Florida schools roundup: Budget-cutting exercise, charter schools and more

Cutting exercise: Members of the Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meet to brainstorm about what they might cut out of the education budget if state revenue falls as projected. Many agreed on killing a $14 million incentive plan for student uniforms. Other potential cuts included district-level administrative funds, money to reduce class sizes, public broadcasting support and even less testing. House Republicans say they will not support any increase in tax revenues. Gradebook.

Charter schools: The executive director of Jacksonville’s KIPP charter school says he’d like to see more of the schools in Florida, but the state’s method of funding for charter facilities is a powerful deterrent. Florida’s public schools receive about $1,500 per student for facilities, while charter schools get about $300. That director, Tom Majdanics, said the money KIPP Jacksonville receives from the state “barely covers the interest on our loans” for capital expenses. redefinED. Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, files a bill that would allow academically high-performing charter school organizations to apply to the state for a “high impact” status designation. The charter schools getting the designation would qualify immediately for state facilities funds, avoid the 5 percent management fee charters usually pay school districts, receive federal funding directly and get preference for federal charter school grants. redefinED.

Employee honored: Darreyl Williams, an exceptional student education program assistant at Lakeville Elementary in Apopka, is named the Orange County School District’s support employee of the year. Orlando Sentinel.

Moves still unresolved: Leon County school officials hear from both sides during a meeting to discuss the moves of two programs. Under the proposal, the district’s Adult and Continuing Education program (ACE) would move cross town to the Lively Technical Center. The vacated ACE site would become home to the PACE Secondary School for special education students. ACE supporters oppose the move, while PACE parents support it, arguing that the needs of children should be placed before adults’. Tallahassee Democrat.

Fraud accusations: Two officials at an Orlando school for autistic children are arrested this week and accused of defrauding Medicaid of $4.5 million. Angels Center for Autism owner Maria Navarro and office manager Judith Bench are accused of making 21,000 fraudulent Medicaid claims. Officials say they were billing Medicaid for eight hours of one-on-one therapy for students, but only had enough staff for two hours. The school is now out of business. WFTV.

School bus software: The St. Johns County School District is changing out the software it uses to route school buses. The startup cost will be $52,000, and the annual fee $6,000. St. Augustine Record.

Busing options: The Hillsborough County School District will hold a series of meetings to inform parents of their options to school busing. The district recently cut back on courtesy busing for students who live within 2 miles of their zoned school. Gradebook.

No-bell experiment shelved: Meadowlawn Middle School in St. Petersburg recently experimented with eliminating school bells to mark the beginning and end of classes. Reaction was mixed after a trial semester, so principal Claudius Effiom brought back the bells. Gradebook.

Hearing delay denied: The Division of Administrative Hearings denies a request to delay hearings over challenges to recent rezoning decisions made by the Pasco County School Board. Two groups say the board did not follow state rules in the decision-making process. The hearings are set Feb. 27 and 28. Gradebook.

School board sued: A former baseball player at East Lake High School is suing the Pinellas County School Board, alleging that his baseball coaches pressured him to give them money and when he refused, benched him. Rob Lober, now 20, claims the benching by then-coach Dan Genna cost him a chance for a baseball scholarship. SaintPetersBlog.

Fake tweet: A Twitter message saying Oviedo High School would be closed today due to the “excessive amount of student-elicited violence” this week is fake and school is open, officials say. The posting account mirrored the Seminole County School District’s official account. Police are investigating. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher arrested: James Harris, a social studies teacher and boys basketball coach at Mariner High School in Cape Coral, is arrested and accused of having sex with a student. Lee County school officials placed him on administrative leave pending an investigation. Fort Myers News-Press.

Opinions on schools: Senate President Joe Negron’s push to improve higher education, which includes more money for Bright Futures scholarships, is well-intended but has its critics. TCPalm. If Cambridge and similar schools want public community prayer before their state championship games, they should leave the FHSAA and form their own private statewide Christian association and stage their own playoffs. Joe Henderson, Tampa Bay Times. If what a judge and teacher Joe Nathaniel say about a problem with school discipline at Sebastian High School is true, there are serious problems with the district’s manner of disciplining teachers. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm.

Student enrichment: Abigail Hamm, a Palmetto High School junior, is one of 30 Florida students chosen to attend the annual Youth Tour to Washington, D.C., event this summer, where they will visit museums and meet with Florida lawmakers. Bradenton Herald.