Florida schools roundup: School funding and testing, drug tests and more

School funding: State Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, files a bill that would require a study of the “district cost differential” portion of the state’s school funding formula. S.B. 1394 would require a study by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, which would then make recommendations on possible changes. Some districts think the formula is unfair. News Service of Florida. Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, files a bill that would create a website showing the total federal, state and local dollars spent on students’ education. Bradley proposes allocating $500,000 for S.B. 1414. WFSU.

Drug test challenge: A retiree who wants to be a substitute teacher, classroom aide or tutor is suing the Palm Beach School District over its requirement that applicants for those jobs pass a drug test. Joan Friedenberg objects to the “suspicionless drug test.” Palm Beach Post.

School testing: The Manatee County School Board rejects a proposal to end district-mandated testing. School officials’ arguments that the tests have led to higher Florida Standards Assessments, SAT and ACT scores and a higher graduation rate persuaded Charlie Kennedy, who proposed the cutbacks. “I am kind of in a different place now than I was coming into it … having a better understanding of the data we are using to guide (and) the benchmarks as a way to improve FSA scores,” Kennedy said. Bradenton Herald.

Legislative preview: Education issues affecting students from kindergarten through college are being considered in the legislative session that begins Tuesday. Here are previews of some of the issues being debated. Miami Herald. News Service of Florida.

Computer science academy: The Duval County School District is turning Northwestern Middle School into a computer science academy. A state grant of $2.1 million will finance the transformation. Classrooms will get new technology, and the curriculum is designed to take students from beginner computer coding to advanced coding by high school. Florida Times-Union. WJAX.

Spending sales tax money: Brevard school officials, the school board and members of a community oversight group are trying to reconcile their differences over how to spend money coming in from an extra half-cent sales tax voters approved two years ago. The tax has generated $78.6 million for building repairs, technology and security, but that’s only 25 percent of what’s needed. About $58 million has already been spent. Florida Today.

Email to teachers: All 13,000 Palm Beach County teachers get an email from Superintendent Robert Avossa after the district settles the case of a teacher whose mentoring of a troubled student nearly got her fired. Avossa urged teachers “not to overstep your role as an educator,” and wrote that “the recent incident has made it clear that we, as a district, must do a better job in providing clarity, training, and resources for our teachers who are compelled to help students in need.” Palm Beach Post.

Money to private schools: In the past four years, public spending for private schools in Hernando County has increased from $2.5 million a year to $8.6 million. Tampa Bay Times.

School conversion: The Broward County School Board gives tentative approval to the conversion of Millennium Middle School in Tamarac into a school for sixth through 12th grades. The board also approved a change in school boundaries that will send some students from Heron Heights and Park Trails elementary schools to Riverglades Elementary. Sun-Sentinel.

Testing resumes: Internet service is restored to Hernando County schools, allowing students to resume taking their Florida Standards Assessments tests. The tests were delayed two days by the outage. Tampa Bay Times.

Contract negotiations: A special magistrate who presided in the contract impasse between the Manatee County School District and its teachers union backs the teachers on the issues of pay and health insurance premiums. The sides meet March 9, and if either disagrees with the magistrate’s recommendations, the impasse goes to the school board. Bradenton Herald. The Pasco County School District and its service employees union present their cases in their contract impasse to a state hearing officer. The district has offered a 2.68 percent raise, but the union wants more. The officer is expected to make a recommendation later this month or next month. Gradebook.

Superintendent’s Day 1: On his first day as Sarasota County school superintendent, Todd Bowden answers questions from students, seeks their advice on where his daughter should go to high school and urges them to “have lots of mentors.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School uniforms: Three Pasco County charter schools are asking the state for money to buy school uniforms. The program allots $10 per student for uniforms. Gradebook.

Program threatened: Officials at the Prodigy Cultural Arts Program after-school program in Tampa worry that the program could end. The program, which offers dance, art, spoken word, theater and other music classes, received $4.6 million this year, but isn’t in next year’s budget of Gov. Rick Scott. Tampa Bay Times.

Personnel changes: Dennis McFatten is named the safe schools coordinator for Marion County School District. McFatten, 49, is a retired Marion County Sheriff’s Office captain who lost the election for sheriff in November. Ocala Star Banner. Former Leon County school superintendent Jackie Pons is hired as school development officer at the FAMU Developmental Research School. He will advise the superintendent at the university-run K-12 district. Tallahassee Democrat.

Notable deaths: Edward Marko, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer who represented the Broward County School Board for more than 40 years, has died at age 83. Sun-Sentinel.

Boy dies at track practice: An 11-year-old boy collapses and dies as he was warming up for track practice at Miami Northwestern Senior High School. The boy was a member of a track club that practices at the school. Miami Herald.

School fights: More than 1,200 fights have broken out in the past three months in Duval County schools, which is slightly lower than the total a year ago. Most are in middle schools, district officials say. WJAX.

School burglary: Two 16-year-old boys are arrested for breaking into DeLand Middle School and stealing $700. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

No charges for AD: No criminal charges will be filed against Lakeland High School athletic director Justin Troller, who was accused of inappropriate communications with a 17-year-old student. Polk County school officials will review the sheriff’s report, which does conclude Troller lied when he and another teacher falsely accused the student of using profanity. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: For too long public school educators have been dictated to by policymakers with little to no formal educational or practical experience in the classroom. It’s time they listened to teachers and other stakeholders in public education. Scott Mazur, Tallahassee Democrat.

Student enrichment: Three students at Pensacola High School start a community development project to relieve medical debt. Samir Boussarhane, Josh Williams and Falen McClellan have raised $700 so far through the New York-based charity RIP Medical Debt, enough to relieve $100,000 in medical debt for people in the Pensacola area. Pensacola News Journal. The hallway walls at Miami Killian Senior High School are brightened by murals painted by two young artists and the school’s students. Miami Herald. Two stars from Moonlight, the Oscar winner for best film, are back in their seventh-grade classes at Norland Middle School in Miami Gardens. Alex Hibbert and Jaden Piner were joined in the film by about a dozen of their fellow students. Associated Press. The Eagle Creek community’s women’s golf association raises money to buy 60 laptops for students at Manatee Middle School in East Naples. Naples Daily News.