Florida schools roundup: Black suspensions, homelessness and more

IMG_0001.JPGBlack suspensions: An investigation of more than 600,000 punishments in Pinellas County schools from 2010-2015 shows that black children are suspended at a much higher rate than in the other six large Florida districts, and four times the rate of other children based on their share of the school population. And more than half of those suspensions are for loosely defined offenses such as “not cooperating” and “class disruption.” Tampa Bay Times.

Homeless students: More than 71,000 students in Florida public schools were homeless in the 2013-2014 school year, or 3.74 percent of the total. Orange County has about 7,000 homeless students, and Brevard, Seminole and Volusia each have about 2,000. Florida Today.

K-12 funding: State Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, wants fellow legislators to consider other options to boost spending for K-12. Gaetz has been critical of Gov. Rick Scott’s education budget, which puts most of the burden of raising additional dollars on Florida residents through property taxes. Miami Herald.

Vouchers in courts: Several school voucher advocate groups are lobbying the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a Colorado case to determine the constitutionality of spending public dollars for tuition at private, religious schools. Many states, including Florida, have so-called Blaine Amendment prohibitions in their constitutions against spending state tax revenue on religious institutions. Education Week.

School grades: If the State Board of Education moves ahead with grading schools based on the Florida Standards Assessment test results, at least six schools in Leon County are expected to receive F grades. No Leon school has gotten an F since 2009. Tallahassee Democrat.

Testing and evaluations: Polk County Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy is asking the State Department of Education to exempt the district from the state requirement to include testing results in the teacher evaluation formula. In May, the district and the teachers union agreed to not use test scores for 2014-15 evaluations because language in the teachers’ contract conflicted with state law. Lakeland Ledger.

The new SAT: Students can expect a greater emphasis on what they’ve learned and less emphasis on obscure vocabulary words in the new SAT test. NBC6.

Education reform: Escambia County school officials are looking at an initiative from Minneapolis-St. Paul as a way of improving its educational outcomes, especially for minority children. Pensacola News Journal.

Pledge bill: Three legislators want to change state law so that schools are required only to spell out in student handbooks that students have the right to decline to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The law now requires schools to post notices of that right in a prominent place. Pensacola News Journal.

Prayer request denied: Two Christian high schools playing a state championship football game Friday in a public facility were not permitted to have a pregame prayer broadcast over the PA system. Florida State High School Athletic Association officials say allowing that would violate federal guidelines. Bay News 9. Christian Post.

Charter expansion: The Florida Charter Education Foundation and Bay Area Charter Foundation have plans to see 20 charter schools in the Tampa Bay area by 2020. The organizations are working with Fort Lauderdale-based Charters Schools USA. Gradebook.

Charter still in business: Acclaim Academy of Florida, which declared bankruptcy in the spring and closed three schools, is still doing business. The company recently tried to buy 1,400 GPS tracking units. Florida Times-Union.

Stadium site: David Beckham announces a new site for his Major League Soccer stadium in the Overtown area of Miami. Under this deal, Beckham’s group would own the real estate, dropping its effort to avert property taxes by having the school district as the stadium’s owner. Miami Herald.

Teacher contracts: The Pinellas County School Board approves a contract with teachers calling for a 4 percent pay hike. Gradebook. Progress is reported in contract talks between Hillsborough schools and the teachers union. Gradebook.

Elected commissioner: A growing bipartisan group of Floridians are calling for the education commissioner to become an elected position with a seat in the Cabinet. And some lawmakers appear to be listening. Tampa Bay Times.

Sports medicine program: The Clay County school district, St. Vincent’s medical center and two private practices are starting a sports medicine program for middle and high school students. Florida Times-Union.

Transgender students: Flagler County school officials are beginning to talk about how they will handle the needs of transgender students. Flaglerlive.com.

Candidate on Dr. Phil: Sadie Montanus, a 22-year-old Palmetto High School teacher and candidate for the Manatee County School Board, appears on the TV show Dr. Phil seeking help for her “overstressed life.” Bradenton Herald.

Superintendent to prison: A New Jersey school superintendent is sentenced him to five years in prison without the possibility of parole for lying about vacation days to get extra cash payouts. James Habel, 59, who lives in Dunedin, Fla., took 105 days of unreported time off in Florida while he was urging teachers and other school officials in Wall Township to cut back on spending. Asbury Park Press.

Teacher investigated: The mother of a 4-year-old says the boy’s pre-kindergarten teacher at Rymfire Elementary made him unclog a dirty toilet with his bare hands. Flagler County school officials are investigating. WKMG.

Anti-bullying action: The Palm Beach County School District launches an anti-bullying campaign. Sun-Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: Improving education in Marion County must become a priority. Ocala Star-Banner. Here are four things that can be done to resolve conflicting information about charter schools and improve school choice. New York Times. A state investigation that caught Pinellas County cheating on the class-size amendment reflects poorly on the district. Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: Fairmount Park Elementary fifth-graders learned about science and kindness on a trip to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus. Tampa Bay Times. Teague Middle School students are learning about real-life financial decisions in a new course. Orlando Sentinel. More than 100 students at Viera Charter School participate in a mock trial based on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first of the seven-book series. Florida Today. Fifth graders in Lee County schools learn the merengue, heel-toe polka, tango and waltz through a dance program supported by the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools. Fort Myers News-Press. Collier County schools collect about $15,000 from their first 5K run and walk. The money will go toward establishing health and wellness programs at each school in the county. Naples Daily News.