Extra break for schools, budget and teacher raises, session’s education winners and losers, and more

Schools closing: To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, every school district in the state is extending spring break for an extra week upon the recommendation of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. Most districts are on spring break this week and will be closed the week after that, returning March 30. Districts with spring breaks starting March 23 will also take next week, and return March 30. Schools that have already had their spring vacation will add five more days off next week, and return no earlier than March 23. Five districts with spring breaks scheduled in April will instead be off the next two weeks. State testing also will be delayed by at least two weeks, the Department of Education announced. Districts are being encouraged by the state to use the extra time to deep-clean schools, make plans for instructional continuity, and to cancel all extracurricular activities. Florida Department of Education. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. Florida Phoenix. WUSF. Tampa Bay Times. WTVT. WTSP. Miami HeraldWSVN. FLKeys NewsOrlando Sentinel. WKMG. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. WPTV. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. Pensacola News Journal. Florida Today. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. TCPalm. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Gainesville Sun. Ocala Star-Banner. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. WCTV. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. Northwest Florida Daily News. Panama City News Herald. WJHG. Key West Citizen. Citrus County Chronicle. Charlotte Sun.

More on coronavirus: In other developments in the coronavirus outbreak, President Trump declares the pandemic a national emergency, a vaccine trial begins today, the CDC recommends the cancellation of all gatherings of more than 50 people for at least eight weeks, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis deployed the National Guard to help run a drive-up testing site in Broward County, the state and school districts will continue feeding low-income children while schools are closed, free online educational courses are offered for students, and more. Associated Press. WFSU. WLPG. Politico Florida. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-Union. TCPalm. Tampa Bay Times. WTVT. WOFL. WTLV. WJXT. WCTV. Tallahassee Democrat. Northwest Florida Daily News. Daytona Beach News Journal. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. WLRN. WSVN. WTXL. WTSP. WFTS. WINK. WMBB. Questions and answers about the coronavirus, and a glossaryFlorida Department of Health. Florida Department of Education. Tampa Bay Times. WMFE. Laptops are handed out to Miami-Dade County students as the district prepares for online learning. WPLG. The search for a new Sarasota County School District superintendent won’t be slowed down by the coronavirus outbreak, said school board members. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Budget and teacher raises: Legislative negotiators have reached an agreement on a $93.2 billion budget that includes $500 million for teacher raises, $42 million to harden schools against intruders and a three-day back-to-school tax holiday Aug. 7-9. Of the money set aside for teacher raises, $400 million will help districts get to or near the $47,500 starting teacher pay level Gov. DeSantis requested. The other $100 million will used to raise pay for veteran teachers. The $22.7 billion education budget represents a $776 million increase from this year’s, and the per-student spending level of $7,839 is about $184 more. “We landed at a place where everybody won,” said state Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island. “This is the year of the teacher. The governor promised it, the promise was kept.” A vote is scheduled Thursday. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics. Politico Florida. Gannett Capital Bureau.

Legislative winners, losers: This year’s legislative session produced teacher raises, more money for vouchers, a requirement for panic alarms in all schools, measures to protect student-athletes from heat illnesses, allowing compensation for college athletes and a boost for Bright Futures scholarships. But things fell by the wayside too, including teacher bonuses, school safety updates that would have set a minimum age for arrests, a promise of fewer tests for students, early education reform, required moments of silence, school board term limits and more. GradebookSun Sentinel. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. The group Stand With Parkland is demanding a special legislative session to pass a school safety bill. Florida Politics.

Scholarships expanding: The Florida Senate approved a bill expanding and aligning two state scholarship programs that provide education choice to economically disadvantaged students, and it now goes to Gov. DeSantis for his expected signature. H.B. 7067 increases the allowed annual enrollment growth for the Family Empowerment Scholarship from 7,000 to 28,000 and aligns some of its income eligibility provisions with the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. About 126,000 economically disadvantaged students are enrolled in private K-12 schools under the two programs this year. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer both programs. redefinED. Orlando Sentinel.

Parkland parent added to board: The Florida Senate has approved Gov. DeSantis’ appointment of Ryan Petty to the Florida Board of Education. Petty’s daughter Alaina was among 17 people killed in the 2018 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Petty was a member of the state panel that analyzed the shootings and made recommendations to the Legislature for changes, and also ran for the Broward County School Board but lost. All 23 Senate Republicans voted to approve the appointment, and all 16 Democrats present voted against it, with some arguing that he was rejected by voters in his own county and made several public remarks about blacks, Jews, Muslims and gay people that they considered insulting or demeaning. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Phoenix.

Property tax measure: Indian River County voters are likely be asked in August to renew a half-mill property tax, first approved in 2016, to help the school district, said Superintendent David Moore. The extra $9 million a year the tax generates would continue to be used for teacher retention, technology, infrastructure and career and technical programs. If approved by the school board, the tax renewal would be on the Aug. 18 primary ballot. TCPalm.

School in crisis: Three Deerfield High School students have died in the past two months, one in a shooting and two by suicide. Their classmates say the stunning events have left them feeling adrift and alone, and parents say their children are not getting the help they need from school officials and counselors. “It’s surface-level care,” said Mari Middleton, whose daughter Alexis Marion walked in front of a train. “I think the school board and the school means well. I think the city commissioners mean well. The problem isn’t the people on top — it’s the boots on the ground. There’s a lot of children in need that are not actually getting meaningful services.” Sun Sentinel.

Teacher’s firing urged: The Broward County School Board is expected to vote this week on the district’s recommendation to fire a teacher who has made “offensive, insulting or embarrassing” comments to students, such as, “I’m surprised your parents haven’t thrown you to a wall.” Susan Oyer, 53, is a social studies teacher at Boca Raton Middle School. She has worked for the district since 1998. Sun Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: The Covid-19 pandemic challenges our health system, schools and society at large. Difficult days, weeks and months lie ahead. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. It’s going to be hard to turn out an army of computer coders from STEM programs if students still cannot read, write or perform basic math operations. James Elmore, Ocala Star-Banner. Who in the Florida Department of Education is behind a rule that is in direct contradiction to legislation that reportedly was supported, if not initiated, by the commissioner of education? And more importantly, what is he going to do about it? Bob Halladay, Florida Politics. Here is a road map for education leaders to follow to keep teachers, students and their families safe from the coronavirus. Dr. Mario Ramirez, The 74.

Student enrichment: Nineteen Spanish River High School juniors and seniors are among 14 groups chosen to present their scientific projects at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Eurekafest in Washington, D.C., this June. The Palm Beach County team developed a wearable sepsis-detecting device for hospital patients that would provide early alerts when sepsis is setting in. Sun Sentinel.

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