Florida schools roundup: Legislature wrapup, failed bills, autonomy and more

florida-roundup-logoEducation legislation: A massive state education bill that widens school choice is awaiting Gov. Rick Scott’s signature. The bill changes the was charter school facilities funding is distributed, limits school districts’ spending on capital projects, allows open enrollment for all K-12 public school students, grants immediate eligibility for high school athletes who transfer schools, and more. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. Lakeland Ledger. News Service of Florida. redefinED. The education bill could change the landscape of high school sports in the state. Florida Times-Union. The Foundation for Florida’s Future praises the work of the Legislature on educational issues. Florida Politics. Wondering about a specific bill? This database has information on all 260 bills passed. Politico Florida.

Teacher bonuses. Five senators voted against the $49 million set aside for the state’s “Best and Brightest” teacher bonus program. Politico Florida. A St. Petersburg city councilman who thinks teachers are unfairly targeted by legislators says those lawmakers should release their SAT or ACT scores. The state’s teacher bonuses program, which is based partially on teachers’ SAT or ACT scores, was extended for a year by the Legislature. Tampa Bay Times.

Principal autonomy: Principals in seven Florida school districts are being given greater authority to deal with low-performing public schools through a bill that was approved Friday. The districts are Broward, Pinellas, Palm Beach, Duval, Jefferson, Madison and Seminole. Officials must get approval from the state by identifying three D or F schools and offering a plan for principals at those schools to better use resources. Miami Herald.

What didn’t pass: Among the major education proposals that were not passed by the Legislature: Allowing students to take computer coding to fulfill a foreign language requirement; allowing students to use alternative tests, such as the SAT or ACT, instead of the Florida Standards Assessments; requiring daily recess for all elementary students; creation of a state board to supervise charter schools; and making the education commissioner an elected position and placing it back in the Cabinet. Miami Herald. WFSU.

Kindergarten readiness: For a second straight year, the Florida Office of Early Learning will not release kindergarten readiness rates. Pensacola News Journal. Related stories: The rules for measuring kindergarten readiness keep changing. What is kindergarten readiness? Author Dr. Dana Suskind says early education offers the biggest return on investment. Suskind promotes the three T’s – tune in, talk more, take turns – as keys to getting children ready for learning.

Charter schools: The National Assessment of Educational Progress reports that in Miami-Dade, Hispanic students at charter schools outperform those in noncharter schools. The same is true for black students in three other districts – Atlanta, Chicago and the District of Columbia. Bluegrass Institute. The board chairman of Windsor Prep Academy says most of the Pinellas County School District’s concerns about the charter school’s financial situation are “inaccurate or exaggerated.” Gradebook. Meanwhile, one of the three remaining Windsor Prep Academy board members has resigned, saying the changes at the school would require an additional time commitment that she couldn’t make. WFLA. Two charter middle schools in Volusia County are closing after this school year. The Richard Milburn Academy, which runs the schools in Daytona Beach and DeLand, recently was notified by the Florida Department of Education that it needed to submit a financial plan to correct its “deteriorating financial condition.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Recess petition: Okaloosa County parents start a petition drive to persuade schools to provide recess every day for elementary students. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Digital citizenship: Pasco County school officials are asking students and their parents to sign a statement acknowledging that they understand how to use – and not use – digital technology in school. Gradebook.

Collier’s strategic plan: Collier County School Superintendent Kamela Patton presents her strategic plan this week. Among the target areas: early childhood education, college and career readiness and a curriculum centered around science, technology, engineering, arts and math. Naples Daily News.

Education on trial: A lawsuit alleging Florida has failed its constitutional mandate to provide high-quality public education goes to trial today in Tallahassee. Citizens for Strong Schools contends the state has has not provided a uniform system of free public schools because it fails poor and minority students. Gainesville Sun.

Opting out confusion: The Leon County School Board apologizes for confusion in how testing opt-out students are handled, and says the board will develop a consistent policy. Tallahassee Democrat.

Eligibility review: The Volusia County School Board is considering relaxing eligibility requirements for student athletes. The no-pass, no-play rule in place since 1997 could change to allow athletes to play even if they fail a class as long as they maintain the 2.0 grade-point average required by the FHSAA. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Children save teacher: When a substitute teacher collapses at Triangle Elementary School due to cardiac arrest, her third-grade students quickly react to get help, and are credited with saving the teacher’s life. Daily Commercial.

Property doesn’t sell: The Miami-Dade School District receives no bids for land it is trying to sell in the Design District neighborhood. Officials say the 40,600-square-foot property is worth about $55 million. Miami Herald.

Secretary transferred: Carol Trudell, once a secretary to former Polk County School Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy, has been transferred from the district offices to an administrative assistant’s job at Real Academy. Trudell told an investigator about LeRoy’s sexual interest in an associate superintendent. School officials say the transfer was unrelated to her testimony. Lakeland Ledger.

Sales tax extension: Manatee County School Board members say they want to extend the half-cent sales tax beyond its 2017 end date, but they have yet to begin their public argument for the tax or taken the formal action necessary to get the measure on the ballot. That tax brings in about $30 million a year. Bradenton Herald.

Rezoning urged: Highlands County School Board member Bill Brantley is pushing for school rezoning to alleviate overcrowding at Sun ‘n Lake Elementary School. Highlands Today.

School apologizes: School officials at Northwest Elementary School in St. Petersburg are apologizing for a letter to parents last week that referenced discipline problems and singled out black students. WFTS. Opposing Views.

Disciplinary success: Greco Middle School is getting better academic results with fewer discipline problems after a series of adjustments. One is a schedule change that allows a longer lunch time, which gives students less time in the hallways. Another is a series of rewards for good behavior. “The focus is on encouraging what we want as opposed to consequencing what we don’t want,” says principal Yinka Alege. Tampa Tribune.

Employees honored: Kay Park, a third grade teacher at Alamacani Elementary in Jacksonville, is named Duval County’s teacher of the year. Florida Times-Union. Angela Wright is the Alachua County School District’s school-related employee of the year. She’s a computer lab proctor at Hawthorne Middle and High School. Gainesville Sun. Six Lee County teachers win the Golden Apple awards for the 2015-16 school year. Fort Myers News-Press.

Pioneers honored: Four pioneers of the integration of Eustis High School 50 years ago will be honored at the Lake County School Board meeting today. Daily Commercial.

Student ‘snitch’ stabbed: A sixth-grader at William Dandy Middle School in Fort Lauderdale allegedly steals a teacher’s keys and takes her car for a joy ride. He is quickly arrested. The next day at school, five students beat and stab the student they thought had told police about the car theft. Sun-Sentinel.

Sex extortion: A fourth teenage girl is accusing a Homestead High School student of forcing her to have sex by threatening to harm their families or post their nude photos online. Terry Fenelon, 18, has been charged with sexual battery by coercion and extortion. Miami Herald.

Opinions on schools: Home-schooling is a good solution for children who learn differently. Melissa White, Palm Beach Post. Seven Jacksonville-area pastors declare their support for Duval School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. Florida Times-Union. The St. Lucie County School Board is in the middle of a fight with a company that wants to start a charter middle school. Anthony Westbury, TCPalm. By helping parents help their children show up for kindergarten ready to learn, we raise children’s odds of graduating from high school on time. Randy Hammer, Pensacola News Journal. Highs and lows in education last week. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Improving student performance isn’t always about providing more money to failing schools. Joe Brown, Tampa Tribune. A child’s vocabulary and educational success go hand in hand. Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Volusia County’s 3 Moms group’s mission is to develop an organized way to change the direction of our public schools. Kim Short, Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Student enrichment: An SUV crushed in an accident is a visual reminder to Wesley Chapel High School students to use seat belts. Tampa Tribune. More than 100 Miami-Dade teacher requests were filled in DonorChoose.org’s #BestSchoolDay project. Miami Herald. Drones flying over the Boynton Beach High School football field are not an unusual sight. The Boynton Beach Drone Flying Tigers is a new club at the school’s Boynton Aerospace Science Academy. Palm Beach Post. Mosley High School students build an underwater remotely operated vehicle out of PVC pipe and servo motors. Panama City News Herald. Rohan Jakhete, an eighth-grader at Murray Middle School in Stuart, wins the 2016 Treasure Coast Newspapers Regional Spelling Bee and a trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May. TCPalm. Promposals are gaining popularity at Bay District high schools. Panama City News Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff