Money for charter schools, education bills, school safety, suspension upheld and more

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Help for charter schools: The bill that would require about 15 Florida school districts to share money from voter-approved property tax increases with charter schools is approved by a House committee and now goes to the full House for a vote. An amendment was added to the bill by its sponsor, Rep. Bryan Avila, R-Hialeah, that would require charter schools to use any money received for the intended purpose and would remove financial penalties for districts that don’t “properly share” the extra revenue with charters. Tampa Bay Times. The bill also calls for a $33 million back-to-school tax holiday in early August. News Service of Florida.

Education bills advance: The House Education Committee concludes its work for this legislative session by approving three K-12 bills but leaving several others unheard and presumably dead. Approved were bills that would allow high school students to satisfy some graduation requirements with industry certifications, add funding to schools whose students complete the Advanced Placement Capstone program, and allow colleges and universities to be alternate charter school authorizers. Among those left for dead are bills that would have required students to complete a financial literacy course to graduate, and change the way the district cost differential funding formula is figured. Gradebook. Politico Florida. Language that would allow students to opt out of parts of their health courses they don’t like has been added to S.B. 1366 at the request of the Florida Department of Education, according to Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala. News Service of Florida.

Protecting schools: About two-thirds of American parents think schools are less safe than they used to be, for reasons most people think are beyond the control of schools, according to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Half of Americans place the blame on bullying, and another one-third blame the Internet and television, music and video games. Associated Press. This year’s Senate school security bill would allow willing teachers to be armed. But it would also require school districts to adopt a plan to deal with an active-shooter emergency and conduct annual training, develop a threat assessment process, require student records to move to a new school within a day of a student’s transfer, penalize school board members whose districts don’t follow state mandates on reporting crimes in schools, improve the app students can use to report suspicious activity, add suicide prevention to school mental health plans and more. Sun Sentinel. Florida Times-Union. Lee County school officials say they will listen to requests from Fort Myers and Lee County for the district to pay more for resource officers. Fort Myers News-Press.

Superintendents’ jobs: The Florida Supreme Court has upheld Gov. Ron DeSantis’ suspension of Okaloosa County school Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson for “neglect of duty” and “incompetence.” DeSantis cited two grand jury reports that were critical of Jackson’s actions in a child abuse case. Jackson argued that she couldn’t be punished for events that happened before her 2016 re-election, but the court ruled unanimously that DeSantis had the authority to suspend her. The Florida Senate now must decide to remove Jackson permanently or reinstate her. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Northwest Florida Daily News. The Indian River County School Board directs its attorney to begin negotiations with Superintendent Mark Rendell over the terms of his departure. TCPalm.

Virtual school problems: Gov. DeSantis says he expects the state to move quickly to address problems and restore accountability at the Florida Virtual School. He said he supports Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s call for an audit of the school, which received more than $180 million from the state last year but has been rocked by scandal and resignations. Orlando Sentinel.

Infrastructure funding: The Duval County School Board will begin a discussion next week on how it can pay for the nearly $2 billion needed to replace, repair and renovate the district’s aging schools. One of the options to finance the proposed 10-year master plan is likely to be asking voters to approve an increase in the sales tax. Duval is the only Florida county that doesn’t collect impact fees or any kind of sales surtax. Florida Times-Union.

Falling enrollment: Traditional public school enrollment has declined by about 1,800 students in the Broward County School District this year, and school officials are brainstorming ideas to reverse the trend. Surveys by the district show that parents cite poor quality of schools, a lack of individual instruction, safety concerns and poor discipline when they pull their children out of traditional public schools. Sun Sentinel.

Absenteeism in schools: Representatives from the 25 Title I schools in Manatee County say chronic absenteeism is on the rise, and they’re turning to national experts for ideas on how to combat it. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

She spoke, superintendent listened: A Pasco County high school’s email to Superintendent Kurt Browning has led to a change of course on an unpopular decision. For years, seniors at Sunlake High School with good grades and attendance were eligible to go home for the seventh and final period of the day, which is lunch. District officials decided to end that for the 2019-2020 school year. Junior Alexandra Campbell protested the decision with an email to Browning, asking him to reconsider. “What’s the worst thing they can do? Say no?” Campbell said. Browning read the email and ordered his assistants to take another look, and they reversed the decision at least for next year. Gradebook.

Teacher ‘walk-ins’: Teachers around the state are conducting a “walk-in” into schools today as a show of solidarity to urge legislators to make more money available for education and for teacher pay. Flagler Live. Miami Herald. WFLA. WBBH. WTLV. Florida Phoenix.

School bus stop safety meeting: School officials and members of the community consider various ideas to improve safety at school bus stops, including making stops permanent, and adding benches, lighting and sidewalks. The town hall meeting was held in response to the death of 8-year-old Layla Aiken, who died after being hit by a car last month as she waited for her school bus in Cape Coral. Fort Myers News-Press.

Rezoning approved: The Santa Rosa County School Board approves the rezoning of five schools to ease overcrowding. About 200 students will change schools next fall after the rezoning of the Oriole Beach Elementary, Gulf Breeze Elementary, Dixon Elementary, Dixon Intermediate and Pea Ridge Elementary boundaries were approved. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Comments at meetings: The Pasco County School Board is changing the way it allows the public to comment at meetings. Comments about agenda items will be heard at the beginning of board meetings, and comments about non-agenda items at the end. The board is preparing to record and air its meetings, and officials don’t want children’s private information broadcast. Gradebook.

Policy on district reserves: The Sarasota County School Board tentatively approves a change in the way it calculates its reserves. For years, the district has used a conservative approach, and has set the reserves minimum at 7.5 percent instead of the state-required 3 percent. This year, using that calculation, reserves have dipped below that 7.5 percent, which in the past would have triggered district spending cuts. Instead, the board decided, in a 3-2 vote, to adopt a looser calculation that’s used by most other state districts. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Personnel moves: Thomas Kruczek is named president of Christopher Columbus High School, a private Catholic school for boys in Miami. He replaces Brother Kevin Handibode, who had been president for the past 18 years and principal, teacher, coach and more for 40-plus years before that. Miami Herald. Frank Rodriguez, a regional superintendent for the Palm Beach County School District, is the choice to become superintendent of Beaufort (S.C.) Public Schools. Contract negotiations are expected to begin soon. If an agreement is reached, Rodriguez would likely start the job July 1. Hilton Head Island Packet.

Former principal may be honored: The Orlando City Council will consider renaming Chatham Boulevard in Parramore to Felix Cosby Avenue to honor the longtime principal at several schools. Cosby, who died in 2006 at the age of 96, was principal at Eatonville Elementary, Jones High, Holden Street Elementary and Washing Shores Elementary until he retired in 1975. He also founded a Negro Baseball league team and a black-owned bank. Bungalower.

Florida Prepaid enrollment: The enrollment window for the Florida Prepaid College Board’s five college tuition payment plans ends April 30. More than 20,000 families have signed up so far this year. Boca Raton Tribune.

Teacher arrested: A Collier County charter school teacher is arrested and accused of having sex with a student. Joseph Mejia, 37, a technology teacher at Gulf Coast Charter Academy South in Naples, is charged with lewd and lascivious battery and molestation of a victim between the ages of 12 and 16. Naples Daily News.

Student arrested: The student who was arrested for attacking his principal at Miami’s Southridge Senior High School with a wrestling move called the RKO has been arrested again. This time Gianny Sosa, 18, tried the move on a life-size plastic alligator in an artificial pond at a Kendall mall, then posted a video of it on social media. Miami Herald.

School threats: An 18-year-old Florida woman is wanted in connection with threats made against Columbine (Colo.) High School and other schools in the Denver area. The FBI says Sol Pais, of Surfside, is armed and dangerous and “infatuated with the Columbine school shooting.” The 20th anniversary of that shooting, in which 13 people were killed, is Saturday. Miami Herald. Associated Press.

School employee fired: An Alachua County School District paraprofessional is fired for texting with two 14-year-old students during the last school year. Chad Purdy, 34, worked at Oak View Middle School. In 2012, Purdy was investigated for having an improper relationship with a 12-year-old student, but no charges were filed. Gainesville Sun.

Opinions on schools: Last year, a gunman stormed my school, killing 17 of my classmates and teachers. But arming teachers doesn’t create a safe and healthy learning environment. It just adds another reason for me and my friends to be anxious about our safety at school. Sari Kaufman, Sun Sentinel. Putting guns in the hands of teachers won’t make our schools safer. Adding school counselors and other mental health professionals will. Anquan Boldin, Tampa Bay Times. Rick Scott owns the Florida Virtual School’s problems by appointing trustees who were too cozy with the school’s former general counsel and chief administrative officer, Frank Kruppenbacher. Ron DeSantis has an opportunity here, another chance to show he can do better than his predecessor. Orlando Sentinel. The Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis should put some sunshine on past Florida Virtual School spending and contracts, and then privatize the school. David Bishop, Florida News Online. Melinda and Bill Gates had ideas they believed would help improve public schools and leveraged their own money to bring in public dollars to fund their projects. So who are they kidding when they say they do not have “outsize influence” in public education? Valerie Strauss, Washington Post. Florida is on the verge of allowing students to substitute a 3D printing certification for geometry as a graduation requirement, thereby crossing an important threshold in lowering the high school graduation bar. It seems unlikely that this action, and similar future actions, will serve the state’s young people well. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: The Sarasota County School is named the national medium-sized school district of the year by Cambridge International. The district participates in the Cambridge International’s Advanced International Certificate of Education, which allows students to earn college credit through high school coursework. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WWSB.