Funding for education: Most of the remaining education-related questions in the state budget have been answered, legislative leaders announced after a Sunday negotiation session. About $12.4 billion will be put into the Florida Education Finance Program, which is the major part of the budget for public schools. Per-student funding improves by $248 per student. And $233 million is set aside for the Best and Brightest educator bonus program. Some non-education issues remain to be resolved in the $90 billion budget. The budget has to be approved by Tuesday in order for the session to end on schedule Friday, because by law there’s a 72-hour “cooling off” period required between an agreement and the final vote. News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics. This is the last scheduled week of the legislative session. Among the major bills to be decided are the state budget, the bill creating a new state scholarship, whether teachers will be allowed to be armed and the size of a tax cut package. Associated Press. News Service of Florida.
K-12 funding formula: Senate and House leaders are considering two proposals that would alter the K-12 funding formula that determines how much state funding goes to school districts. The district cost differential is figured by using a complicated formula affected by the cost of living in counties. Both bills would base the DCD on wages instead of costs. The House bill calls for a funding transition plan in place by October, while the Senate’s calls for an April 2021 deadline for a plan. Politico Florida.
Legislative wrapup: Significant education bills moved through the Legislature last week. S.B. 7070 creates a new scholarship for students on the waiting list for Florida Tax Credit Scholarships and expands the areas where Schools of Hope charter schools may open. House leaders say they will go along with the provisions in the Senate bill. And H.B. 7123 would require school districts to share voter-approve tax hikes with charter schools. redefinED. Bills allowing the arming of teachers and a new scholarship using public money to send students to private schools have overshadowed a proposal to greatly expand the areas where charter schools can open. Florida Phoenix. S.B. 7070 also provides support for more community schools, which add health and social services to education. WJCT.
Arming teachers: For all those school districts that say they won’t allow teachers be armed, legislators say that’s fine. “This bill (S.B. 7030) does not arm one single solitary teacher,” says sponsor Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah. The revise of the 2018 school guardian program gives districts the opportunity to decide if they want to arm teachers in school. Just 25 of the state’s 67 districts are taking part in the guardian program, and some of them do not allow teachers to be armed. Gradebook. WLRN. WUSF.
Potential court case: Conservatives who had hoped the Legislature would push for changes in the laws that aligned with their causes say they’re disappointed in this session. They expected Republican lawmakers to push for laws that would force the issues to the Florida Supreme Court, where they anticipate more favorable rulings than in the past because more conservative justices have recently taken seats. But so far, only an expansion of school vouchers using taxpayer money seems to be headed for approval and then a test case in the courts. GateHouse.
Recovery from storm: The Bay County School District won’t get the $25 million it requested from the Legislature to help it recover from Hurricane Michael. But it appears the district will get $12.4 million. That money, combined with $2.5 million from the Deepwater Horizon restitution and district savings on utilities, temporary school closings and a freeze on spending and hiring, will allow the district to retain all but about 100 teachers next year, says Superintendent Bill Husfelt. WMBB. Panama City News Herald. Bay County school officials say students and teachers are still feeling the trauma and stress from Hurricane Michael, and the problems are likely to escalate without funding for additional mental health services support. Panama City News Herald.
Vaping concerns: The Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida has launched a statewide campaign to provide parents and educators information about the risks of vaping. About 25 percent of Florida high school students used electronic cigarettes in 2018, according to a survey by the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey. That’s a 58 percent increase from 2017. Sun Sentinel.
Lobbying for revote: A prominent charter schools lobbyist is asking the Polk County School Board to reconsider its decision to deny an application from BridgePrep Academy, which promised a Spanish-language immersion program and help for students who speak English as a second language. Ralph Arza made the request to board attorney Wes Bridges. The board turned down the request last week in a 3-3 vote, with some members concerned about the school’s projected budget, management and staffing. Lakeland Ledger.
District hiring procedure: Two Volusia County School Board members want to review the way the district lists its job openings and handles applicants. They say the list of job vacancies often isn’t current and has to be updated constantly, and that the process of hiring is too burdensome and slow. They’d like to see the process centralized instead of handled by principals, and say the way it’s handled now will worsen the shortage of teachers. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
New high school: Now that the Destin High School charter has been approved, organizers are planning for its opening in August 2020. Fund-raising is ongoing, and the Okaloosa County School Board and charter school board have to come to an agreement on a contract. Then comes development of the curriculum and hiring of staff. The school will open with about 200 students in each of grades 9 and 10. Northwest Florida Daily News.
Digital report cards: The Monroe County School Board is considering abandoning printed report cards in favor of posting them online only. A recent district survey indicated up to 90 percent of residents have online access. Florida Keys Weekly.
Opinions on schools: The impacts of the community schools program and the community’s support are the intangibles the Brevard County School District and parents I talked to say aren’t portrayed in school grades. Isadora Rangel, Florida Today. Public and private schools working together for the benefit of students can make our educational system even stronger. For the justice of all students, we should continue in that endeavor. Mark Coats, Sun Sentinel. If there is anything needed in American education, it is the recognition that no parent should be stripped of authority and responsibility because of her economic status. John E. Coons, redefinED. The urgency felt by Duval County school Superintendent Diana Greene and the board to ask for a tax hike to replace, repair and renovate the district’s aging schools is understandable, but this is a precarious and possibly disastrous path. School officials have not yet laid the kind of groundwork necessary to win over — much less earn — public support for this idea. Nate Monroe, Florida Times-Union. The arming of teachers is a shortsighted, reactive approach to school shootings rather than a proactive, preventative approach that attacks the root cause — the known triggers of bullying, isolation and depression. Citrus County Chronicle. It is baffling that in the face of so many educational shortcomings in the Gunshine State, that the one priority of the Legislature when it comes to school safety is to make sure your kid’s 3rd-grade teacher can strap on a 9 mm if she wants. Brad Rogers, Ocala Star-Banner. Arming teachers is an invitation for things to go wrong. Instead, the state should put a highly trained resource officer in every school and fully fund mental health services in our school system. Gerry Mulligan, Citrus County Chronicle. The Florida prepaid tuition plan is an exceptional deal. It’s guaranteed. You never lose your investment. No risk. Terri Friedlander, Tallahassee Democrat. A legislative move to put music education back into schools strikes the right chord. Joe Henderson, Florida Politics.
Student enrichment: A solar go-kart built from scratch by students at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Coconut Grove wins the Florida Gulf Coast University statewide Sunchase Challenge. Miami Herald. Students at the Weiss School in Palm Beach Gardens get the approval of NASA to build a second satellite that will be launched in about two years. The first was launched in December to determine if bacteria could survive in space. Palm Beach Post. Twenty-three seniors and juniors in the Manatee County School District’s Migrant Education Program are honored. Bradenton Herald. Alexandra “Lexie” Clow, a 12-year-old 7th-grader at Umatilla Middle School in Lake County, wins first place in the state science fair with her pediatric heat stroke prevention device. It alerts people when a baby has been left in a hot car. Daily Commercial. Students at the Ohana Institute in Inlet Beach make a statement against pollution by creating a sculpture of the invasive lionfish using plastics that otherwise might have gone into the trash. Northwest Florida Daily News.