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Florida schools roundup: Solar eclipse, sales taxes, school names and more

Eclipse schedules: School districts around the state are deciding if their students will be permitted to view the solar eclipse Monday, and if they will be, how they might do so safely. Palm Beach Post. Fort Myers News-PressNorthwest Florida Daily News. St. Augustine RecordGradebook. WFTX. WJAXJackson County Floridan. WCJB. WPECGradebook. Florida Today. Lakeland Ledger. Bradenton HeraldWashington PostU.S. News & World ReportFox News. Education Week.

Sales tax revenue: The half-cent sales tax voters approved in 2014 for the Brevard County School is bringing it almost 30 percent more money than projected. The district expected to collect about $78 million from the tax by now. Instead, it has collected $101 million. The money is used for building repairs, security upgrades and technology purchases. Florida Today.

Confederate school names: Duval County School Board members say they have no plans to rename any of the district schools bearing the names of Confederate leaders. A couple of years ago, the board changed the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School to Westside High School. Forrest was a Confederate lieutenant general. WJAX. A study by the Southern Poverty Law Center says there are at least 109 schools in the United States named after prominent members of the Confederacy, and many of the schools have a significant number of black students. Cox Media Group.

Back to school: More from districts around Florida that have returned to school or will soon. Naples Daily News. Panama City News Herald. Miami Herald. The kindergarten and 1st-grade wing at Osceola Magnet School reopen today. It had been closed since Monday for mold contamination. Air quality tests on other parts of the Vero Beach school are due Friday. TCPalm.

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Florida schools roundup: Teacher bonuses, H.B. 7069, eclipse and more

Teacher bonuses: Each Florida school district will be responsible for determining the eligibility of teachers for state bonuses under the “Best & Brightest” teacher bonuses program, the Department of Education says. The program was redefined as part of the new education bill, H.B. 7069, which also calls for $1,200 payments to teachers rated “highly effective,” up to $800 for those rated “effective,” plus bonuses for those teachers who scored in the top 20 percent on the SAT or ACT test. Teachers are expected to receive the bonuses April 1. Principals are also eligible for bonuses for the first time, but the state has yet to say how that program will work. Miami Herald.

H.B. 7069: Orange County School Board members informally say they are likely to join the lawsuit against the new state education law, H.B. 7069. All eight members support the suit, saying the law infringes on the authority of school boards and could hurt students. The board expects to take an official, binding vote next week. Orlando Sentinel. WMFE. Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has removed state Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, from his assignment as chairman of a Senate budget subcommittee for pre-K-12 education. Replacing him is first-term Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. Simmons angered many Republican leaders by voting against the House’s top priority, H.B. 7069. Negron denies the change was made as punishment. Gradebook. Naples Daily News. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida. Simmons says he plans to remain involved in education issues. Gradebook.

Eclipse schedules: School districts around the state are deciding if their students will be permitted to view the solar eclipse Monday, and if they will be, how they might do so safely. Sun-SentinelGradebook. WPLG. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton HeraldOcala Star-Banner. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. WFTV. Florida Today. WQAM. Panama City News Herald. Lakeland Ledger. WJAX. WFLA. WTSP.

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Florida schools roundup: School arrests, back to school, marijuana and more

School arrests: The Orange County School District and county law enforcement officials agree on a plan to move away from arresting students for minor crimes, and instead will issue them civil citations. They think that will keep more students in school and out of the criminal justice system, which improves students’ odds of graduating. The district had a 6.4 per 1,000 students arrest rate in the 2015-2016 school year, which was less than Pinellas and Hillsborough counties but more than Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Duval. Orlando Sentinel.

Back to school: More Florida districts head back to school this week. Florida Times-Union. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach PostTampa Bay Times. Miami Herald. TCPalm. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tallahassee Democrat. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Keynoter. Key West Citizen. Mold is found at Osceola Magnet School in Vero Beach and while the school opens as scheduled today, students will be moved around the avoid the rooms where the mold was found and will be released an hour and 40 minutes early every day while school officials await the results of air-quality tests. TCPalm. Martin County students who live within 2 miles of their school will be riding buses after all. Parents of 850 students had been notified that busing would end because of state rules. But the school board reversed that decision and the district will transport them when school opens Tuesday. School Board President Tina McSoley said busing will continue until the district can come up with a plan to help students who will be walking to arrive safely. TCPalm.

Medical marijuana: Florida school districts fear that they could be liable for helping students who are prescribed medical marijuana. Many are waiting for guidance from the state Department of Education. The Education Commission of the States, a group that studies education policy in the country, recently advised that schools could lose some federal funding if they help those students since the federal government enforces drug-free workplace policies. Sun-Sentinel.

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Florida schools roundup: Teacher shortages, spending, recess and more

Teachers needed: Just days before the school year begins, school districts in west-central Florida still need hundreds of teachers. Hillsborough County has the most openings, 205. Pasco needs 128, Polk more than 110 and Sarasota, Hernando and Citrus counties are also hiring. Pinellas County has just seven jobs left to fill. “You have 67 public school districts in Florida, so we’re all competing for that same small group of students that are graduating from Florida universities and colleges,” says Teddra Porteous, assistant superintendent in Polk County. WFTS. WTSP. Lakeland Ledger. WFLA.

Spending analysis: The Duval County School Board delays an outside audit of the district’s spending, opting first to have the board auditor and district staff do an analysis of how the district spent $21 million more than it was budgeted to last year. Two state representatives had asked for an audit, which board members rejected. Now those members are saying they will likely have an outside audit done after the spending analysis. Board chairwoman Paula Wright says the first analysis should be able to narrow the focus of the second, which should lower its cost. Florida Times-Union.

School recess: Elementary students in Pasco will get their 20 minutes of free, unstructured recess every day. The district’s new student progression plan calls for “at least 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess each week for students in kindergarten through grade 5 so that there are at least 20 consecutive minutes of free-play recess per day,” according to the plan. Decisions on how to make that happen will be made by each school’s principal. Gradebook.

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Florida schools roundup: H.B. 7069, ESSA, school safety, recess and more

H.B. 7069: According to recently revealed text messages, state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, worked behind the scenes to try to kill H.B. 7069, the education bill that provides money for a major expansion of charter schools in Florida. The messages show that Latvala worked with Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, on a plan to derail the bill. Details of the plan were not discussed in the texts, and neither Latvala not Farmer responded to questions about it. Latvala, chairman of the Senate appropriations committee, is considering running for governor in 2018. Politico Florida.

ESSA proposal: A coalition of civil rights group is asking the Florida Department of Education to give due consideration to the needs of poor, at-risk children when it submits its federal education accountability plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In a letter, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights says it’s critical that the plan uphold the spirit of the law, which pledges to provide “all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and close educational achievement gaps.” The state has to submit its plan by Sept. 18. Gradebook.

School safety: Pasco County students are now being told to fight back against violent threats at their schools, instead of simply hiding. One of the key messages of the new approach is: “It is okay to do whatever you have to do to get away from Stranger Danger.” Superintendent Kurt Browning says “the decision to defend one’s self or others is a personal decision and will never be required.” But the district wants to give students options, he says, and to empower them “not to be victims.” Gradebook.

Recess rules: After hearing complaints from parents, Pinellas County school officials say they are reconsidering their idea to count student time in math and engineering centers toward the required 20 minutes a day for recess. Shana Rafalski, the county’s executive director for elementary education, acknowledged that “doesn’t necessarily reflect the spirit of (the law). … This probably is out of context in the teaching and learning handbook, and I’ll revisit this,” she says. Gradebook.

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Florida schools roundup: H.B. 7069, extended days, K-12 school and more

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: The Clay County School Board delays making a decision about joining other districts in suing the state over the new education law, H.B. 7069. Board members cite the expense and possible repercussions. Board member Betsy Condon said she worries about“biting the hand that feeds you,” and thinks there are more collaborative ways to deal with the law than suing. So far, five districts have announced their intent to sue the state. Florida Times-Union.

Extended school days: The Pasco County School District is eliminating extended-day programs for all schools that aren’t required by the state to have longer days due to low reading scores. The move will save the district about $600,000 and leave extended days in place for just four elementary schools that are among the 300 state schools with the lowest reading test scores. Gradebook. Eleven Martin County and four St. Lucie County elementary schools will start 10 minutes earlier this year to give the schools enough time to provide 20 minutes of recess daily or extra reading time to fulfill a state mandate. TCPalm.

K-12 school: The Hamilton County School Board is considering merging the county’s sole elementary school into Hamilton County High School to create a single K-12 school. Superintendent Rex Mitchell says it’s preferable to the options the state has given for the turnaround school by the state – closing the school and having a charter company take over, or sending the students to another school. If the state rejects the merger option, Mitchell says, the district will consider joining the lawsuit against the state over the new education bill, H.B. 7069. Suwannee Democrat.

Project overseer dismissed: The advisory committee chairman of the Miami-Dade School District’s $1.2 billion school improvement plan is dismissed a week after publicly questioning the goal of the project. Ronald Frazier questioned the district’s oversight in meeting requirements for the hiring of small and minority-owned businesses. He said his dismissal is “suspicious,” but district officials say Frazier’s contract had expired in March and was just discovered during a review. Miami Herald.

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Florida schools roundup: H.B. 7069, evaluations, charters, budgets and more

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: The Sarasota County School Board votes against joining other districts in a proposed lawsuit against the state over the new education law, H.B. 7069. Board member Bridget Ziegler proposed a motion to “suspend all consideration or further allocation of resources toward the support of any potential litigation challenging House Bill 7069,” which was adopted. She said the vote gave the district an “opportunity to send a message that we are above the political theater” of wasting “time, money, and intellectual capital” on legal fees. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Sunshine State News. Duval County School Board chairwoman Paula Wright says a proposed audit is unlikely to explain how the district overspent its budget by $21 million last year, and criticizes state Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, for requesting it. Fischer also condemned the board for considering joining a lawsuit against the new state education law. Wright’s reply: “We are not going to be pushed or bullied … to do things quickly for the benefit of others.” Florida Times-Union. A review of text messages details the last-minute fighting in the Legislature over H.B. 7069. Politico Florida.

Teacher evaluations: Florida school districts haven’t lived up to the “spirit” of the state’s 2011 teacher evaluation law, according to a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality. In most places, the report says, teachers can still get a larger pay bump for having a master’s degree than for receiving a “highly effective” evaluation. National Council on Teacher Quality.

Charter funding: The Broward County School Board agrees to share some of the property tax money it collects with the five-school charter system owned and operated by the city of Pembroke Pines. The city has been asking for money from the district since 2005. The board said its decision to share applies only to the Pembroke Pines schools and not schools owned and operated by charter companies. A new state law calls for districts to share local property taxes collected with charter schools, but Broward and several other districts say they will be filing a suit challenging the constitutionality of it. Sun Sentinel.

School budgets: The Hillsborough County School Board gives tentative approval to a $2.9 billion budget. Tampa Bay Times. The Bay County School Board tentatively approves a $376 million budget, an increase of $18 million over last year despite a slightly lower proposed millage rate. Panama City News Herald.

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Florida schools roundup: Tax holiday, budgets, recess, court order and more

School tax holiday: The state’s annual back-to-school sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday and ends at 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Computers and other technology equipment are back on the tax-free list after being off it last year. Sun Sentinel. Pensacola News Journal. Fort Myers News-Press. Palm Beach Post. Specifics on what is – and what isn’t – tax-free. WFLA. Florida Department of Revenue.

School budgets: The Clay County School District is considering a $386 million budget, which is about 1.8 percent higher than last year’s. The board’s final vote is Sept. 7. Florida Times-Union. School boards in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties will hold their first public hearings today on their proposed budgets. Tampa Bay Times. Brevard County might be able to pay for teacher raises with some tweaks in its $963 million budget. Meanwhile, Superintendent Desmond Blackburn says having a centralized banking account and hiring armored cars to deliver money to the bank are a “dire necessity” to fighting theft from schools. Florida Today. The Lake County School Board gives tentative approval to a $573.4 million budget, which is almost $24.5 million higher than last year’s. Daily Commercial.

School recess: So-called “recess moms” worry that the state law requiring 20 minutes of recess a day in elementary schools will be watered down by school administrators whom have been entrusted to implement the law. Specifically, they are concerned that principals will allow students to take recess indoors, and that students will continue to sit at their desks instead of playing outdoors. Gradebook.

Desegregation order: The Indian River County School District is asking a federal court to release it from parts of a 1967 desegregation order that set up plans for racially balanced schools taught by diverse staffs to create an equitable education system for minority students. The district thinks it’s made enough progress for the order to be partially lifted. But the local NAACP branch, which has criticized the board’s push to lift the order, did not join the request to the court. TCPalm.

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