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.
Bright Futures boost: The Florida Legislature’s Joint Legislative Budget Commission will consider adding $25.3 million into the Bright Futures scholarship program when it meets next week. The Legislature allocated $520 million in the budget for the program, but the latest projections show an increase in the number of students qualifying, boosting the cost to $545 million. The scholarships provide full tuition and fees for students who qualify as Academic Scholars in Florida high schools and colleges, and 75 percent for Medallion scholars. News Service of Florida.
Hope Scholarships: When the Legislature launched a state scholarship for students who were bullied in public schools, it expected as many as 7,300 students to apply for money that would allow them to attend private schools or use for transportation to another public school. But only 60 Hope Scholarships have been awarded in three months, even though $4 million was raised in the first month from car-buyers who chose to direct $105 from state taxes into the scholarship fund. Some are blaming the “laborious application process.” Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, administers the scholarships. Orlando Sentinel.