Legislative proposals: A Florida Senate committee approves two bills that would, if passed, have an impact on local school officials. S.B. 272 would require 60 percent approval for any tax initiative placed on a special election ballot. It would take effect July 1. Many school districts favor special elections when putting tax increases before voters. S.B. 192 would redefine when two public officials may meet privately to discuss public business. Under the state’s Sunshine Law, any meeting between public officials must be open to the public. Gradebook.
School loses scholarships: A private school in Melbourne is kicked out of the state’s three scholarships programs by the Florida Department of Education. Yakol Christian School, which had an enrollment of fewer than 20 students, was evicted for changing principals without notifying the state and for having no students on campus during a visit by a Step Up For Students representative. Step Up, which hosts this blog, administers two of the three state scholarship programs. Earlier this year, a pastor affiliated with the school was charged with lewd or lascivious molestation of a 15-year-old student. Orlando Sentinel.
Gifted school proposed: The Broward County School District is proposing the creation of a school exclusively for gifted students in grades 3-12. The school would be called the “Center for Intellectually Talented Youth,” and be located at Parkway Middle School in Fort Lauderdale. Supporters like the concept, but opponents argue that the proposal promotes segregation. Sun-Sentinel.
School appeals ruling: Cambridge Christian School of Tampa is appealing a court ruling that the state of Florida had the right to deny the school from broadcasting a prayer over the public address system before a 2015 state championship football game. Then-Florida High School Athletic Association director Roger Dearing told the schools that because the game was in a public facility, the prayer was “off-limits” under federal guidelines and court precedent. Cambridge Christian sued the FHSAA after the denial and lost at the district court level. Last week the school, with the help of the First Liberty Institute, filed an appeal of that decision with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Christian Post.
Teacher bonuses: The Florida House education committee approves a revamped teacher bonuses program that would broaden the qualifying requirements and also make principals eligible. Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., R-Hialeah Republican who chairs the House’s education budget committee, says the House could approve spending up to $125 million for the Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program. That’s about half of the amount the Senate is proposing. Miami Herald. WFSU. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel.
Teaching science: State Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, says his bill that sets criteria for classroom instruction materials is meant to require “quality instructional material” meeting Florida standards, and to provide a way for the public to challenge classroom materials they deem inappropriate. And, he notes, any curriculum changes would have to be approved by the local school board. Critics say the bill opens a door for climate change and evolution critics to influence how those issues are taught, or if they are taught at all. Naples Daily News.
Call for school choice: Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York City is calling for a nationwide school choice bill. Dolan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, urged President Trump to“push Congress to make scholarship tax credits available to working-class families.” Seventeen states have tax credit scholarship programs, including Florida, and Dolan said children in the other states “deserve the same opportunities.” Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the Florida program. Crux.
Districts cutting back: The Lee County School District’s budget for next year calls for the elimination of about 55 jobs. Superintendent Greg Adkins says higher enrollment and stagnant funding, among other things, are forcing the district to tighten spending. Fort Myers News-Press. Hillsborough County School Board members begin consideration of a consultant’s report that recommends the district shed more than 1,700 jobs. The report concluded that the district has about 1,000 teachers more than comparably sized school systems. Tampa Bay Times. Polk County School Board members are told that added costs and stagnant revenue will force the district to cut spending in some areas. Lakeland Ledger. The Bay County School District’s preliminary budget forecasts a deficit of $5.6 million. Superintendent Bill Husfelt says the district will cut spending or tap its reserves to cover the difference. Panama City News Herald.
Teacher pay: Florida lags behind other states in pay for early childhood teachers, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Education. The state’s child care and preschool teachers earn median salaries of $19,820 and $24,240, respectively, and many live below the poverty line. Politico Florida. AMIKids lost its contract with the Pasco County School District to teach 120 students with behavioral issues, and now its teachers are learning that they won’t be paid the rest of the money they earned. Most teachers will lose almost $4,000, even though AMIKids received all its money from the district and other sources. “The money should be there,” says teacher Christa Howell. “What are they doing with the additional funds?” Tampa Bay Times.
Bathroom rights: Several pastors warn the Hillsborough County School Board that if it allows students to choose which bathrooms to use and adds “gender expression” to a list of student protections, there will be repercussions at the polls. Tampa Bay Times.
Charter contracts: The former Newpoint Pinellas High gets a one-year extension of its charter from the Pinellas County School Board. The school will change its name to Pinellas Westcoast Academy High School, as it separates itself from its former operator, Newpoint Education Partners. Newpoint was indicted in Escambia County in May for grand theft, money laundering and aggravated white collar crime. Gradebook. The First Coast Technical College board of directors vote to end the school’s charter and turn the school over to the St. Johns County School District. The school has had financial and management problems. St. Augustine Record.