Florida schools roundup: Potential education cuts, choice push and more

florida-roundup-logoIdeas to cut education: If Florida has to cut its PreK-12 education budget, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says it should end the teacher bonuses and student uniform programs, public broadcasting and many local programs. Stewart was participating in a “what-if” scenario in which the education budget is cut 10 percent. She said one recommendation to cut per pupil spending from $7,204 to $6,943 would have a direct impact on students through staff layoffs and fewer services at schools. The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets again Feb. 9. Gradebook.

School choice: School choice advocates in the Florida House say 2017 is their year to make “transformational” gains in choice for the state. “What you’re seeing right now is an opportunity for us to really blow open some of those school choice opportunities, blow open some of those opportunities that may be outside the box that everyone is always trying to block,” House Pre-K-12 education budget chairman Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, said. He was speaking at an event marking National School Choice Week. Miami Herald. While it is National School Choice Week, at least one Gainesville teacher is pushing back by calling on the mayor to instead declare it Gainesville Public Schools Week. “The recognition of school choice is a recognition of a system that is attempting to dismantle our public school system,” says Jennifer Kelly, a fourth-grade teacher at Littlewood Elementary. WUFT.

Employees honored: Rudolfo Diaz, a TV production teacher at South Miami High School, is named teacher of the year in Miami-Dade County. Miami Herald. Holly Hill School principal Jeff Reaves is named Florida’s 2017 Innovative Principal of the Year by the Florida Council of Instructional Technology Leaders. He won for his work as principal at Edgewater Public School, where he started coding and robotics clubs, computer and programming courses. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School threat averted: Two teens are arrested and accused of planning a Columbine-like attack for today on the Villages Charter Middle School. The boys, 13 and 14, are charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Sumter County sheriff’s deputies say the boys admitted planning an attack, and guns were found at their homes. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. Daily Commercial. WTSP. Villages-NewsTwo students are arrested with a stun gun on the campus of First Coast High School in Duval County, according to school police. WJAX.

Program for hearing: Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech opens a pilot preschool program at Winter Park Presbyterian Church. The program, which is free for students, is financed by a state grant and private donations. It focuses solely on auditory-verbal therapy. Orlando Sentinel.

Charter expansion: The Somerset Academy Bay School in Miami reaches an agreement with its neighbors on an expansion. The school, which initially wanted to grow from the current 290 students to 2,000, scaled back the expansion to 675 after neighbors protested that such growth would trigger serious traffic problems for an already crowded area. Miami Herald.

Employees disciplined: Two former Manatee County educators are disciplined by the state. Kari Schultz, an agriculture teacher at Braden River High School in 2014-2015, lost her teaching certificate for five years. She was accused of exchanging inappropriate text messages with a student. Nancy Farley, principal at Harllee Middle School during the 2014-15 school year, was reprimanded and placed on probation for failing to report the suspected sexual abuse of a student. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Personnel changes: Lisa Kunze, principal of Switzerland Point Middle School, is named principal of Allen D. Nease High School. St. Augustine Record.

Report card arrival: Pasco County report cards, delayed for about two weeks by computer glitches, are expected to be given to students today at all county schools. Gradebook.

Pahokee appeal: Pahokee High School is appealing the Florida High School Athletic Association’s decision to strip the school’s football team of 14 wins and a state championship because it used an ineligible player. School officials blame a data entry error that led to a player getting an extra year of eligibility. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: In a dramatic shift from last year, significant legislation addresses improvements in higher education in an effort to elevate Florida’s university and college systems into greater national and world prominence. Bradenton Herald. School choice changed my life, and that’s why I support Betsy DeVos for U.S. education secretary. Dorothy Famiano, Orlando Sentinel. The Polk County teachers union should recognize that parents, taxpayers and the school board are justified in wanting answers and results before simply forking over more dough. Lakeland Ledger. It is true that K-12 education should prepare each student to fulfill her or his potential in our modern economy, just as it should prepare each student for their civic and personal lives. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Blake Petteway, an eighth-grader at First Christian Academy in High Springs, wins the Alachua County Spelling Bee. Gainesville SunFlorida Times-Union. Coyotes is the chosen nickname for Cypress Creek Middle-High School, which will open this fall in Pasco County. Gradebook. A second-grade class at Port Salerno Elementary School in Stuart practices English language learning. TCPalm. A StoryWalk experience is added at Palm City Elementary School in Martin County. TCPalm.