Free lunches threatened: Almost 200,000 Florida students could lose automatic access to free or reduced-price school lunches if a new Trump administration proposal to limit the number of people enrolled in the federal food stamps program (SNAP) is enacted, according to the Florida Policy Institute. Hardest hit would be Okeechobee County, where 83 percent of students are now automatically eligible. “Once these SNAP benefits are pulled, it will drastically impact the kids who are accessing free lunches at school, and it will put that much more of a burden on families that are already struggling,” said Paco Vélez, president and CEO of the hunger relief organization Feeding South Florida. Miami Herald. An anonymous donor has given $1,500 to the Leon County School District to help cover $4,000 in unpaid student lunch debts so far this school year. Tallahassee Democrat. About $11,000 in unpaid lunch fees are owed by Monroe County students. Key West Citizen.
Board term limits: Proposals that would limit terms for local school boards to eight years are introduced in the Legislature. State Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, and Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey in the Hills, introduced the resolutions (S.R. 274 and H.R. 229) that, if approved, would go on the 2020 ballot as a constitutional amendment. The Constitution Revision Commission attempted to put term limits on the ballot in November, but the proposal was bundled with two other items and was struck off by the Florida Supreme Court. The 60-day legislative session begins March 5. News Service of Florida. Gradebook.
Charter schools sue: Two Palm Beach County charter schools are suing the school district for a share of the revenue from a property tax increase approved by voters in November. The school board decided before the election that none of the money would go to charter schools, a decision that Palm Beach Maritime Academy and the Academy for Positive Learning contend violates state law. “Put simply, the money is required to follow the children, regardless of whether they attend public charter schools,” according to the lawsuit. Palm Beach Post.
School security: St. Petersburg officials reverse themselves and say they will not take 25 police officers off the streets to work as resource officers in the city’s elementary schools. City officials point to the cost, more than $3 million, and a reluctance to remove officers from their beats. The decision means the Pinellas County School District will hire security guards for those roles until the district can expand its own police department. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. The Flagler County School Board approves an agreement with the sheriff to split the $1.8 million cost to increase the number of resource officers in schools to 13. Flagler Live. WJXT. A majority of Lake County students want the school district to arm school personnel, reinforce locks and doors in schools and integrate a mental health curriculum into their classes, according to a survey conducted by a student advisory committee. Daily Commercial. The Sarasota County School Board’s creation of an independent police force gets debated further at a Sarasota Republican Club meeting attended by supporters and critics of the decision. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
A school deputy’s pension: The Broward County sheriff’s deputy who took cover outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and waited while 17 people were shot to death is now receiving an $8,702.35-a-month-for-life pension from the state. Scot Peterson, 55, retired under fire eight days after the shootings in Parkland Feb. 14. Sun-Sentinel.
Charter schools: Sarasota County School Board members deny an application from a controversial charter school company. The plan to put Pinecrest Academy in the Palmer Ranch area drew an organized protest from people who criticized Academica, the management company behind the charter school. Board members framed their decision on the larger issue of public education’s future, and also made the distinction between Miami-based Academica and the homegrown charters already in the county. “I don’t think it’s a good use of our tax dollars to turn it around and give it to a for-profit company that’s out of the county,” said board member Shirley Brown. The company is expected to appeal the decision to the state appeals commission. A second charter school application, for the K-5 Dreamers Academy with an English-Spanish immersion program, was withdrawn. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. redefinED. After 22 years of operation, the Escambia Charter School is closing at the end of the school year. The school in Gonzalez has struggled financially for years because of declining enrollment, according to school district officials. WEAR. WKRG. NorthEscambia.com.