DeSantis urges bold action on teacher pay, sales tax hike headed to a vote, schools’ futures and more
School safety grand jury: Florida’s Supreme Court unanimously approves Gov. Ron DeSantis’ call for a statewide grand jury to investigate whether schools are following safety requirements and to “make recommendations about what some of the various school districts could do better.” The grand jury will also investigate whether school districts have accepted state school safety money but failed to make improvements, and whether school officials are underreporting criminal incidents to the state. Eighteen jurors will be drawn from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, and meet for a year. Broward Chief Circuit Judge Jack Tuter will preside. Sun Sentinel. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. WCTV. WWSB. WFSU. Florida Phoenix. Associated Press.
Alternative discipline: The Broward County School Board will consider making changes in the district’s Promise program, the controversial alternative discipline program that’s been under fire since the deadly shooting last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The state commission that investigated the massacre said the program had no bearing on the shooting, but criticized it as creating a lenient system in which students committing their 10th minor offense could be treated the same as ones committing their first. Among the proposed changes: Students will get fewer chances to repeat the program, and law enforcement will be alerted about the students who enter the program. Sun Sentinel.
Educator bonuses: Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing to almost double the amount of money the state spends on the Best and Brightest program to reward teachers and principals. The nearly $423 million would provide bonuses of at least $9,000 to about 45,000 teachers who are rated as “highly effective,” though 120,000 teachers who got bonuses last year wouldn’t under this plan, and up to $6,500 for principals who create “classroom environments to help students thrive.” And college entrance exam scores will no longer be considered when determining eligibility. DeSantis also wants to spent $10 million a year to pay the college tuition and forgive loans for prospective teachers who make a commitment to teach in Florida for five years, and create a “bad actors” list of failed charter schools so they can’t reopen somewhere in Florida. Reaction to the proposal is mixed. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. WBBH. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. WFOR. Lakeland Ledger. St. Augustine Record. WUSF. WCTV.
Common Core: Gov. DeSantis is calling for an end to the state’s use of Common Core standards, but they will remain in place at least through Jan. 1, 2020, Florida Department of Education officials announced. That’s when the department is expected to propose a new set of standards, which will then be presented to the Legislature for consideration. DOE officials say school districts should continue to follow state law and board rules regarding Common Core until further notice. WPTV. WTXL. WTSP.
Education funding: The Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations is preparing to take a closer look at how state money is divided among school districts, including hiring a consulting group to make recommendations on adjusting the school-funding formula. That formula, known as the Florida Education Finance Program, uses several factors to decide how the $21 billion-plus is distributed among districts. The focus may begin with the price-level index, which tries to factor in the cost of living differences of districts. Some districts have complained that the current formula shifts money from poorer districts to wealthier, urban ones. News Service of Florida.
Bright Futures boost: The Legislature’s Joint Legislative Budget Commission added $25.3 million to the Bright Futures scholarship program on Thursday. Last spring, lawmakers budgeted $520 million for the program, which offers full and partial college scholarships for high-achieving students. But a study in November indicated an increase in students eligible would push the amount needed to about $545 million, prompting the increase approved for the fund. News Service of Florida.
Scholarships waiting list: Gov. Ron DeSantis is calling on the Legislature to provide more funding for state K-12 tax credit scholarships so the wait-list of 13,000 students can be reduced. DeSantis, speaking on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Piney Grove Boys Academy in Lauderdale Lakes, says eliminating the backlog “will be a priority for me in this next legislative session.” About 100,000 low-income students use the scholarships to attend private schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarship. GateHouse. Florida Politics. redefinED. WPLG. Orlando Weekly. Miami Herald. Florida is one of four states making school choice a priority. The 74.
School shooting book: Forty-three students and teachers who survived the massacre last February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School collaborate on a book that shares their experiences and feelings from that day. Sarah Lerner, a journalism teacher, says writing Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories was a way to fight the tragedy with words and activism. Sun Sentinel. Associated Press.
Appointments retracted: Gov. Ron DeSantis has rescinded the appointments of Andrew Pollack and Thomas Grady to the Florida Board of Education. Pollack, whose daughter Meadow and 16 others died in last February’s shooting attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, and Grady had been appointed by former Gov. Rick Scott in the final days of his term. Pollack says he thinks DeSantis will reappoint him. DeSantis also canceled 44 other late Scott appointments. WLRN. Sun Sentinel. Gradebook. Fort Myers News-Press.
Audit requested: An audit of the Manatee County School District’s home-school records shows improved accounting of students who withdrew from traditional schools, but no follow-up to see if those students were actually being home-schooled. Another audit to answer that question is being planned. The state Department of Education has accused interim Superintendent Cynthia Saunders of inflating graduation rates by having district employees code students who were dropping out to pursue a GED degree as “withdrawn to home education.” Saunders could be sanctioned by the DOE. Bradenton Herald. Manatee County School Board members say they were not informed by Saunders or by former superintendent Diana Greene that Saunders was under investigation by the state. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.