Funding fears: While school officials applaud voters for approving 18 ballot measures in August and November to help pay for expenses at schools, some fear that those approvals will embolden the Legislature to cut back funding and lean more on local tax efforts. That could lead to funding disparities based on where students live. “It’s a grave concern,” says Andrea Messina, head of the Florida School Boards Association. “The more we rely on local dollars to provide for educational needs, the greater the disparity could be.” Gradebook.
School board elections: When the Florida Constitution Revision Commission proposed an amendment that would have imposed term limits on school board members, critics said it was unnecessary because of natural turnover. The Florida Supreme Court removed the amendment from the budget to make the argument moot. So how did the elections turn out? Across the state, 290 school board seats were open. Fifty-nine incumbents chose not to seek re-election. Eighteen incumbents who did run lost in the August primary, and seven more lost in the general election. Meanwhile, 73 incumbents and 53 newcomers were elected to boards without drawing opponents. Gradebook.
Education amendment: A proposed constitutional amendment that bundles three education issues will appear on the November ballot. The Constitution Revision Commission, in a 27-10 vote, approves Proposal 6003, which calls for eight-year term limits on school board members, gives the authority to approve charter schools to an entity other than local school boards, and requires civics to be taught in public schools. It was one of eight amendments approved on Monday. Another education proposal, which would have allowed “high-performing” public school districts to apply for an exemption from following some state laws and regulations, as charter schools can now, was rejected by the CRC. There will be 13 amendment proposals on the ballot. Each must be approved by 60 percent of voters to take effect. Miami Herald. News Service of Florida. Gradebook. redefinED. Orlando Sentinel. Associated Press. Politico Florida.
Education funding: The state’s school superintendents say that if legislators are going to be called for a special session on gambling, they should also reconsider funding for education. The Florida Association of District School Superintendents wants the Legislature to increase the base allocation by $152 per student, which would cost the state about $300 million. It also wants to be able to use money from the program that calls for arming school employees to instead hire school resource officers. A previous request by the group for a special session to take another look at education funding was denied. Gradebook.
Marching students: Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland lead a march of about 800,000 people in Washington, D.C., to call for stricter regulation of guns and safety in schools. Seventeen people were killed in a shooting at the school Feb. 14, launching the #NeverAgain movement and marches in Washington and around the world on Saturday. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. New York Times. Associated Press. Tribune News Service. Politico. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. Naples Daily News. The 74. Education Week. Students around the state also participate in local marches. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-Union. Politico Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. Pensacola News Journal. Florida Today. Fort Myers News-Press. TCPalm. Naples Daily News. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton Herald. Gainesville Sun. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. Northwest Florida Daily News. Daily Commercial. Citrus County Chronicle. Villages-News. Key West Citizen. The story of how Stoneman Douglas High students turned their grief into action is the subject of a documentary called 39 Days. CBS News. What’s next for the Stoneman Douglas student-activists? Miami Herald. USA Today. An online poll shows that two-thirds of U.S. high school students think gun laws should be stricter. Orlando Sentinel.
School security: Another battle is shaping up between school districts and the state over the requirements of the new school safety law. Districts say the Legislature didn’t provide enough funding for putting an armed officer in every school, and there isn’t enough time to comply by the start of the next school year. “People want school security, right now,” says Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association. “But just having this legislation in place doesn’t mean anything is going to improve right away.” Sun-Sentinel. GateHouse. Tampa Bay Times. Gov. Rick Scott sends a letter to every school superintendent and school board with a list of things they must do to comply with the new Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. Florida Today. WCJB. A school safety pilot program developed by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd in 2016 is incorporated into Florida’s controversial new law, and is the basis for Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey’s program. It calls for arming teachers and other school workers with concealed weapons at schools. Florida Today. Jewish school leaders in south Florida praise state leaders for setting aside $2 million in the budget to harden non-public schools. Sun-Sentinel. The Leon County School District denies a request from a charter school company to provide Governors Charter Academy in Tallahassee a school resource officer by April 1. Tallahassee Democrat. Gradebook. A company is testing a school alert system at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce that initiates a loud siren and strobe lights to alert and disrupt in an active-shooter situation. TCPalm. The Clay County School District begins a series of community meetings about school safety today. Florida Times-Union. St. Johns County school and law enforcement officials struggle with an increased sense of anxiety in schools. St. Augustine Record.
Education Equality Index: Florida schools have the second-smallest gap in academic performance between poor and wealthier students, according to the first-ever Education Equality Index. New Mexico had the smallest gap of the 35 states evaluated. Hialeah had the narrowest gap among Florida cities and also ranked 1st among the 100 largest cities from those 35 states. Miami was 3rd nationally, Orlando 16th, Tampa 22nd, Jacksonville 36th and St. Petersburg 82nd. St. Petersburg was the only Florida city whose gap widened from 2014 to 2015. Here are the report’s key findings. Education Cities.
Education on trial: Hernando County School Superintendent Lori Romano testifies that the state’s financial support of classroom technology is “absolutely horrible.” Romano was testifying in the Citizens for Strong Schools v. Board of Education, a civil trial in which the state is accused of not fulfilling its constitutional mandate to provide a quality education for all public school students. Gradebook.
Chiefs for Change: Three Florida superintendents have been appointed to Chiefs for Change, a national advocacy group that promotes peer-to-peer advising, diversity in school officials and recommending innovative policies. State superintendents selected are Barbara Jenkins of Orange County, Robert Avossa of Palm Beach and Desmond Blackburn of Brevard County. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. Chiefs for Change. Florida Today.
Sales tax hike: The Palm Beach County Commission agrees to join with the school board in asking voters for a sales tax hike of a penny for the next 10 years. If approved in November, the tax hike is expected to raise about $2.7 billion. The school district would get 48 percent, with 27.5 percent going to the county, 18.5 percent to the cities, 4.5 percent for cultural projects and 1.5 percent for economic development. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel.
Pinch leads to arrest: A 12-year-old student at Milwee Middle School in Longwood is arrested and accused of battery for pinching a boy’s butt at school two weeks ago. The girl was suspended, but the mother of the boy told officers she also wanted to press criminal charges. WKMG. Palm Beach Post. WFTV.