Dueling groups in suit: Two groups of Florida’s 1997-1998 Constitution Revision Commission have gotten approval to file supporting briefs for opposite positions on the question of what the commission meant when it put a constitutional amendment on the 1998 ballot requiring the state to provide a high-quality system of public schools. Voters approved that amendment. One group, calling themselves “framers” of the amendment, asked the court to allow it to file a brief in support of those bringing the suit that claims the state is failing in its constitutional duty. Another group got approval last week to file a brief that supports the state’s position, the two previous court rulings against the plaintiffs, Citizens for Strong Schools, and argues that the Supreme Court should not consider the opinions of individual members of the 37-member CRC. News Service of Florida.
Teacher recruiting: The Orange County School District is confronting teacher shortages with an innovative program that puts University of Central Florida graduates with science degrees but no education coursework or training in a veteran teacher’s classroom for a semester to learn how to manage a classroom and make lesson plans. School officials hope the paid apprentice prepares those graduates for success. Adam LaMee, the teacher-in-residence at UCF’s Physics Teacher Preparation Program, calls the program “fantastic” and hopes other districts will copy it. Orlando Sentinel. The Hillsborough County School District now has just a couple-dozen teaching jobs open at its 50 lowest-performing schools, down from 200 a week ago. Tampa Bay Times.
Teacher of the year: Joy Prescott, a 4th-grade math teacher at Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School in Glades County, is named Florida teacher of the year. She wins $20,000 and will be the state’s Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education for the next year. The other finalists were Kyle Dencker, a computer science teacher at Timber Creek High School in Orange County; Samantha Neff, a math coach at Idyllwilde Elementary School in Seminole County; Patrick Farley, a 3rd- and 4th-grade gifted teacher at Crystal Lake Elementary School in Martin County; and Molly Winters Diallo, a social science teacher at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School in Miami-Dade County. Each wins $15,000. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Department of Education.
School security: Only 35 of the 140 applicants for armed guardians jobs in Broward County schools pass the first screening test. The district says it needs to hire at least 80. Fort Lauderdale City Manager Lee Feldman says based on his experience with his city’s police department, only about five of those 35 candidates will survive further screenings. He says most candidates fail the psychological tests. Sun-Sentinel. Only 24 of the eventual 107 school safety assistants will be in Duval County classrooms when students return to schools Aug. 13 because of hiring and training delays, say district officials. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. Insuring each security guard the Brevard County School District will cost only $150 a year, says Mark Langdorf, director of risk management for the district. District officials say they need 28 guards, so the insurance premium will be $4,200. Florida Today. The Leon County School District’s patchwork of protection for schools will test the state law demand that every school have an armed officer every day. Tallahassee Democrat. Lawrence Leon, the former chief of the Palm Beach County School District’s police department, will keep his $137,732 salary even though his job now is patrolling Jupiter Farms Elementary School. Palm Beach Post. The city of North Miami Beach is partnering with the Miami-Dade County School District to place a resource officer in all schools located in the city. The agreement adds officers at the two elementary schools; the middle and high schools were already covered. WTVJ. Several of the 13 Manatee County charter schools still do not have a plan for school security. Bradenton Herald.
Backlash on discipline backtracking: Broward County school officials face a torrent of criticism after the revelation that confessed school shooter Nikolas Cruz had been referred to a disciplinary program that promotes alternatives to arrests and suspensions. Superintendent Robert Runcie had previously denied any connection between Cruz and the PROMISE program. Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, called it a “stunning revelation” and says “the Broward County School Board has failed in its responsibility as an oversight body.” School officials say Cruz apparently did not complete the three-day program. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Associated Press. Politico Florida.
Choice strategizing: School-choice advocates meet to discuss ways to get their message out during a time of polarization and a perceived “Trump effect” that could change the balance of political power in November. “Our coalition is holding together,” says Democratic pollster Deborah Beck. “It is under strain.” She says school choice may be losing support among urbanites and people of color. Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels says emphasizing civil rights could help shore up support. “I can’t think of a more crystalline example of social justice than enabling poor families to have the same rights and same power and same decision-making over their children’s education than rich people,” he says. “If that is not just, what is?” redefinED.
School security: The Brevard County School Board is expected to decide tonight whether to move forward with a security program that trains and arms school employees who volunteer. Teachers and students don’t want to arm school employees, while parents narrowly support the idea, according to a survey by the Brevard County School District. That split was reflected in the discussion at Monday’s town meeting in Titusville. Florida Today. The Broward County School Board is expected to decide today whether to ask voters to increase property taxes to raise money for school security. The tax would generate $93 million a year. School officials say some of it would be used for teacher bonuses. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach County school officials are trying to get a handle on how to proceed in protecting their schools. They say sprawling schools built with open campuses will make the creation of a single point of entry expensive. WPTV. The Manatee County School District will pitch a compromise plan to the county commission today to pay for putting a resource officer in every school. WFLA. The Pasco County School District has received 125 applications for one of the 53 armed security guard openings. Fifty-six people have applied for the job as director of safety and security. Gradebook.
Education bills: Both legislative chambers approve a sweeping K-12 education bill. If signed by Gov. Rick Scott, the bill would create the Hope Scholarship for students who are bullied or the victims of violence, give money to 3rd-graders to pay for tutors to help them pass the state reading test, require every school to prominently display the state motto “In God We Trust,” decertify teachers unions when membership falls below 50 percent of eligible employees, place restrictions on local school districts’ ability to close charter schools, and use sales taxes from commercial properties to expand the Gardiner and tax credit scholarship programs, among other things. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the Gardiner and tax credit scholarship programs. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. redefinED. Gainesville Sun. Politico Florida. GateHouse. Here’s a breakdown of what’s in the nearly 200-page education bill. redefinED. Both chambers also pass the higher education bill, which permanently boosts the amounts students can receive if they qualify for Bright Futures scholarships, among other provisions. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. GateHouse. Other school choice issues are up for votes this week. redefinED.
School safety bill: The Florida Senate narrowly passes the school safety bill, but only after senators strip the provision to arm teachers. Instead, districts that choose to participate in the $67 million marshals program can have other personnel – such as custodians or principals – trained and armed. Another $97 million would be set aside for more school resource officers. Overall, the bill provides $400 million for school safety, including $69 million for mental health assistance.into mental health and school safety programs, $18.3 million for mobile crisis teams working with the Department of Children and Families and the schools and $500,000 for mental health first aid training. The bill also bans the sale of bump stocks, raises the legal age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21, and imposes a three-day waiting period on the purchase of all rifles and shotguns. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel. GateHouse. Tallahassee Democrat. Associated Press. WLRN. House leaders express disappointment over the Senate’s decision to not arm teachers. Politico Florida. Sheriffs say the amount set aside for arming school personnel is too much, and the amount for more school officers is too little. Tampa Bay Times. The Broward County School Board is expected to approve an agreement today to add school resource officers at four more schools. Sun-Sentinel. Monday is the first day for every Manatee school to have a resource officer. Bradenton Herald. Bay County School Superintendent Bill Husfelt says everything the Legislature is talking about is for next year. “I’m worried about today,” he says. “I have called the governor’s office several times and suggested they put the National Guard out in front of schools that don’t have armed security, since they’re already being paid.” Panama City News Herald.