Florida schools roundup: Legislature, early promotion, budgets and more

IMG_0001.JPGLegislature and education: School choice and charter school funding and accountability are among the big education issues in the legislative session that begins today. Miami Herald. Five issues and five people to watch during this session. Tampa Bay Times. Legislators may bicker over the sources of funding for K-12, since a large part of the money will come from higher property taxes. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Early promotion: A bill filed Monday by State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would allow schools to promote students during a school year if they demonstrate mastery of the subject matter. Gradebook.

Budget choices: Tax revenue on electric bills, a primary source of Florida’s funding for school construction, is projected to decline 2.5 percent. That means legislators will increasingly have to choose between money for construction or teacher salaries, early education and other educational programs. Tampa Tribune.

Grade warning: School grades being issued by the state in February will not be accurate, Hillsborough School Superintendent Jeff Eakins is warning parents in an email. Gradebook.

Teacher bonuses: School districts have just two weeks to fill out paperwork so teachers can apply for bonuses under the Best and Brightest Teachers Scholarships program. Gradebook.

School security: Leon County School Superintendent Jackie Pons announces a plan to have a trained, armed officer at every school in the county. Tallahassee Democrat.

Growth planning: The Volusia County School Board will talk about coping with unexpected growth. The district expected 500 more students to enroll this year but the number was more than 1,000, the highest increase in 15 years. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Prayers at meetings: The Okaloosa County School Board votes to resume prayers before meetings, and vows to be inclusive. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Graduation help: Bay County’s graduation rate has fallen three years in a row, so a new graduation coach has started Graduation Pathways, a program to identify at-risk students and help them with a plan to finish school. Panama City News Herald.

Union split: Non-teachers in the United School Employees of Pasco County are petitioning to split from the union that has represented them and teachers. Officials say they don’t feel they’re getting proper representation. Thirty percent of the non-instructional staff would have to sign a petition to  bring the matter to a vote. Gradebook.

New superintendent: Debra Pace, associate superintendent for the Brevard County School District, interviews for the Osceola County superintendents’ job this week. The other finalists are Anna Diaz, area superintendent in Orange County, and Lori Romano, superintendent of Hernando County Public Schools. Florida Today.

Graduations moved: Graduation ceremonies for three Alachua County high schools are moved to the University of Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida, also known as The Swamp. Gainesville Sun.

High school site: Officials looking for a site for a new high school in Bonita Springs have narrowed the search to two sites. Both had been previously considered and discarded before getting another look. Fort Myers News-Press.

Bus safety audits: Public records indicate St. Johns County skipped bus safety audits in 2010 and 2011. Photographyisnotacrime.com.

Opinions on schools: Parents and teachers should talk openly, honestly and nonjudgmentally with young people about sex and its risks and responsibilities. Laurie Futterman, Miami Herald. How does the Polk County School District justify spending almost $80,000 on a branding campaign when teachers are digging into their own pockets to buy classroom materials? Lakeland Ledger.

Adviser honored: Renee Burke, a teacher at Boone High School in Orlando, is named 2015 H. L. Hall National Yearbook Adviser of the Year by the Journalism Education Association. Orlando Sentinel.

Attorney renewed: The Lake County School Board has renewed the contract of attorney Steve Johnson, who has been the board’s primary attorney since 2000. The school system paid $321,899 in legal fees in 2015. Orlando Sentinel.

Students arrested: Three students are charged with beating and seriously injuring a student while he was transferring buses at Everitt Middle School in Springfield. Panama City News Herald.

Student enrichment: Fifty-five students at the first-year medical academy at Boynton Beach High School are learning CPR and other life-saving information. Palm Beach Post. Google is visiting Quest Elementary in Melbourne, with tablets, technology and representatives taking students on a virtual field trip in their own school. Florida Today. The Manatee County Fair gives agriculture students a chance to show what they know. Bradenton Herald. Artist and classroom assistant Bonnie London offers a free after-school art class for interested students at Meigs Middle School in Shalimar. Northwest Florida Daily News. Players from the Orlando City Soccer Club start a mentoring program for boys at Sawgrass Bay Elementary School in Clermont. Daily Commercial.

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BY NextSteps staff