More students but less money is a possibility, dire budget warnings, graduation plans and more

More students, less money? Unemployment is rising rapidly, and school funding is likely to be falling just as quickly. That combination could have a devastating impact on K-12 school systems in Florida and the rest of the country as early as this fall, according to a study by Robert C. Enlow of EdChoice, an education reform organization in Indianapolis. During the great recession a decade ago, he notes, enrollment in private schools dropped almost 40 percent. If that’s repeated, even at a lower percentage, public schools will have many more students to educate at a time when there are less funds available. If 10 percent of private school students switch to public schools in Florida because of families’ financial hardships or drops in charitable giving that supports scholarships for students in need, state and local costs would go up $363 million, the study shows. If there’s a 30 percent migration, the costs would increase by almost $1.1 billion. EdChoice.

Funding cuts prediction: Broward County school Superintendent Robert Runcie predicts that state funding to K-12 schools could be cut by 20 to 25 percent because of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. “Disney is closed and they account for half of the 100 million visitors who come to the state of Florida. They’ve furloughed 43,000 workers,” Runcie said. “The cruise industry is shut down. Hotel occupancy rates are in the single digits. There’s going to be a significant impact on education.” He also suggested that districts in south Florida, which has been hit harder by the outbreak than other areas of the state, could still be teaching classes online at the start of the 2020-2021 school year. Broward officials have instituted a hiring freeze, and school board members are reviewing projects and contracts for possible savings. Sun Sentinel. Sarasota County school officials are tentatively proposing a $500 million operating budget for the 2020-2021 school year that anticipates a slight decrease in state funding and a 4 percent increase in local tax revenues. But board members were skeptical that local revenues will rise. “It defies logic for anyone who understands what is going on right now,” said Eric Robinson, who said the fallout from the pandemic will be worse than what happened in the great recession a decade ago. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Graduation plans: The Hillsborough County School District plans to hold high school commencement ceremonies between July 13 and 21 at the Florida State Fairgrounds. The new schedule assumes that the Centers for Disease Control guidance against mass gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic will have been lifted by then. If not, the district could turn to what it’s called the “last resort”: virtual ceremonies. WTVT. Florida Politics. Gradebook. WFLA. Manatee County school officials have postponed graduation ceremonies until the end of July or early August. “That’s the furthest we could push it out without getting into the start of the new school year,” said district spokesman Mike Barber. Graduations had been scheduled May 13-16. Bradenton Herald. Pasco County school Superintendent Kurt Browning said graduations are being planned for August, and a virtual celebration will be held at the end of May. Tampa Bay Times. Sarasota County school officials said they are also looking at dates in July for graduations, but they’ll also plan virtual ceremonies as backup. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lee County school officials are considering virtual graduation ceremonies for high school seniors or more traditional events in July with social distancing, or a combination of the two. Fort Myers News-Press. Virtual graduations are no longer being considered for Martin County high schools after students and parents objected. Instead, in-person graduations will be scheduled sometime this summer. TCPalm. Okaloosa County school officials will get feedback from students and their parents before deciding what form graduations will take. Northwest Florida Daily News. Several other west-central Florida school districts have update their graduation plans. WFTS.

National Spelling Bee canceled: The Scripps National Spelling Bee has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced on Tuesday. It’s the first time since 1945 that the competition hasn’t been held. “The bee has determined there is no clear path to safely set a new date in 2020,” Scripps said in a statement, noting “uncertainty around when public gatherings will be possible or advisable.” Bee organizers said the eligibility rules won’t be changed for the 2021 competition, so this year’s 8th-graders will not be able to compete next year. Associated Press.

Reopening Florida: Tuesday’s meetings of the Re-Open Florida Task Force centered on how soon, and how safely, businesses can start reopening. Gov. Ron DeSantis said reopening can begin soon because the state has “flattened the curve” and the health care system hasn’t been overly taxed. Some members of the task force are warning against moving too quickly. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. WPLG. WFSU.

More on the coronavirus: Child-care center operators say the state considers them essential businesses, but isn’t doing much to help them stay afloat during the pandemic. Miami Herald. Some Monroe County students still haven’t checked into online classes because they have no Internet access, according to school officials and teachers, but the ones who have access are reacting well despite the limitations of online learning. Key West Citizen. Should school districts evaluate teachers during the pandemic? Florida is one of at least eight states that has relaxed the usual requirements of forwarding evaluation data to the state. Education Week. Online learning has created a demand for electronic devices in schools that may not be met for months. The 74. U.S. students say online learning could be improved with more creativity and interaction. Education Dive. Teachers and school officials honor graduating seniors at Wellington High School with yard signs. Palm Beach Post. School districts, organizations and individuals continue to feed low-income students while schools are closed. Florida Department of AgricultureFlorida Department of EducationGradebook.

Scheduling changes abandoned: Lee County School District officials have backed off a proposal to change the schedules for high school students next fall after being deluged with complaints from students and their parents. The plan was to lengthen the school day by 15 minutes for most high schools and 51 minutes for two others as a way to improve student performance. Superintendent Greg Adkins said he delayed the plan because of the public outcry, and noted that the district must spend more time explaining to the community why a longer day is beneficial before it’s brought back for consideration in the fall. When high school students return, they’ll resume their eight-class block schedule with four, 84-minute classes each day. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK.

A request for flexibility: The Collier County School Board has approved a resolution asking voters in August to allow the board to cut the amount of money earmarked for capital expenses by 0.35 mills and increase funds for operating costs by the same amount. If it’s approved, it takes effect in July 2021. District officials said operating funds are are “inadequate to meet the district’s current needs.” Naples Daily News.

Attorneys waive fees for board: The attorneys that represented the Duval County School Board in a lawsuit against the Jacksonville City Council over its refusal to put a half-cent sales tax hike for the district on the ballot said it won’t charge a fee. Attorneys Scott Cairns, Audrey Moran and Hank Coxe worked for nearly nine months on behalf of the school board. The firm that defended the council against the lawsuit charged the city $208,000. The two sides eventually settled, and the council voted last week to place the tax hike on the November ballot. Florida Times-Union.

School construction: Crews have begun to prepare the campus of Westwood Middle School to house portable classrooms for Howard Bishop Middle School students who will be moved in next fall while their campus is being upgraded. Westwood was designated by the Alachua County School Board in March as a “swing school” while other schools are under construction. Bishop students will use the portables next fall, followed by Westwood students in the fall of 2021 and Littlewood Elementary in 2022. Gainesville Sun.

Top high schools: The School for Advanced Studies in Miami has been named the best high school in Florida and the fourth-best in the country in the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings. The Pine View School in Sarasota is second in the state and 24th in the nation, and the Young Women’s Preparatory Academy in Miami is third in Florida and 52nd in the United States. Ten Florida high schools made the national top 100 list. U.S. News & World Report. Miami Herald.

Teachers honored: Twenty-eight Palm Beach County teachers in seven categories have been named finalists for the 36th annual William T. Dwyer Awards for Excellence in Education presented by the Hanley Foundation. Winners will be announced May 5. Sun Sentinel.

Personnel moves: Grayson Kamm, most recently the Hillsborough County School District’s communications and media officer, has taken a job as chief communications officer for State Attorney Andrew Warren. Florida Politics.

Board being sued: Two families who say their disabled daughters were abused by a school bus attendant have filed a lawsuit against the Polk County School Board. The suit alleges that the school district should have been able to prevent the alleged abuse by Juanita Tappin in April and May 2019. Tappin was arrested and accused of child abuse and abusing a disabled adult, and is awaiting trial. WTVT.

Opinions on schools: Could K-12 public school enrollment go up and state funding go down due to the coronavirus pandemic? It’s hard to rule anything out in a world where oil producers pay people to carry away oil at a negative price. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Gov. DeSantis’ task force on reopening Florida appears to be rigged to reach a foregone conclusion on easing stay-at-home orders even as coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise. Tampa Bay Times. Going to classes is a ritual, an event, that is superior to talking to a computer screen. Diane Roberts, Florida Phoenix. The highest-octane change that state education leaders could make would be to integrate high-stakes assessments with particular curriculum content that students need to master. Ashley Berner, redefinED. Speaking at a virtual high school graduation ceremony will require more patience than advice. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. Online learning has equity issues, but it’s better than no learning at all. Robin Lake, The 74. When it comes right down to it, America’s most important supply chain is its national education system. We need to take that system at least as seriously as the supply chains for inanimate goods. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. A teacher writes that if schooling from home is becoming stressful and painful to children, it’s okay sometimes to just “blow it off” and do something else. Barbara Gottschalk, Chalkbeat.

Student enrichment: More on some of the 31 Florida high school seniors who are among the 620 U.S. semifinalists for 2020 U.S. Presidential Scholars program for their academic achievement. Up to 161 will be chosen as scholars sometime in May. U.S. Department of Education. Florida Today. Milkweed plants are handed out to 2nd-graders at Allamanda Elementary School for students to attract caterpillars and butterflies so they can observe metamorphosis, the cycle of life. Palm Beach Post.

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