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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: Charters, funding, back to school and more

Charter school support: Support for the charter school movement is declining in America, according to a recent survey by Education Next, a journal published by Harvard’s Kennedy School and Stanford University. Only 39 percent of of those polled favor opening more “charters – schools that are funded by public money, but usually operated independently of school districts.” That’s down from 51 percent last year. Associated Press.

Back to school: More from districts around Florida that have returned to school or will soon. Florida Times-UnionPalm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel. Orlando SentinelSarasota Herald-Tribune. Gainesville Sun. Tallahassee Democrat. Daytona Beach News-Journal. About a quarter of Osceola Magnet School’s students stayed home on the first day of the new school year after the disclosure of a mold problem at the school. School officials are still waiting for the results of air quality tests. TCPalm. WPTV. Ten tips for young teachers from a veteran educator. Palm Beach Post.

School funding protest: The Lake County School Board approves a resolution urging the state to “halt the transfer of education funding from poorer school districts to wealthier school districts.” That district cost differential portion of the school funding formula has shortchanged the district by $57 million since 2004, board members say. “You have 14 counties in the state benefiting from this. The 53 other counties are paying for it,” says board member Bill Mathias. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart,  recently approved a legislative study of the differential. Daily Commercial.

Help for gifted students: Students at 16 high schools in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco who are struggling in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs will get help from a program developed by two academics to support students who they think are often “taken for granted.” The Advancing Coping and Engagement program will provide students with weekly lessons on developing time management skills and connecting with teachers. Tampa Bay Times.

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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: Skipping lines, back to school, start times and more

Principal kills fund-raiser: A Parent Teacher Student Association’s idea to raise money by allowing students to skip the lunch line if their parents make a $100 donation has been killed by the principal after some parents protested. Brian Andrews, principal at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, said in an email to parents that “I do not approve of any donation that is tied to any student advantage or privilege on campus. … Nobody’s a second-class citizen here.” Jil Bevis, president of the PTSA, says “due to a clerical error, the form was inadvertently included in the orientation packets.” Lakeland Ledger. WFLA.

Back to school: Thursday was the first day of school for many Florida districts, and some others start next week. Florida Today. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay TimesFort Myers News-Press. Lehigh Acres CitizenOcala Star-Banner. Lakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Gainesville Sun. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Northwest Florida Daily News. Daily Commercial. Keynoter. Citrus County Chronicle. Charlotte Sun. WFLA. Tampa Bay Times. Hillsborough County shows a slight decline in Day 1 attendance, 196,822 this year compared with 197,064 last year. Tampa Bay Times. More than 130 Manatee County students who opted to leave their low-performing school for a better option discover the buses they were supposed to get won’t be running until Sept. 4. “Unfortunately, the state was late in informing our district as to the identity of those students,” deputy superintendent for operations Ron Ciranna told his staff. “Therefore, bus transportation will not be available for these students until transportation hubs can be established.” Bradenton Herald. Hundreds of Martin County students lost their bus privileges because they live within 2 miles of their school, but the school district has no plans to add crossing guards to help them get to school safely. School starts Tuesday. TCPalm.

School start times: The Palm Beach County School Board agrees to research school start times for next year to better accommodate the needs of students and parents. Board member Debra Robinson says the subject has come up before, but that “it’s a conversation worth having again. I’d like to see a smorgasbord of choices for parents to include a choice of start times.” Most high schools start at 7:30 a.m., elementary schools at 8 and most middle schools at 9:30. Sun-Sentinel.

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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: Funding study, retention motion, charters and more

School funding: Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, approves a study of the school funding formula’s district cost differential (DCD). The request for the study came from Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, and Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, who contend that the DCD has cost school systems in their districts and around the state millions of dollars since it was adopted in 2004. The DCD directs extra money to districts with a higher cost of living. The study will be conducted by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability and the Office of Economic & Demographic Research. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Retention suit motion: The Florida Department of Education is asking a circuit court to dismiss a lawsuit that challenged the state’s third-grade retention law and how it was implemented by several school districts. The Florida Supreme Court recently refused to hear the case, saying the plaintiffs would have to file suits at the county level. Now the DOE says the plaintiffs didn’t exhaust their administrative options before filing the suit in Leon County, and that students who refuse to take the state’s standardized tests have no right to an option of a portfolio review. Gradebook.

Charter schools: A new state law requires local school districts to share local property taxes collected for capital improvements with charter schools. But there’s an exception that will leave a handful of charter schools without any public funds. The amount to be shared hinges on how much debt a district has. Charters in districts with a lot of debt may get no money at all, while charters in districts with little debt will. So districts with little debt and charters in districts with heavy debt are both asking for relief. Tampa Bay Times.

Cities buy their way in: Affluent cities in Miami-Dade County increasingly are starting their own charter school systems or buying seats for local students in magnet programs at other public schools. The practice can increase public school options, but some critics worry it will lead to racial and economic segregation. Steve Gallon, a member of the school board, says such proposals “could result in the creation of systems and structures that could impede such access to poor children and those of color to a world-class education based on their ZIP codes.” 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: Paperless district, slower charter growth and more

Paperless district: The Marion County School District is beginning to digitize all 9 million-plus of its paper records to gradually convert to a paperless organization. Sometime in 2018, the district expects to stop creating paper documents and begin electronic enrollment. The project will cost about $800,000 and will take several years. Ocala Star Banner.

Charter growth slows: While charter school enrollment in Florida continued to grow in the 2016-2017 school year, the growth rate continues to be well below what it was in the period between 2010 and 2014. Almost 287,000 students attended charter schools last year, up 6.2 percent over the 270,151 last year. Between 2010 and 2014, the growth rate averaged 13.7 percent a year. redefinED. In Hillsborough County, the percentage of students in charter schools has edged up to the state average of about 10 percent, with 11 new charter schools opening next month. Tampa Bay Times.

Searching students: The Citrus County School Board approves a policy to search every student at the Citrus County Renaissance Center every day. First, students will undergo a metal detector wand search for weapons. Then they’ll empty their pockets, untuck their shirts and take off shoes. Finally, each student’s arms, legs and feet will be checked for drugs or other contraband. The school enrolls students with behavior problems. Citrus County Chronicle.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: Miami-Dade County School Board members instruct their attorney to draft a plan to join other districts in suing the state over the new education law, H.B. 7069. The suit would target several parts of the bill the district thinks are unconstitutional, such as forcing districts to share local tax money with charter schools while limiting boards’ authority over those schools, and restricting how districts can spend federal dollars awarded to students in low-income schools. Five districts have committed to the proposed lawsuit: Broward, St. Lucie, Bay, Lee and Volusia counties. Miami Herald. The Manatee County School Board supports the move by several districts to sue the state over the new education law, but stopped short of setting aside any money for the effort. Board members say they will revisit the idea of pledging money once a suit is actually filed. Bradenton Herald.

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