Legislative review, school choice, budget, tax-sharing, Bright Futures and more

Legislative review: Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-dominated Legislature largely accomplished what they set out to do this year on such issues as school security, school choice, charter schools and more. “At the end of the day, you really can’t do far-reaching things unless you’re able to get this stuff through the Legislative process,” DeSantis said. “If you look down the line, they delivered big wins for the people of Florida.” Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. GateHouse. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Politics. Florida Phoenix. Twelve things the Legislature got done this year. Sun Sentinel and News Service of Florida. A look at bills that passed and failed. Associated Press. School choice advocates celebrate their successes in the session, and say more changes are coming next year. Gradebook. Florida Politics. The new scholarship that will use taxpayer funds to send students to private schools is expected to draw a court challenge. WLRN.

State budget approved: The Legislature’s session ended Saturday with the approval of a $91.1 billion budget, which included a $242-per-student increase in school spending, including more money in discretionary spending by districts, and $285 million for a revised Best and Brightest educator bonuses program. News Service of Florida. GateHouse. Associated Press. WFSU. The Legislature’s claim that it increased school funding by $242 per student is hard to compare against last year because funding for two more programs has been added to the total coming from the Florida Education Finance Program. FEFP provides schools money for security, textbooks, transportation and more. Florida Phoenix. School districts begin assessing how they will be affected by the budget. St. Augustine Record. Many teacher say the changes to the Best and Brightest program make it worse, not better. Gradebook. The budget includes $14.2 million for schools that lost enrollment — and the state funding that goes with it — after Hurricane Michael. WMBB.

Tax-sharing with charters: The on-again, off-again proposal to require school districts to share revenue from voter-approved property tax increases with charter schools is on again. The Senate had removed it from the bill, but on the final day of the legislative session it was put back in although it applies only to future voter-approved property tax increases. It takes effect in July. The bill also provides for a back-to-school tax holiday from Aug. 2-6. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida.

Bright Futures: Part of the higher education bill that was passed raises the test scores needed to qualify for Bright Futures scholarships. Some educators worry that the changes will make thousands of students, disproportionately minority and low-income ones,  ineligible. To qualify for the Academic scholarship, which covers full tuition and fees at state colleges, the required SAT score increases from 1290 to around 1330. For the Medallion award, which covers 75 percent of tuition and fees, the SAT score requirement would be boosted from 1170 to about 1200. Tampa Bay Times.

School security: School officials in Volusia and Flagler counties say they won’t arm teachers in schools despite the Legislature giving them the option to do so. They join officials from Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Orange, Seminole, Polk, St. Johns, Sarasota, Manatee, Duval, Nassau, Lake and Osceola counties in declaring recently that teachers in their districts will remain unarmed. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Miami New Times. WFTS. Daily Commercial. In appealing his suspension as Broward County sheriff to a Florida Senate special master, Scott Israel says the Parkland school shooting was not preventable. The hearing is in late June. Miami Herald. A judge orders a Broward public defender to continue representing accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz even though Cruz is in line for a $400,000-plus inheritance. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Outside operator: This week, the Hillsborough County School Board will consider expanding the role of an outside operator that is now assisting three struggling schools. The district would pay the Indiana charter schools operator Phalen Leadership Academies up to $3,756,000 to help seven more persistently low-performing schools. Gradebook.

District testing change: The St. Johns County School District is changing the platform for end-of-course district exams after computer glitches canceled them this year. Superintendent Tim Forson first canceled the exams after about 20 percent of students had problems, then decided to give all students grades of 100 percent on the exams. The new platform, which is used by most school districts in the state, will be in place for use on first-semester exams later this year. “We have to get a system that works right every time,” Forson said. St. Augustine Record.

Charter schools: Orange County School Board members approve an application for a K-8 charter school that already operates two schools in the county. Orlando Science Schools got approval to start a K-8 school in the east part of the county for the 2020-21 school year. Board members say they worry about losing money if the company ever closes one of its schools, but followed the advice of the district’s lawyers and approved the application. Orlando Sentinel.

Public resignation: A Lake County teacher resigns in a very public fashion from the profession after 20 years by posting his reasons on Facebook. Jonathan Carroll, 46, a social studies teacher at Groveland’s South Lake High School, says teaching “has become a toxic profession” because of the emphasis in standardized testing, the state’s decision to allow teachers to be armed, active shooter drills, students’ drug use and more. “I will not miss what education has become,” Carroll says. Daily Mail. Miami Herald. Yahoo.

Cancer study results: Cancer rates are elevated in two zip codes south of Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County, according to a study by Florida Department of Health officials. The study was prompted by concerns of a cancer survivor who graduated from Satellite High School and a Jacksonville doctor. The state will conduct further testing and analysis. Florida Today.

Educators honored: Caryn Long, a 5th-grade teacher at Treadway Elementary School in Leesburg, is named Central Florida’s STEM teacher of the year by the Martin H. Harris Chapter of the Air Force Association. Daily Commercial. Gena Bufkin, the administrative assistant at the Pine View School, is named the Sarasota County School District’s 2019 school-related employee of the year. SRQ magazine.

Superintendent’s evaluation: Lee County School Board members meet to discuss their evaluation of Superintendent Greg Adkins, but also address internal divisions on the board and how they might make improvements. Fort Myers News-Press.

Personnel moves: An Alachua County principal who was under district investigation for alleged threatening behavior toward staff member and breaches in ethical conduct and civility has resigned. Catherine Barnes had been the principal at Duval Early Learning Academy since 2017. Gainesville Sun. Seven Manatee County schools are getting new assistant principals when schools reopen in the fall. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Vaping concerns: The number of vaping incidents reported in Manatee County schools has increased by 15 percent in the past year, mirroring a trend seen around Florida and the United States. Bradenton Herald. A Sarasota family is suing an e-cigarette maker and two tobacco companies, alleging they broke federal laws by targeting teenagers even as they denied doing so. The parents say they 15-year-old daughter was hooked on vaping, which caused her to have seizures. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teacher, aide arrested: A Broward County teacher is arrested and accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old student. Vincent Edward Grossi, 54, was a math teacher at Cypress Bay High School in Weston before being reassigned after his arrest. He’s been charged with being an authority figure who solicited/engaged in a romantic relationship with a minor. WPLG. Sun Sentinel. Terrence Kennedy, a 37-year-old teacher’s aide at the New Leaf alternative school in Marion County, is arrested and accused of child abuse after allegedly assaulting a student. Ocala Star-Banner.

Students arrested: A 13-year-old Hernando County student is arrested after deputies say he threatened to stage a mass shooting at the Winding Waters K-8 school in Weeki Wachee. The boy said it was just a joke. Tampa Bay Times. A 7th-grader in Indian River County is arrested and accused of making threats against Storm Grove Middle School in Vero Beach. WOFL. WPBF. Florida Today. The number of Polk County students being taken into custody for disruptions at schools is increasing, says Sheriff Grady Judd, but not all are arrested. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: As leader who is rightly committed to letting research and science guide Florida’s environmental policy, Gov. DeSantis cannot now ignore credible research that says arming teachers is a bad deal, for students, law enforcement officers and Florida’s image as a state that takes safety seriously. Miami Herald. Teachers with guns only makes sense to lawmakers who have lost their minds. Carl Hiaasen, Miami Herald. The creation of a new scholarship is not the death of public education. Rather, it is the start of incredible new opportunities for tens of thousands of Florida children. Jeb Bush, Tampa Bay Times. It’s an abomination to see legislators pour another $130 million into a vouchers-for-schools system that lacks basic standards. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. Here’s what your Legislature did for 90 percent of Florida’s school children this year: Nothing. Oh, lawmakers did decide to spend $243 more per child in public schools, but the amount is irrelevant when compared to states with a commitment to education instead of a commitment to agonize about it every year. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. Last week, Florida lawmakers voted to raid taxpayer money meant for public education to pay for middle-income families to send their children to private schools, despite these largely religious schools lacking the standards and other requirements that the state has piled on public schools. Gainesville Sun. As the recent Network for Public Education report demonstrates, the U.S. Department of Education has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to managing the over $4 billion that have flowed through its charter school program. In 2016, despite all of the known problems with Florida charter schools, the department gave the state a three-year grant for almost $71 million. Carol Burris, Washington Post. The results from the creation of community schools are unclear. But Crystal Lake Elementary in Polk County is off and running, and we look forward to learning if this concept can deliver on its promises. Lakeland Ledger.

Student enrichment: The Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is sending teenage “nutrition ambassadors” to high schools to convince students to try healthier foods. Orlando Sentinel. A documentary on the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 by Salma Soubai, a 9th-grader at Terry Parker High School in Duval County, is being showcased during the Florida History Day celebration through Tuesday in Tallahassee. Florida Times-Union.

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