Florida schools roundup: Spending, bill for scholarships, bathrooms and more

School tax hike: The K-12 education budgets of both Gov. Rick Scott and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, count on an extra $400 million-plus that would be raised through rising property values on unchanging local property tax rates. Neither considers that a tax hike. But Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, does, and Wednesday he sent an emphatic message to Scott and Negron: “That’s a hell no. That’s a hell no. We’re not raising property taxes to fund government waste.” Gradebook.

More for scholarships: A bill filed in the House would raise the amount of money students would receive from the state’s tax credit scholarship program and widen eligibility for Gardiner scholarships for students with disabilities. H.B. 15, filed by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, would give low-income students a higher percentage of the current per-student funding to attend a private school. Right now the tax credit scholarship provides 82 percent of the state’s per-student rate. It would go up to 88 percent for elementary schools, 92 percent for middle schools and 96 percent for high schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer both scholarships. News Service of Florida. redefinED.

Bathroom access: The Trump Administration rescinds the federal directive allowing transgender students to use school bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The Obama Administration issued the directive last year. “This is an issue best solved at the state and local level,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said. “Schools, communities and families can find — and in many cases have found — solutions that protect all students.” New York Times. Associated Press.

Higher education: Senate and House committees hear pitches for ideas to include in the higher education budget. Among them: $2.8 million for the University of Central Florida to develop a community schools program to help turn around low-performing schools, $300,000 to fund a robotics competition at Florida Atlantic University for high schools students, an expansion of the amount students receive for Bright Futures scholarships and how they can be used, more vocational training programs and $375,000 for academic mentoring programs for black high school students in the Big Bend area. Senate President Joe Negron says he plans to combine the two main higher education bills into one. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida.

Tech plan doubts: Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti wants to borrow $52 million to buy 52,000 laptops for students and dozens of interactive displays for teachers. Several school board members expressed skepticism about the plan. One, Scott Shine, said he’s uncomfortable with borrowing for 15 years to pay for laptops that have a lifetime of about five years. Vitti says low-income schools in the district already have the equipment, and it’s only fair to get the technology for the rest of the district. Florida Times-Union.

Avossa contract: Palm Beach County School Superintendent Robert Avossa is offered a renewable five-year contract with no raise now, but that provides for annual raises equal to those given to other top administrators in the district as long as he receives top marks on his evaluations from the school board. Avossa, who was hired in 2015, makes $325,000 a year – second among state superintendents. Palm Beach PostSun-Sentinel.

Rezoning approved: The Palm Beach County School Board approves a rezoning plan to help alleviate overcrowding at Calusa Elementary School in Boca Raton. More than 330 students from six schools will be relocated under the new school boundaries. Palm Beach PostSun-Sentinel.

Employees honored: Finalists for Lake County rookie teacher of the year and school-related employee of the year are named. Rookie teacher candidates are Maverick Baer, Carver Middle School; Ella Gibson, Windy Hill Middle School; and Evelyn J. Guzman, Triangle Elementary School. School-related employee finalists are Micheka Thomas, Carver Middle School; Caroline Thompson, Minneola Charter Elementary School; and Maria Torres, of the district’s Title I Department. Winners are announced March 22. Orlando Sentinel.

AP classes: Almost 3,500 Manatee County students took Advanced Placement classes last year, and about half of them did well enough on the exams to earn college credits. That’s a 7 percentage point increase since the 2012-2013 school year. Bradenton Herald.

Discipline study: A two-year project on discipline at Kanapaha Middle School in Gainesville has helped cut down referrals. Teacher Darby Delane’s Emancipated School Project puts the students with the most referrals at the school into a monthly discussion group with teachers. Delane says the result has been a greater understanding between students, who don’t want to get in trouble, and teachers, who don’t want students to fail. Gainesville Sun.

School referendum: Gulf County voters decide March 7 whether to extend a 1-mill operating levy for the Gulf County School District. The levy brings in about $1.6 million a year, and has been approved twice before for four-year terms. Port St. Joe Star.

Testing concerns: Bay County School District officials say the various bills to change state testing all have benefits and drawbacks, and they are hoping the result is a common-sense approach that retains the intent of testing but cuts back on the stress. Panama City News Herald.

Superintendent search: The Flagler County School Board approves the rules a community advisory committee must stick to as it helps the district find a new school superintendent. The group will meet five times between March 9 and April 4, then present its recommendations for finlsists to the school board. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School improvements: The Pinellas County School Board approves $8.6 million for improvements at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, including an expanded cafeteria, a renovated auditorium, a new gym lobby and more. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher arrested: A third-grade teacher in Monroe County is arrested and accused of punching her husband in the face during an argument. Bonnie Sandahl Sellner, 38, has been placed on leave from her job at the Sigsbee Charter School. Keynoter.

Weapons at schools: Two Lakewood High School students are arrested for bringing weapons to school. Police say an 18-year-old male hid a machete in a trombone case and brought it onto campus. And a female student was arrested for having a small knife. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: In my first year of teaching, I’m beginning to understand that as a teacher I am just one part of a movement to dismantle the entrenched systemic barriers that disproportionately limit African-American students’ access to the educational opportunities that allow them to build a future of their choosing. Shauna Tulloch, Orlando Sentinel. If state officials want to leave the fate of Roosevelt Academy in local hands, the school district should heed the parents and keep Roosevelt as is as much as possible. If not, they need to have better explanations beyond “Tallahassee told us to” as to why these students and their parents must be exposed to so much turmoil. Lakeland Ledger.

Student enrichment: Dhyana Mishra, a sixth-grader at West Melbourne School for Science, wins the Brevard County Spelling Bee. Florida Today. Mathias Tanangkingsing, a student at Blessed Trinity Catholic School, wins the Marion County Spelling Bee for a second straight year. Ocala Star BannerBeatrice Meckley, a fifth-grader at George Marks Elementary School, wins the Volusia County Spelling Bee. Daytona Beach News-JournalWhen Pete Carney, director of jazz studies at the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, couldn’t find a textbook he liked for a music appreciation class, he wrote his own. It’s now the official state textbook for middle school and high school music classes. Bradenton Herald. The Escambia County School District celebrates the savings of $1 million through its 10-year participation in Region Bank’s commercial purchasing card program. Pensacola News Journal.