Charter schools: Included in the Florida Board of Education’s budget wish list for the Legislature is a request for an extra $10 million for charter school construction. If it’s approved, it would boost the amount available for charter schools to $155 million. The money comes from Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO), whose collection is expected to total $1.18 billion this year. But money is still tight because that total has to cover debt payments on bonds issued by public school districts and universities, universities have already requested an extra $64 million, and there are unfinished projects totaling $732 million. redefinED. A group of Okaloosa County parents are making plans to build a charter high school in Destin. “We are moving full steam ahead right now. We are looking for donations to actually put our money where our mouth is and get this school built,” says Prebble Ramswell, a member of the committee. The anticipated opening is August 2020. WMBB.
Pregame prayer case: A federal appeals court will hear arguments Wednesday about the constitutionality of religious schools broadcasting a prayer on a stadium loudspeaker before playing a football game. Three years ago, before a state championship game between Tampa Cambridge Christian and Jacksonville’s University Christian School, Cambridge asked permission to use the public broadcast system to pray. The Florida High School Athletic Association denied the request, prompting a legal challenge from Cambridge Christian. Last year a federal judge backed the FHSAA, which argued state law did not require or permit the organization to promote a “sectarian prayer through its state-run public-address system.” Cambridge Christian argued the denial was a violation of its free speech rights. News Service of Florida.
School security: As the Palm Beach County School District’s police force welcomes a new chief, the previous two chiefs are still on the payroll. Frank Kitzerow was hired as the new chief last week, but the outgoing chief, Lawrence Leon, will remain in the department for at least another year and Jim Kelly, who preceded Leon, has been hired back as a consultant. Also to be sorted is how the district will provide armed officers in all schools. The expanded 160-member police force is at least 75 officers short of covering all schools, and the sheriff has refused to make deputies available on overtime. Palm Beach Post. The mother of one of the students killed in the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is being reassigned to the job of director of school safety and security. April Schentrup, mother of Carmen, has been principal at Pembroke Pines Elementary School. Sun-Sentinel. Sheriff’s officials don’t believe the state mandate requiring an armed officer in all schools applies to summer school, but will provide some coverage. Citrus County Chronicle. The Monroe County School District is proposing to upgrade mental health services to students by hiring two fulltime social workers, expanding a contract with the Guidance Care Center to provide more mental health counselors, and reinstating a Medicaid specialist to seek reimbursements for services. Key West Citizen.
School board elections: School board races are set at districts around the state: Broward County, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Seminole, Orange, Lake, Osceola, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, Brevard, Lee, Sarasota, Manatee, Manatee, Leon, Alachua, Marion, Volusia, Flagler, St. Johns, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Collier, Escambia, Santa Rosa, Walton, Okaloosa, Monroe, Citrus. Duval County School Board chairwoman Paula Wright will challenge incumbent Kim Daniels in the Democratic primary for the District 14 seat in the Florida House. Florida Times-Union.
No special session: There won’t be a special legislative session to reconsider education funding, according to the latest polling results from Department of State officials. Polling doesn’t end until Thursday, but already 52 Republican members of the House have voted against having a special session, while 36 Democrats voted for it. Three-fifths of each chamber must support the request, made by two Democratic representatives, to require a special session. So supporters needed 70 votes in the House, and the most they can now get is 65. Eleven senators have voted yes, and nine have voted no. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida.
H.B. 7069 lawsuit: Ten members of the 1998 Constitution Revision Commission are asking to file a friend of the court brief on behalf of the school districts challenging the constitutionality of the Legislature’s 2017 education law, H.B. 7069. The 10 say they are the framers of the 1998 ballot measure that inserted a clause into the constitution that requires the state to provide a high-quality system of public schools, and they want to convey their intent behind the amendment to the Florida Supreme Court. Among the 10 are former attorney general Bob Butterworth, former Supreme Court justice Gerald Kogan and former speaker of the House Jon Mills. The state is objecting. News Service of Florida.
School taxes: The Orange County Commission approves a request from the school board to place a special school property tax referendum on the Aug. 28 primary ballot. The tax has been approved by voters in 2010 and 2014, and a yes vote in August would keep it in place another four years. School officials estimate the tax would raise $622 million through 2023, and the money would be used for teacher raises, academic programs, the arts and extracurricular activities. Orlando Sentinel. Martin County commissioners approve the school district’s request to put two tax measures on upcoming ballots. A half-mill property tax hike for teacher pay and security goes onto the Aug. 28 ballot, It would raise about $11 million a year for four years. A half-cent sales tax increase for school construction will go to voters Nov. 6. It would raise about $112 million over seven years. TCPalm.
School security: A St. Petersburg Police Department spokeswoman says officers are being pulled off the street to comply with the new state law requiring a resource officer in every school. “I have no choice,” says chief Tony Holloway. “Kids’ safety is first.” Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. Lake County School Board member Bill Mathias suggests that a temporary increase of a half-cent in the sales tax should be considered to help pay for security upgrades at the county’s public schools. He estimates the tax, which would have to be approved by voters, would raise about $15 million a year. Daily Commercial. The Sarasota and North Port police departments agree with the sheriff’s office that the Sarasota County School District should pay the full cost for school resource officers. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Hendry County School Board says it wants further study and input from the community before deciding whether to go ahead with the Legislature’s school security plan to arm school personnel. WBBH. Legislators and Brevard County residents clash at a town forum over the issue of arming school employees. Florida Today. A panel of students, teachers and activists discusses school shootings and security at a town meeting in Sarasota. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Forty-three percent of all U.S. schools now have armed guards, up from 31 percent from 10 years ago, according to a survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. Associated Press.
Community schools: The Leon County School District is moving ahead with a plan to turn Sable Palm Elementary into a community school, which combines academic, health and social services in an effort to boost student performance. Partners in the project are the school district, Florida State University, the Children’s Home Society and Florida A&M University’s College of Education. WFSU. Wilkinson Junior High School will become Clay County’s first community school. The school district is collaborating with the Children’s Home Society, St. Johns River State College and Baptist Health and Wolfson Children’s Hospital. WOKV.
Teacher bonuses: More than 163,500 Florida teachers qualify for bonuses under the state’s Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, according to Florida Department of Education data. The bonuses range from $800 to $7,200. More than 9,000 will get the top awards. They qualify by being rated highly effective and scoring in the top 20 percent when they took the ACT or SAT. Also receiving bonuses of $4,000 or $5,000 are 638 principals. The state will spend almost $215 million on the bonuses, which will be paid by April 1. The bonus program was created in 2015 but has been controversial, and the Legislature is considering bills this year to amend it. Orlando Sentinel.
More on Nikolas Cruz: Suspected school shooter Nikolas Cruz would plead guilty to killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland to avoid the death penalty, according to his lawyer. Sun-Sentinel. The FBI apologizes for not following up a tip in January that Cruz may have been planning a school shooting. Miami Herald. Associated Press. The Florida Department of Children and Families investigated Cruz after he made threatening posts on social media, but determined he was a low risk to harm himself or others. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Cruz was regularly in trouble for cussing, insulting people and disrupting classes when he attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, according to his disciplinary file. Sun-Sentinel. The couple who took Cruz into their home after his mother died say, “We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know. We didn’t see this side of him.” A longtime friend also called Cruz “lonely and ostracized.” Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald.
Other developments: Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie says the district is proposing to tear down Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Legislators agree. Runcie also says the school will remain closed through at least Wednesday. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. A hospital spokesperson says the last critically injured victim of the shooting is improving. Sun-Sentinel. Stoneman Douglas principal Ty Thompson posts an emotional video message for the community. Sun-Sentinel. These are the heroes of the massacre. Miami Herald. CNN. More than nine out of 10 U.S. public schools now hold regular active shooter drills. Vox. An expert on school security warns officials to avoid “knee-jerk” reactions to improving security, and lists several things districts can do now to lead to safer schools. New Orleans Times-Picayune.