are many church state questions unaddressed at this point, and how scholarship money is used in faith-based schools,” says Rev. Russell L. Meyer, executive director of the Florida Council of Churches. Florida Phoenix.

Teacher honored: Daniella Boyd, a math teacher at Royal Palm Beach High School, is named the Palm Beach County School District’s teacher of the year. Palm Beach Post.

Vaping epidemic in schools: Lee County school officials say vaping has become an epidemic in schools. Four years ago there were 210 tobacco-related disciplinary actions in the district. This year, through February, there have been 660. And the percentage of Lee County students using e-cigarettes has increased from 2.1 percent in 2012 to 12.7 percent in 2014, according to the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey. Fort Myers News-Press. WFTX.

Testing schedule: Marion County teachers say they appreciate the extra time they have with students before the state assessment exams will be given this year. Last year the Legislature passed a law moving the state testing toward the end of the school year. So instead of testing in February and March, as it had done in the past, the district will test in April this year. “I think this definitely helps students, because teachers get more time to prepare them,” says school board member Kelly King, a former teacher. Ocala Star-Banner.

Notable deaths: Bob Goldberg, head of the private Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens, has died of cancer at the age of 67. Palm Beach Post.

Academies on display: School officials from around the southeast United States tour some of the 23 academies of the Polk County School District. The academies program is the second-largest in the country, and offers specific training in medical care, agriculture, legal studies, engineering, architecture and more. Lakeland Ledger.

New role for board? The Citrus County Hospital Board is disbanding, and wants the school board to consider overseeing the lease of Citrus Memorial Hospital to Health Corporation of America. The hospital board plans to disband in 2021 or 2022, and another government entity would need to be named to oversee the remaining 60-plus years of the lease. Citrus County Chronicle.

School policies revisited: The Charlotte County School Board will consider updates to the district’s policies on reporting misconduct by district employees and staff’s use of social media. Charlotte Sun.

School start times: Volusia County school officials are asking for community feedback on three options for changing school start times, and whether any change should start in August or in 2020. The options for changes were prompted by the district’s decision to extend the elementary school day by 30 minutes. The current schedule has high schools starting at 7:25 a.m., elementary schools at 7:55 a.m. and middle schools at 8:55 a.m. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Student dies near school: A 15-year-old Volusia County student is killed when the car he was illegally driving smashes head-on with another car as he was turning near the entrance into his school. Joshua T. Durner, a sophomore at Pine Ridge High School, took the car without his father’s knowledge, according to deputies. Grief counselors are at the school. Daytona Beach News-JournalOrlando Sentinel. WFTV.

School threats: A former Everglades High School student is arrested and accused of threatening to shoot up the school. Javary Meriwether, 28, reportedly told Miramar police he made the posts because “his mother was stressing him out.” Miami Herald.

Officer used excessive force: A Duval County School District investigation concludes that Robert E. Lee High School resource officer Joseph Richardson used excessive and unnecessary force in a confrontation with a student last year. Richardson was reassigned after a video of the incident surfaced, and later fired. WJXT.

Opinions on schools: It’s time for conservative legislators to focus on five facets of teacher professionalism. Former Florida Rep. Mike Bileca, Mary Scott Hunter and John Eichelberger, Education Week. Aurelia Cole, who died in July, was a true leader in education and life, and fully deserves having the street leading to East Ridge High School and Clermont Middle being named in her honor. Frank Stanfield, Daily Commercial. Duval County Superintendent Diana Greene believes operating a mostly white school while creating another school in a minority area creates racial segregation and violates Brown v. Board. But if that’s the case, one must wonder what she and Duval County Public Schools have been doing all this time. Patrick Gibbons, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Juniors Brettland Coolidge of South Lake High School and Zachary Bell of East Ridge High School will represent Lake County as Sunshine State Scholars. Daily Commercial. One hundred students, including five from the Gainesville area, are chosen to compete in the state’s National Geographic GeoBee. Gainesville Sun.