Senate education plan: Florida Senate Republicans release their own plan to change the state’s education policies. Senators want to start a Family Empowerment Scholarship to reduce the 14,000-student list of low-income students waiting for a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. Their proposal is similar to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed Equal Opportunity Scholarship, but would be available only to students already in public schools. Senators also want to allow principals to reward high-impact teachers who don’t qualify for a bonus under the state’s bonuses plan, give teachers more time to pass the teacher certification exam, and expand a program that offers grants to schools in low-income communities so they can offer health care, social services and other aid to students. The proposals will be in a single bill that will be introduced the first week of the legislative session, which starts March 5. News Service of Florida. Gradebook. Florida Phoenix. redefinED. Politico Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU.
School shooting trial: South Florida Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer says she wants to start the trial of the accused Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter in January. Nikolas Cruz, 20, is charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the mass shooting just over a year ago. If convicted, he faces the death penalty. Sun Sentinel. Associated Press. Miami Herald. WLRN.
K-12 funding concerns: Chief state economist Amy Baker tells House Appropriations Committee members that the three-year financial outlook for the state won’t cover expected budget growth in education and other critical areas. She suggests that the Legislature’s decisions on state spending and setting local property tax rates for K-12 education are the key for balancing spending, and is urging lawmakers to be cautious about spending projected surpluses. Gradebook.
School security law: Members of the Senate Education Committee say they expect to tweak the school safety act passed last spring, both to clarify the law and make it more manageable. Several speakers say they oppose any changes that would allow willing teachers to carry guns into schools, as recommended by the state panel that investigated the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last Feb. 14. Politico Florida. Gradebook. The director of the state’s Office of Safe Schools, Damien Kelly, urges more fencing and single points of entry and better security systems for schools during testimony before the committee. Florida Politics.
Return to Stoneman Douglas: The first day of school at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland was bittersweet for students who lived through the massacre Feb. 14, with student emotions mixed with hope for the future but weighted by the grief of the past. “That’s something I’ve been wrestling with,” said 14-year-old sophomore Alexa Goel, who saw her first body on that dark day and had to run for her life. “Not wanting to let it go, but also moving forward with my life.” Security was tight, but even that wasn’t reassuring for some students. “There’s literally no place that I am every day that I feel 100 percent safe and the thought doesn’t go through my head that someone could come in with a gun,” said 15-year-old Samantha Deitsch. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WLRN. Palm Beach Post. Associated Press.
School security problems: The Florida Legislature shortchanged the state’s school districts by not providing enough money to pay for the security measures it mandated, says Damien Kelly, executive director of the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools. “All 67 sheriffs are on the same page. They don’t think the funding is where it needs to be,” says Kelly. Orlando Sentinel. Fort Lauderdale police officers filled in to guard schools in the city on opening day Wednesday, just a day after the Broward County School District informed the city it was short of armed guards for 13 schools. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis calls the district’s last-minute plea for help “disappointing.” Sun-Sentinel. Despite the focus on school security, Broward County summer schools had no security presence. Miami Herald. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Sheriff Jerry Demings trade accusations about who’s at fault for a shortage of deputies to cover county schools on opening day. Orlando Sentinel. Safe Schools director Damien Kelly says the new app FortifyFL will be available in two weeks. It will allow people to anonymously report suspicious activities in schools. Associated Press. News Service of Florida.
Lowest performers: Sixty-four Florida elementary schools are placed on the “persistently low-performing” list, and with 13, Hillsborough County has more than twice as many as any other state school district. Last year the district had 20 schools on the list. State law defines “persistently low performing” schools as those that receive a school grade lower than C from the state for three straight years. The designation opens the way for charter school companies to apply for money from the state to open schools in the communities surrounding the low-performing schools under the “Schools of Hope” provision of the 2017 education law, H.B. 7069. Gradebook.
Polling prompts tax hike vote: Palm Beach school officials decided to ask voters for a property tax hike after private polling showed strong support. Almost 60 percent of those polled support paying higher taxes to provide about $150 million a year extra for schools. Thirty-two percent oppose, and 9 percent are undecided. The measure is on the ballot Nov. 6. Palm Beach Post.
Parents’ school fears: More than a third of U.S. parents fear for their child’s safety at school, according to a poll commissioned by PDK International. Only 27 percent are confident that their school can deter a gunman. Education Week.