Florida schools roundup: Education budget, charters, civics, DeVos and more

florida-roundup-logoEducation budget: Gov. Rick Scott’s $83.5 billion budget includes an expansion of the Bright Futures scholarship program to cover summer classes and a program that recruits, retains and rewards teachers. Scott’s $58 million plan would replace the existing teacher bonuses program. The $24 billion education budget would boost PreK-12 per-student spending to $7,421, up about $216 from this year. Sunshine State NewsMiami Herald. Orlando SentinelFlorida Times-Union. Gradebook. Associated PressPolitico FloridaBradenton Herald. Florida Trend. Tallahassee Democrat. News Service of Florida.

Charter schools: Florida needs to create more charter schools for low-income students, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, says during a media briefing. He said having only two – the collection of KIPP schools in Jacksonville and a public charter boarding school, SEED Miami – is unacceptable for the state. He has pledged to support funding changes that would encourage more nationally recognized charters to set up in low-income areas. redefinED. A report from a school choice advocacy group alleges that eight Florida school districts are shortchanging poor children in charter schools by spending less of federal Title I funding on them than they do in public schools. The districts are Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach, Duval, Polk and Osceola. Representatives from several of the districts deny the charge and say the data was manipulated in a way to support a pro-charter view. Politico Florida.

Civics lessons: House Education Committee chairman Michael Bileca, R-Miami, says the House is looking closely at changing the way Florida students learn about American government, history and the democratic system. The state already requires civics classes in middle and high schools, but Bileca says he wants to “inculcate a sense of civic understanding, appreciation for our institutions and what a republic stands for and have a fully informed and fully educated citizenry that’s able to participate in the democratic process.” Miami Herald.

DeVos approved: A Senate committee approves the nomination of Betsy DeVos to become U.S. education secretary on a 12-11, straight party vote. The nomination now goes to the full Senate. Orlando Sentinel. School choice in the United States under the leadership of Betsy DeVos could resemble what Florida has done by using tax credit scholarships to help students pay to go to private schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer that program. NPR. In 2014, Betsy DeVos donated $1,000 to a school choice supporter in a Volusia County School Board campaign. Melody Johnson, who raised just $5,000 more than the DeVos donation, won and is now the board chairwoman. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Teachers honored: Vanessa Ko, who teaches math and the college prep program, Advancement Via Individual Determination at Palm Harbor Middle School, is named teacher of the year in Pinellas County. The “Fan Favorite” award given by the Pinellas Education Foundation went to Karen Congemi, a reading and literature coach at High Point Elementary. Tampa Bay Times.

Poll rates district: Nearly a quarter of Duval County adults think the school district does a poor job of educating students, according to a poll by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. But parents of students in the district have a higher opinion. Almost 49 percent think their children’s schools are very effective, and 27 percent rate the schools as somewhat effective. Florida Times-Union. WJAX.

School security: After two threats of violence against schools in the past week, Lake County School Board members say they will review the district’s security measures. Monday, just 75 of 800 Umatilla High School students went to school after someone wrote a threat on a bathroom wall. And late last week two teenage boys were arrested and accused of plotting a mass shooting at the Villages Charter Middle School. Daily Commercial.

Report card confusion: The Pasco County School District changes the way its report cards list grade point averages, leading to some confusion for parents and students and to an apology from the administration. Tampa Bay Times.

Career academies: The St. Johns County School District’s career academies should serve as an model for smaller school districts on how to integrate career-based learning into curriculum, says Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast. The district has 14,000 students enrolled in academies at five high schools. St. Augustine Record.

Fun with furniture: Rebecca Cortright’s fifth-grade classroom at Edgewater Public School in Volusia County trades in traditional desks and chairs for modular tables and chairs that wobble, rock and roll. The theory is that different kinds of furniture might improve a child’s focus and their learning ability. The makeover is part of a pilot program, Classroom of the Future. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Growth management: Manatee County school officials meet with local governments to discuss how to manage school growth in general, and about a new high school planned in Parrish in particular. Bradenton Herald.

Administrator arrested: Don Clippinger, the assistant principal at Fienberg-Fisher K-8 Center in Miami Beach, is arrested and accused of downloading child pornography from the Internet. Miami Herald. WPLG.

Teachers face firing: Two Vero Beach High School teachers could be fired after allegedly tampering with their students’ online industry certification exams. School officials say Ralph Vaughn and Alison Moody, both career and technical education teachers, took the tests in advance in order to help their students. More than 400 students could lose their certification, and some could lose graduation credits. TCPalm.

Student arrested: A 16-year-old Tarpon Springs High School student is arrested and accused of threatening to put an explosive device in the cafeteria. Two students told police the boy said he wanted to hurt students and the police officers who responded after the explosion. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

Coach suspended: Dimitric Salters, Lincoln High boys basketball coach, is suspended while the Leon County School District investigates parents’ concerns about financial matters related to the program. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: School choice should be a part of the modern civil rights movement. Lance Lemmonds, Daily Caller. Education professionals must support students whose life circumstances are not ideal. Superintendent Robert Avossa, Palm Beach Post.

Student enrichment: Jeffrey Holz, an 8-year-old second-grader at Community Christian School in Bradenton, was saving for a new Legos set but instead donated the money he saved to help a senior at the school pay for cancer treatments. Tuesday, Legoland rewarded his sacrifice by presenting him with two sets of Legos and tickets to the theme park. Bradenton Herald. The Lee County School District gets a $40,840 grant to prepare a list of standards for early childhood education centers. Fort Myers News-Press. Volunteers from the organization Books for Kids read to second- and third-graders in Sarasota and Manatee counties to improve their listening skills, concentration and thinking skills. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Every Tuesday, children at the Ever’man Educational Center in Pensacola gather for environmentally themed stories and crafts. Pensacola News Journal. The Polk Vision Literacy Team wants to compile a directory of literacy service providers to place at all schools by August. Lakeland Ledger. Several students in the exceptional students program at Old Kings Elementary School in Palm Coast start a car detailing business at school to learn practical skills and self-sufficiency. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Author Tracey Sullivan visits Spring Hill Elementary School to celebrate Literacy Week, along with her dog – the main character of her book Tebow Tales. Tampa Bay Times. Sarasota County School Board member Jane Goodwin is appointed by the Florida School Boards Association to two-year term on the board of the Florida School Music Association. SRQ Magazine.