Career education bill, contract disputes, sales tax hike vote, insurance and more

Career education bill: Gov. Ron DeSantis signs a bill that expands workforce training and apprenticeships in K-12 schools. H.B. 7071 had been unanimously approved by both the Senate and House. The bill requires districts to give students the option of meeting graduation requirements by successfully completing two credits in work-based learning programs and two credits in career and technical education. Students choosing that option can earn a high school degree with a 2.0 or above grade point average. The law also sets up a grant program at the Florida Department of Education for the creation of new apprenticeship programs and the expansion of existing ones. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. WMFE. Florida Today.

Contract negotiations: The Brevard County School Board votes 4-1 to support Superintendent Mark Mullins’ contract offer to teachers over a special magistrate’s recommendation. Teachers rated “highly effective” will receive a raise of $1,100 and a one-time bonus of $650, and those rated “effective” will get a pay boost of $825 with the $650 bonus. All first-year returning teachers also will get $500 bonuses. The union wanted the district to dip into its reserves to give highly effective teachers raises of $2,300 and effective ones $1,724. Anthony Colucci, president of the teachers union, says, “This is a war.” Florida Today. Thousands of Orange County teachers are criticizing the contract agreement their union reached with the school district, saying higher insurance premiums will offset the pay raises. The school board will vote on the agreement today, and it will then go to the teachers. It provides $500 raises for all teachers, with an additional $1,525 for highly effective teachers and $1,125 for effective ones. Orlando Sentinel.

Sales tax referendum: Duval County School Board members reiterate at a meeting Monday that they want to hold a referendum in November to increase the sales tax by a half-cent to replace and repair schools. The decision of whether to hold the vote, and when, rests with the Jacksonville City Council. Superintendent Diana Greene also announced that money from the tax hike, if it’s approved, would be used to provide safety and security measures for charter schools. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. Supporters of the school board’s request for the sales tax increase rally at Jacksonville City Hall to urge the city council to approve the request at today’s meeting. The council’s rules committee tabled the request last week, and wants the new city council that is seated next month to decide the issue. Florida Times-Union. Florida Politics. WJXT. Preservationists are concerned that the Duval school district’s master construction plan, if it goes to a vote and is approved, calls for the demolition of some historic buildings. The plan does call for renovations to many schools with architectural significance. Florida Times-Union.

Insurance increases: Marion County School Board members are looking for $7.9 million in their budget to pay for the increase in insurance premiums for their 5,749 full-time employees. That’s a 19.6 percent increase. Board members want to pick up the entire cost if possible, and are reluctant to change carriers even though it could save $2.6 million in 2020. Ocala Star-Banner.

Superintendent’s payout: Fired Volusia County superintendent Tom Russell will get a payout of at least $244,300 if the school board gives its approval today. That includes $68,700 in severance pay, a $9,600 performance bonus from two years ago, $44,000 in deferred compensation and $122,000 in accrued leave. He’ll continue to get paid health, dental and life insurance through September, and he’s eligible for another performance bonus when the state releases grades for the district and its schools. Russell, who was fired in May over communication and academic achievement issues, will become the principal at Flagler Palm Coast High School Monday. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Dual enrollment: Pinellas County School Board members approve a dual-enrollment course contract with the University of Florida. Qualified students can take up to two online courses a semester, up to 11 credit hours, for two academic years from UF. The district already had agreements with St. Petersburg College and Pinellas Technical College. District officials think up to 1,600 students will qualify. Tampa Bay Newspapers.

Personnel moves: Lee County Superintendent Greg Adkins wants to hire Jeff Spiro as the district’s chief academic officer, Lauren Stillwell as chief of staff, and Kathleen Wilson-Ebaugh and Ken Savage as directors in the operations department. The school board has to approve the recommendations. Fort Myers News-Press. New principals are named at a dozen Polk County schools. Lakeland Ledger.

School construction projects: Monroe County school officials will update the school board today on the district’s next building projects. Among them are a renovation of Stanley Switlik Elementary School in Marathon, started this year and continuing into 2020 at a cost of $34 million to $41 million, and upgrades to Key West High School’s athletic fields between now and 2022. Key West Citizen.

Ex-teacher arrested: A former Manatee County teacher has been arrested and accused of having sexual relations with a 15-year-old student. Police say Kassandra Moore, 31, who was a teacher at the private Broach School in Bradenton, was charged with four counts of lewd and lascivious battery and one count of transmission of harmful material to a minor. She was put on leave and then fired after a complaint was made and an investigation began in April. WWSB. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WFLA.

Opinions on schools: The track record of charter schools in the state should prompt the Legislature to increase oversight. Instead, charters still operate free of some key rules that apply to traditional public schools. Sun Sentinel. Lake County’s percentage of children in poverty has declined, but there is much to be done to keep it moving in that direction. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel.

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