Education budget request, ‘shoddy’ training cited, charter schools and more

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Proposed education budget: The Florida Board of Education approves the Department of Education’s $22.3 billion budget request, which includes an extra $25 million for mental health services and another $1.4 million for school resource officers. It does not include any additional money for the educator bonuses program. The department’s requested increase for the base student allocation is just 1.2 percent, or about $50 more per student. That’s enough to boost the money available for teacher raises by $157.3 million. But education and school officials from around the state say it’s not enough, and are lobbying the Legislature to provide more money. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. The BOE also approved a proposal requiring all school districts to report how they’re teaching students about substance abuse each year. News Service of Florida. WFSU. Dozens of Broward County teachers protested low pay outside the BOE meeting Wednesday, which was held in Fort Lauderdale. WLRN. The number of St. Johns County students using mental health services at their schools increased from 382 in the 2017-2018 school year to 1,086 last year. St. Augustine Record.

Security in schools: An investigation by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office concludes that Invictus Security Services of Boynton Beach, which charged the school district $3,000 to train each guard for the county’s charter schools, provided “shoddy” training that doesn’t comply with state law. Some guards were passed even though they failed their firearms exams. “I consider this report scathing,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the chair of the state panel that investigated the 2018 Parkland school shooting. “It demonstrates incompetence, complete contravention of the statute. It’s appalling.” The charter school guards will be retrained by the sheriff’s office, starting Monday. WPTV. Sun Sentinel. Politico Florida. Palm Beach Post. News Service of Florida. WPBF. Lawyers for Scott Israel, who was removed by Gov. Ron DeSantis as Broward County sheriff for his agency’s failures during the 2018 Parkland school shooting, tell a Florida Senate special master that Israel is not to blame. Special master Dudley Goodlette heard the case and will make a recommendation, and the full Senate will then vote on removing or reinstating Israel. News Service of Florida.

Charters and career training: A bill is filed for the 2020 legislative session that would push workforce training grants from the state to certain charter schools. H.B. 71, filed by Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona, would direct money from the state’s Job Growth Grant Fund to charters. The fund was created by former Gov. Rick Scott, and seeded with $85 million. Florida Politics.

Charters and sales tax funds: The Duval County School Board is considering a proposal to give charter schools money for capital improvements based on how long they’ve been in business if a sales tax hike is placed on the ballot and approved. The board previously pledged $5 per square foot to charters and traditional schools for security upgrades. The Jacksonville City Council is expected to vote next week on whether to approve the district’s request for the sales tax referendum, and when it might go on the ballot. WJXT.

Book ban request denied: Marion County School Board members voted 4-1 to support Superintendent Heidi Maier’s decision not to yank three books from high school libraries after complaints were made about their graphic content. The books, which were challenged by the group It’s Your Tea Party, will be removed from middle school libraries. The books are Beloved and The Bluest Eye, both by Toni Morrison, and Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia. Ocala Star-Banner.

Portable classrooms: More than 1,600 portable classrooms are being used in Palm Beach County schools, and even though most of them are more modern, “modular” concrete classrooms instead of the old wooden trailer-like rooms, many parents are unhappy that their children are attending class in them. School officials have started to replace and repair schools with the money from a voter-approved sales tax increase, but until they’re done portables will be needed. Sun Sentinel.

Baker Act use soaring: The number of children being involuntarily committed through the Baker Act has doubled in the past 10 years in Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties, a trend that is mirrored by the rise in the number of cases in Florida. The rates grew from 689 to 1,385 per 100,000 children in Lee, from 337 to 896 per 100,000 in Collier and 894 to 2,688 per 100,000 in Charlotte. About 25 percent of the committals happened at schools. Fort Myers News-Press.

Lead contamination: State Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, has again filed a bill that would require water filters on drinking fountains and other water sources in public schools. A similar bill died in last year’s legislative session over questions about its costs. Cruz says the action to remove lead from the water will cost about $3 million. Florida Politics.

Firing a superintendent: The Escambia County School Board has tentatively agreed that a simple majority is all that’s required to fire an appointed superintendent without cause. District officials had proposed a policy change that would have required four of the five board members to vote to remove a superintendent. County voters agreed in 2018 to switch from an elected superintendent to an appointed one. Pensacola News Journal.

Bus policy criticized: Some Martin County parents are complaining about a change in the school busing policy that was made two years ago but is just starting to affect them. Students living within 2 miles of schools must apply for bus transportation and pay a fee if they’re accepted. The district has allowed those who had been riding the bus to continue — until they changed schools. TCPalm. Citrus County School District officials are asking parents to be patient as the district struggles with overcrowded and late-arriving school buses. Citrus County Chronicle.

Teacher shortage: A Sarasota County school for students with disabilities is struggling to fill vacancies, with 46 openings just two weeks into the school year. Oak Park needs 10 teachers and 36 paraprofessionals. “Everybody’s looking for the same teachers from coast to coast and it is the ESE (exceptional student education) teachers,” secondary schools director Steve Cantees told the school board. Until the jobs are filled, long-term substitutes will be used. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Vaccination consent: The Flagler County School Board has asked for more information from the Florida Department of Health in Flagler County about its request to administer the HPV vaccine on campuses to 6th-graders whose parents sign a consent form. Board members want the health department to get more community input and report back later this year. Palm Coast Observer. Flagler Live.

Confusion at ex-charter: Students and staff returned to Championship Academy of Distinction at Davie on Wednesday, the morning after the Broward County School Board took control of the school because the operator hadn’t met state law by having an armed guardian on site the first day of school. Parents and staff members are still wondering why the charter was revoked, especially since the school has had security every day. School officials say that officer hasn’t gone through the required training. WPLG.

Charter expansion: KIPP Liberty Academy opened its first middle school in Miami this fall, with 170 students in the 5th and 6th grades sharing space with Madison Middle School. It’s KIPP’s second school in the area; the KIPP Sunrise Academy elementary school opened last fall to 280 students in kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades. Miami Times.

Ex-charter site sold: A shuttered charter school site in Miami has sold for $12.8 million. DLC Capital Management LLC bought the former Aspira Arts DE/CO Charter School from Aspira of Florida. Aspira closed its three charter schools in June because of financial troubles. The Real Deal.

Air-conditioning problems: Wednesday was the third straight day without air-conditioning at Cotee River Elementary School in Pasco County. A leaky pipe is being blamed. School will continue while repairs are being made. Gradebook.

A trainer’s day: The Pasco County School District is one of the few in the state to require fulltime athletic trainers year-round at each of its 13 high schools. For Tara Mandres, who works at Sunlake High School, that means at least 32 hours a week at practices and games making sure athletes are tended to and kept safe in the heat. Tampa Bay Times.

Praying at board meeting: Flagler County’s superintendent, school board members and their attorney were all taken by surprise when a Christian minister started Tuesday’s board meeting with a prayer. It was set up by board chair Janet McDonald, and was the first time since at least 1973 that a prayer was said before a board meeting. Flagler Live.

Teacher being investigated: Police obtain a risk protection order against a Lakeland High School math teacher after he “described hypothetical acts of violence against the school” to students. The order against Keith Cook allows police to confiscate any weapons he has. Cook was placed on administrative leave while an internal investigation is conducted. Lakeland Ledger.

Student arrested: A 16-year-old student is arrested and accused of sending a text that threatened a gun assault on St. Mary Magdalen Catholic School in Altamonte Springs. Orlando Sentinel.

Satirical dress code: Students at Osceola High School in Pinellas County distribute fliers satirizing and protesting the new student dress code. Administrators were not amused, however, and say those responsible will face disciplinary action. WFLA.

Opinions on schools: Americans are increasingly in favor of educational choice, a new poll has shown. It’s a profound shift in thinking, and it’s worth paying attention to it. Lakeland Ledger. The string of abuses by a former principal reflects a corrupt culture that should have been discovered sooner by the Hillsborough County School District. Officials need to rethink the leniency they showed and tighten oversight of the campuses. Tampa Bay Times. Policies that exclude students from educational opportunities simply based on who they are shortsighted, cruel and inconsistent with any institution that espouses a values-based mission. Dan Ceaser, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Low-income students need the option of charter schools. John E. Coons, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Albert Zhang, a 16-year-old student at Buchholz High School in Gainesville, wins the 2019 International Geography Olympiad in Hong Kong over 160 other students from around the world. Gainesville Sun. Booker Middle School in Sarasota is named a “CFES Brilliant Pathways School of Distinction” for being a top school for students who want to go on to college. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. East Ridge High School’s High Tech college and career-readiness program is named the best in the state. Daily Commercial.

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