Education spending, financial literacy, superintendent quits, arming teachers and more

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Education spending: An agreement is reached between the House and Senate on the amount of money put into the Florida Education Finance Program, which is the state’s portion of the funding for schools. Conference committee budget negotiators agreed to set aside $12.4 billion for the fund, which is less than the $12.7 billion proposed by the Senate but more than the House’s $12.2 billion. The compromise works out to a funding increase of $248 per student. “We do have to work out a budget with our partners in the House, and so we brought that down to try and compromise,” said Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. “But it is still a very good number.” Negotiations on reconciling the two state budget proposals continue today. News Service of FloridaWFSU. Florida Politics.

Financial literacy bill: For a sixth straight year, the push to require high school students to take a financial literacy course before graduating is dead in the Legislature. The bill sponsor, Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, has amended S.B. 770 to make the course an elective instead of a requirement. He made the change after the bill stalled in committees in both the Senate and the House. Gradebook.

Superintendents’ jobs: Indian River County school Superintendent Mark Rendell has resigned, and is taking a job as the principal at Cocoa Beach Jr./Senior High School in Brevard County starting June 3. His last day in Indian River County is May 24. The school board voted this week not to extend his contract, which ends next June, and negotiations on a separation agreement failed. TCPalm. A Senate special master will hear Mary Beth Jackson’s appeal of her suspension as Okaloosa County school superintendent on May 28. It could continue into May 29, says special master Dudley Goodlette. Jackson was suspended in January by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who cited two critical grand jury reports of Jackson’s handling of child abuse allegations in schools. Florida Politics.

Arming teachers: The Polk and St. Johns school districts become the latest to say they won’t arm teachers even if the Legislature approves a bill allowing districts to do so. They join Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota, Manatee and Lee counties and others in announcing they won’t put guns in the hands of teachers. So far, 25 of the state’s 67 districts have said they will arm teachers if the law is passed. Lakeland Ledger. Spectrum Bay News 9. St. Augustine Record.

After the shooting: The trial of accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz could be delayed beyond its proposed January start date after his public defender asks to withdraw from the case because Cruz is entitled to half of his mother’s nearly $865,000 life insurance policy. Public defenders only represent clients who cannot afford to pay their bill. The judge will have to decide who will represent Cruz. The news outraged some families of the victims. “This will only cause more delay. I am furiously mad right now,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. Associated Press. Gov. Ron DeSantis is urging the Senate not to delay in hearing the appeal of his suspension of former Broward sheriff Scott Israel. He suggested he might call the Senate into special session to act. Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, says the Senate is moving as quickly as possible. Sun Sentinel.

School security: The Flagler County School Board approves a contract for the sheriff’s department to continue providing at least one deputy for each of the county’s 10 schools. The $811,000 contract covers less than half of the total cost. The rest is provided by the county and the school board. Flagler Live. The Clay County School District is considering buying a service that teachers and other employees could use to contact emergency services with the touch of an alert button on their phones. The cost is $80,245 this year and $44,955 in subsequent years. Superintendent Addison Davis says if approved by the school board, the Mutuallink service could be operational by July 1. Clay Today. Davis also said he was “disappointed” that Clay Sheriff Darryl Daniels is handing off some duties to the district’s new police department, and is asking for a meeting. WJXT.

Impact fee request: The Santa Rosa County School Board will consider asking the county commission to re-institute impact fees to pay for new school construction. The county collected the fee until 2008, when it was suspended during the recession. Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick says the district needs the money to build five schools in the next 10 years because of growth. He’s asking for a $5,000 impact fee on every new home. “We need impact fees because we are at the maximum amount of borrowing, we have maximized use of the half-cent sales tax and we have zero state funding for new school construction,” Wyrosdick said. Pensacola News Journal.

District’s deficit: The Okaloosa County School District faces a possible deficit of $4 million in its next budget year, according to Superintendent Marcus Chambers. Increased costs for health insurance ($2 million), retirement ($600,000) and special education (1.3 million) coupled with stagnant funding from the state is putting the district in the position of making up to $4 million in cuts. “The funding we receive from Tallahassee has not kept up with the cost of educating our students,” Chambers said. “I am confident that any increase in funding that is expected to come from Tallahassee will not cover expected increases in our costs.” Northwest Florida Daily News.

Tax hike impact: St. Lucie County school officials expect to set a new salary schedule for teachers in the fall after voters approved a four-year, 1-mill increase in property taxes specifically for teacher raises, school security and educational programs. TCPalm.

Software dispute: The company that was hired to help Manatee County School District employees implement a new business software system says the district owes it more than $800,000 for its work despite the system’s ongoing problems. Ciber Global is asking for $779,000 in fees plus $30,000 in interest. District attorney Mitchell Teitelbaum says the company exceeded the amount approved by the school board by $556,000, and that its demands are “without merit.” Bradenton Herald.

Outside operator chosen: If Oakcrest Elementary School in Ocala doesn’t get a C or better grade from the state this year, the school district will turn over operations of it to Ellspermann LLC, which is run by longtime local educator Jayne Ellspermann. Oakcrest has received D grades from the state in each of the past five years. State law gives districts the options of closing a low-performing school, turning it into a charter school or hiring an external operator. The Marion County School Board decided to hire the outside operator, and has approved a contract to pay Ellspermann $300,000 for a year beginning in July. Ocala Star-Banner.

Investigation process review: The Miami-Dade County School Board wants a review of the district’s procedures for investigating employees who have been accused of wrongdoing. It comes after a middle school teacher was allowed to stay in the classroom after multiple accusations of sexual misconduct with female students over a decade. The board also approved special training for district police officers and other employees on more sensitive ways to interview alleged victims of sexual abuse. Miami Herald.

Charter schools: The Lee County School Board approves the applications of three charter schools that plan to open in August 2020. Palm River Charter High School and Sunfire High of Lee County would focus on high school dropouts and students at risk of dropping out, and the K-8 Collegiate School of Fort Myers wants to draw low-income students currently at low-performing traditional public schools. Fort Myers News-Press. Three new charter schools have filed applications to the Pasco County School District. Two K-8 “innovation preparation” academies and a middle-high school focusing on renewable industries and sustainable energy say they will open in August 2020 if approved. The school board is expected to consider the applications next month. Gradebook. For the second time in the past two years, the Hernando County School has rejected an application for the Chehuntamo Advanced Performance High School. Board members were skeptical of the school’s financial situation, the personal histories of several of the board members, and had other questions that the chairman of the school’s board, Michael Maynard, couldn’t or wouldn’t answer. Tampa Bay Times. The former Eagle Arts Academy in Palm Beach County is sold for $14 million to an affiliate of the charter school company Academica. The site is being leased to Somserset Academy Inc., another Academica affiliate, which plans to open the Somerset Academy of the Arts there. Palm Beach Post.

Rezoning plans: The Clay County School District is planning to make changes in its school boundaries to ease overcrowding at R.M. Paterson Elementary. District officials would only say that “several” schools will be affected. The issue comes before the school board next week. WJAX.

Personnel moves: Carl Cartwright, an executive area director for the Orange County School District, is named superintendent of the Berlin Area School District in Wisconsin. Cartwright is the husband of Vickie Cartwright, the former associate superintendent in Orange County who was named the Oshkosh Area School District superintendent last July. Oshkosh Northwestern.

School threats: A 16-year-old Volusia County student is arrested and accused of making threats against New Smyrna Beach High School in a YouTube video. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A Pensacola man is arrested and accused of threatening to blow up Lincoln Park Elementary School because he was angry about his daughter’s treatment by a teacher. Pensacola News Journal.

School expulsions: A 16-year-old sophomore at Key West High School is expelled for bringing a loaded handgun to school in April. The student also faces criminal charges of possessing a firearm on school property, armed burglary of a structure or conveyance, grand theft of a firearm and concealed carrying of a weapon without a permit. Key West Citizen. A state appeals court overturns the expulsion of a DeSoto County middle school student for eating a brownie with marijuana in it on her way to school. The court said a student being under the influence is not covered by the district’s zero tolerance policy cited by the school board when it expelled her. News Service of Florida.

Opinions on schools: While the appointed superintendent system is better than the elected one, taxpayers must tread lightly when electing school board members. Elections have consequences. Electing board members hellbent on unfairly firing superintendents can hurt our children and burn a hole in our pocketbooks. TCPalm.

Student enrichment: Gorham Partington, an International Baccalaureate student at Pensacola High School, raises $20,000 in his school project to support early education. Pensacola News Journal. An episode of the TV show Shark Tank that was filmed at Olympic Heights High in West Boca will air Sunday at 10 p.m. on ABC. Sun Sentinel.