Teacher pay raises, starting pay plan backed, top court and education, gun-sniffing dog and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Increasing teacher pay: Influential state Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, has filed a bill that would set aside extra money in the 2020-2021 Florida budget for school districts to increase pay for teachers. S.B. 1088 does not specify how much more teachers would be paid, or include a specific figure for starting pay. “A school district that meets the teacher salary enhancement requirements specified in the General Appropriations Act (the budget) may use any additional funds provided in the allocation for any district operating expenditure,” according to the bill. It’s the first proposal filed that responds to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ call to increase starting pay for teachers to $47,500. Legislators have expressed concern about his proposal because of the $602 million cost and because it doesn’t include raises for veteran teachers. The legislative sessions starts Jan. 14. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. The Florida School Boards Association and the Florida Association of District School Superintendents have endorsed DeSantis’ proposal to raise starting pay for teachers, saying it “sends a clear message that Florida truly values the role and importance” of teachers. News Service of Florida. What we can expect from the Legislature on education issues during the session is the focus of a podcast. Gradebook.

Top court and education: The Florida Supreme Court is thought to be the most conservative in the history of the state, and is widely expected to establish new standards for educational choice and the use of public money for vouchers that students can use at private schools. Abortion, constitutional amendments and legislative redistricting are among the other critical issues that may come before the court. Tampa Bay Times.

Security in schools: Broward County School District security has added another security measure: a dog that can sniff out guns and bullets. Taylor, a 17-month-old black Labrador retriever, is working with 19-year Coconut Creek police officer Michael Leonard to expand the ways to keep schools safe. Leonard has trained Taylor for more than 300 hours to sniff out weapons, weapon parts, ammunition, carbon, gun oils, cleaning solvents, fireworks, black powder, double-based smokeless powder, and other components of firearms. “(Taylor) can see through things that I can’t see through,” said Leonard. “She has X-ray vision, basically, with her nose.” Sun Sentinel. The 13 school resource officers in Flagler County are getting ankle medical kits and a rifle plate designed to add extra protection to the existing protective vest deputies wear each day, courtesy of  a grant from Walmart Inc. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Bathroom use lawsuit: A three-judge federal court of appeals heard arguments Thursday in the case of a transgender Florida high school student who sued the St. Johns County School District because it wouldn’t allow him to use the boys’ facilities at Nease High School. Drew Adams used the boys’ bathroom for the first five weeks of school in 2015 without incident before being told he had to use the gender-neutral bathroom in the school office. Two of the judges are considered liberal and seemed ready to uphold the lower-court ruling giving Adams access to boys’ bathrooms. The third is more conservative, and said he was concerned that a ruling in favor of Adams could lead to the overturning of policies that separate bathrooms by gender. A decision could be months away. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Associated PressFlorida Politics. NBC News.

Tax hike stalled: A judge’s promise to quickly resolve the dispute between the Jacksonville City Council and the Duval County School District over a tax referendum this year will apparently not be kept, pushing the issue into 2020. The district hoped to ask voters in November for a half-cent hike in the sales tax for repairing and replacing schools. But the council, which says it must approve the placement of such a measure on the ballot, balked. The district sued and the issue went to circuit court. At an October hearing, Judge Gary Wilkinson promised a November hearing. It didn’t materialize, and the judge still has not decided if the district has the right to sue. Another lawsuit filed by students’ parents to force the city to put the measure on the ballot also has made no progress. Florida Times-Union.

Impact fee proposal: An ordinance has been drafted that, if approved, would impose school impact fees on new homes in Santa Rosa County. The school district has pushed for the fees in order to keep up with student enrollment growth, but the county has been, up to now, reluctant to adopt them. This proposal would place a $5,000 fee on single-family homes, $4,000 on mobile homes and $2,750 for multifamily homes. The county commission will consider the ordinance Monday. Pensacola News Journal.

School start times: The Miami-Dade County School District’s decision to study options to make school starting times later has prompted school board members and parents in neighboring counties to start pushing their own districts to reconsider as well. “I’ve been incredibly disappointed we can’t do this when all the studies show it’s so important for children,” Broward board member Robin Bartleman said. “This should be a priority,” said Palm Beach board member Erica Whitfield said. “We have to figure this out.” Most high schools in south Florida around 7:30 a.m., but studies have shown that later start times improve attendance and grades. Sun Sentinel.

Property for a school: Developers of a subdivision have donated a 30-acre property to the St. Johns County School District to use for a new school. The subdivision will have about 1,000 homes, and about two-thirds would be open to families that could have school-aged children. The developers “just want to help the school district,” said Nicole Cubbege, the district’s executive director for planning and government relations. “They think there needs to be a school site in this area and they would like to donate it to us.” St. Augustine Record.

Charter sues district: The Mason Classical Academy charter school has filed lawsuits against the Collier County School Board and the charter’s former board treasurer. The academy is asking the court to find that its termination of its partnership with Hillsdale College is not a valid reason for the school board to revoke the school’s charter. The district hasn’t done so, but Mason officials believe it’s planning to. Mason is also suing former board treasurer Joseph Baird, alleging Baird lied in a complaint to the state against the charter that led to an investigation by the district’s general counsel. Naples Daily News.

Resource officer saves woman: A Sarasota County school resource officer jumped into a retention pond at Atwater Elementary School in North Port on Thursday morning to save a woman who drove into the pond. The woman said she was blinded by the sun. A teacher saw the minivan go in the water and called the resource officer, John McDaniel, who rescued her. No one was hurt. Charlotte Sun.

Leak creates hole in field: A leaking irrigation pipe has created a large hole in the soccer field at Edgewater High School in Orlando. It opened up during a high school game Wednesday, and ended the match between Edgewater and Lyman. School maintenance workers have been working to repair the pipes and fill the hole, and hope to have the field ready for tonight’s girls game. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher arrested: A Pasco County music teacher has been arrested and accused of groping a man who was cleaning his house. Deputies say Stephen Ailing, 54, who teaches music at Sunray Elementary School in Holiday, repeatedly grabbed and poked the backside of the victim. Ailing has been placed on administrative leave. Tampa Bay Times.

Students and the law: At least 11 students and an adult were arrested Thursday after a fight in the school courtyard during lunchtime at Atlantic High School in Port Orange. No one was injured. The students were charged with misdemeanors, but the adult faces felony charges of trespassing and carrying a concealed weapon: brass knuckles. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A 17-year-old student was arrested and a warrant has been issued for a 16-year-old student after a fight at Tate High School in Escambia County on Wednesday that left a classmate unconscious. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR. A 13-year-old Sarasota County student has been arrested and accused of threatening a shooting at Woodland Middle School in North Port. Charlotte Sun. An 11-year-old Putnam County student has been arrested and accused of writing a threat to shoot up the school on a bathroom wall at C.H. Price Middle School in Interlachen. WJAX.

Opinions on schools: After a visit to two privately owned early learning centers located at public schools in Orlando, members of Gainesville for All are more convinced than ever that the group’s proposal for a similar facility in the Gainesville Empowerment Zone is vital to helping close the appalling achievement gap between black and white students in Alachua County. James F. Lawrence, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: Art students from Suwannee High School recently decorated ornaments to hang on the Florida Christmas tree at the White House. Gray DC. Students with disabilities sell their artwork as a school fund-raiser at the Oak Park School’s second Holiday Bazaar. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Sixty-five Palm Beach County high school students learn about conducting interviews, and writing and editing stories during a newspaper’s annual workshop. Palm Beach Post.

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