The education lobby: With big money at stake and big changes in the works, lobbying for education in Tallahassee is a booming business. There are lobbyists for nearly every Florida school district, and several for some, for charter schools and private schools and companies that do education work and companies that administer scholarship programs that allow students to attend private schools with taxpayer money. Step Up for Students, which hosts this blog, uses 11 lobbyists, according to state records. “Everybody is trying to get a piece of that pie,” says Ronald Meyer, a lawyer who lobbies for the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union. Florida Phoenix.
Court and education: The new school voucher plan being considered in the Legislature could be a test case for the new-look Florida Supreme Court. A scholarship has been proposed that would draw from general revenue funds instead of tax credits. When a similar idea was enacted in 2006, the state Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional. But three of the justices who supported that decision are no longer on the court, having been replaced by conservatives who have previously supported voucher programs. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit and other state scholarship programs. GateHouse.
Arming teachers: A bill that would broaden the state’s 2018 armed guardian law and allow some teachers to carry guns in schools clears the Senate Education Committee in a 5-3 vote along party lines, with Republicans in the majority. Last year’s bill specifically prohibited the arming of teachers, but calls grew to change that after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission recommended arming willing teachers. Senate Bill 7030 also broadens state oversight over districts’ compliance with the law’s security rules, and would require sheriffs to train teachers in districts that opt in. The bill may get a hearing in the appropriations committee before heading to a Senate floor vote sometime after the Legislature opens March 5. News Service of Florida. GateHouse. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. Gradebook. Politico Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Politics.
Superintendent’s contract: Cynthia Saunders is approved as school superintendent in a 3-2 vote by the Manatee County School Board. The contract runs through June 30, 2021, and pays her $196,000 a year. She had been acting as interim superintendent since Diana Greene left last summer. Her ascension was delayed last year when Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart accused Saunders of manipulating student data to inflate the district’s graduation rate. Saunders is negotiating a settlement with the DOE in which she would neither admit nor deny the charge. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.