Florida schools roundup: Construction funds, Bright Futures, testing and more

School construction funds: Florida will be $36 million short for school construction funding in the next year if legislators do not agree to borrow money. The latest revenue estimates suggest the Public Education Capital Outlay revenue for the 2017-2018 school year will be $337 million. But state education officials have requested $373 million for projects. Gov. Rick Scott has historically been averse to such borrowing, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, has spoken out against new PECO bonding. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has said he is open to a “reasonable” amount of bonding. News Service of Florida.

Bright Futures: A House education subcommittee approves a higher education bill that is substantially different than the one approved by the Senate. But both bills expand Bright Futures scholarships by covering full tuition and fees for qualifying students plus $300 for textbooks and other costs. Both would also allow recipients to use scholarship money for summer classes, though the Senate version restricts use to “academic scholars” while the House bill offers it for all Bright Futures recipients. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida.

Making tests available: The House PreK-12 Quality subcommittee approves a bill that would require the Florida Department of Education to post state assessment exams online after they are taken. “So much is driven around these tests,” says Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay. “I think it makes sense for us to know what we’re evaluating.” The committee also approved a bill that would allow students to satisfy graduation requirements for an arts or elective credit with a trade apprenticeship. Gradebook. Politico Florida.

PTA praises Scott budget: The Florida PTA jumps into the legislative battle over education budgets by praising Gov. Rick Scott’s. In a statement, PTA officials said: “Florida PTA applauds the governor’s request to increase total funding for K-12 education to $20.99 million, and state funding to $11.55 million, both historic highs. We likewise consider his proposed record $7420.99 in per-pupil funding a good first step toward bringing Florida closer to the national average. Equally welcome is the governor’s commitment to increasing the budgets for early learning, voluntary pre-kindergarten, and school readiness.” Gradebook.

Hukill to miss session: State Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, says she will miss the legislative session to continue radiation treatments for cervical cancer. Hukill chairs the Senate Education Committee. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Preparing for cuts: Southwest Florida school officials say they’re preparing for cuts in after-school programs being proposed in President Donald Trump’s budget. Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said the programs are targeted because there is no evidence that after-school programs benefit kids. WBBH.

Recess concerns: Some St. Johns County school officials worry that if a bill requiring 20 minutes of recess a day for elementary school students is passed, valuable instructional time will be lost. Recess plus physical education classes would take 50 minutes out of the school time every day, says school board member Bev Slough, “and we only have them for six hours.” St. Augustine Record.

If Vitti leaves: Some Duval County community leaders worry about what will happen to the Duval County School District if Superintendent Nikolai Vitti leaves, while others would welcome a change. Vitti is one of three finalists for the superintendent’s job in Detroit. Florida Times-Union.

Superintendent’s job: Forty-one people have applied to become the next Flagler County school superintendent, but only four are currently superintendents and all lead districts considerably smaller than Flagler’s. Flagler Live.

Superintendent Q&A: Hillsborough County School Superintendent Jeff Eakins answer questions about the district’s graduation rate, Title I schools, financial problems and employee morale. Tampa Bay Times.

Lawsuit against district: A federal judge rules that a lawsuit alleging discrimination against immigrant students against the Collier County School Board can continue. The Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based national civil rights advocacy group, filed the suit on behalf of recently arrived immigrant students with limited English skills who were allegedly denied access to public education. The judge was ruling in response to the district’s request to have the lawsuit tossed out of court. The next hearing in the case is April 18. Naples Daily News.

Florida board short: The Florida Board of Education meets Wednesday with one of its positions still unfilled. Gov. Rick Scott has yet to replace John Padget, whose second and final term expired in December. The term of another board member, Michael Olenick, also expired in December, but he will continue sitting on the board until a successor is named. The board’s agenda includes the proposed conversion of the Jefferson County School District to a charter district. Gradebook.

Website guides students: The Santa Rosa School District creates a website to help students find potential careers that are in demand. The site, www.santarosacareerpathways.com, informs students what industries are in the area and what jobs will be available for them. Pensacola News Journal.

School bus driver honored: David Doss, a longtime bus driver for the Bay County School District, is honored by the school board for saving the life of a choking student. Doss used the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge a gumball from the throat of a fifth-grader from the Breakfast Point Academy in January. Panama City News Herald.

Charter school complaint: Parents of a second-grader file a complaint against the Island Village Montessori School, alleging the school violated the state’s open-government laws. The parents say their child was kicked out of the school after they filed a public-records request for employee personnel records. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Memorial to a student: Counseling support is offered to Cypress Creek High School students after a popular senior, Ryan Farrell, died over the weekend. The cause of death was not disclosed. A memorial of flowers, jerseys and artwork was constructed at the school in Farrell’s honor. Fort Myers News-Press.

Teacher’s past: A music teacher who resigned from a Jacksonville area school after allegations of an improper relationship with a student previously left a Virginia school for the same reason. Brian Damron left the Virginia school in January 2015. He was hired at Stanton College Preparatory School in July 2015, but resigned in November 2016 after the latest allegations. Virginia officials did not inform Duval County officials about the circumstances of Damron’s resignation. Florida Times-Union.

Teachers arrested: An eighth-grade science teacher at South Dade Middle School is arrested and accused of driving under the influence, child abuse and battery on a law enforcement officer. The Florida Highway Patrol says Saryna Parker, 43, caused a crash with her 10-year-old son in the car, then failed a field sobriety test and attacked a trooper. The school district says she will be fired. Miami Herald. An Escambia County teacher is arrested and accused of striking an autistic child at Warrington Elementary School. Sharon Jones, 66, says she was just trying to restrain the child. Pensacola News Journal.

Firing cause: Former Lakeland High School Athletic Director Justin Troller was fired for violating the Polk County School District’s ethics policies when he communicated with a 17-year-old student, according to a letter sent to him by Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: We must all join together, unified, working to ensure that our teachers are properly compensated. The future of our society depends on our teaching force. Mari Tere Rojas, Miami Herald. Classroom deadtime created by statewide testing is a real problem, but it’s fixable. Shawn R. Frost, TCPalm.

Student enrichment: Carly Stafford, a senior at Booker High School in Sarasota, wins the best-in-show student award at the Embracing Our Differences international art exhibition. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Students at Coral Cables Senior High School are learning about making healthy food choices using a virtual reality game, Sugar Goggles. Miami Herald. Mackensie Alexander, a cornerback for the Minnesota Vikings, donates 400 backpacks with sports gear to children at the Boys & Girls Club in Immokalee. Naples Daily News. Eighty-five second-graders from four Immokalee schools get a day at the beach, courtesy of the Guadalupe Center. The center is the site of an after-school tutoring program. Naples Daily News.