Florida schools roundup: Final day of the session, charters and testing and more

Education bill: Most of the legislative session’s major education issues are tied into a single bill that lawmakers will vote on today as part of the state’s overall budget. Testing reforms, teacher bonuses, mandatory daily recess and expansion of charter schools are all part of the bill, which can only pass or fail. No amendments are permitted. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. Sunshine State News. News Service of Florida. A guide to what’s in the 278-page, $414 million education bill. Politico Florida. The Florida Legislature is back in session today to vote on the state’s $82.4 billion budget. Tampa Bay TimesNews Service of Florida. Politico Florida. WFSU. Advocates for mandatory daily recess for elementary students are angry that the bill was lumped into the omnibus education bill and watered down with an exemption for charter schools. “This is not just about recess anymore. This bill is a mishmash of some policies that have never even been vetted before,” says Angela Browning of Orlando, one of the parents who have been fighting for years to get daily recess for students. Miami Herald. Other parents and school leaders also are urging that the Legislature reject the education bill. Miami Herald. Palm Beach County School Superintendent Robert Avossa often says his county is a “donor” to the state education budget. Here’s why. Palm Beach Post. State school districts say they will be hurt by the state education budget. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Panama City News Herald. St. Augustine Record. WJAX. Charter schools, school choice and universities are among the winners in this year’s legislative session. Ocala Star Banner. Sunshine State News.

Material challenges: Parents and members of the community will have greater power to challenge textbooks and other classroom materials used in schools under a bill passed by the Legislature. Supporters say the measure gives members of the community a say they weren’t always getting from local school boards. Critics contend the bill makes it easier for objections on religious and philosophical grounds on things like the Holocaust, slavery, climate change and evolution. Miami Herald.

Scholarships expanded: The Legislature approves a bill that increases scholarship opportunities for poor students and those with disabilities. The amount of money poor students receive under the tax credit scholarship program is increased, and more disabilities will be covered by the Gardiner scholarship. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer both programs. Miami Herald. redefinED. Associated PressPolitico Florida.

Sports choice: Private school students in Florida will be able to play sports at the public school of their choice, based on that school district’s open enrollment policy,  if Gov. Rick Scott signs a bill the Legislature has passed. redefinED.

Charters and testing: A report from the Florida Department of Education concludes that charter school students outperform their peers on state assessment tests in most subjects and for most age groups. And the report says most poor and minority students also perform better at charter schools. A little less than 10 percent of Florida’s students attend charter schools. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald.

House run considered: Miami-Dade County School Superintendent Albert Carvalho says he is considering running for the District 27 U.S. House seat that is opening because of Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s retirement. Carvalho, who has no party affiliation, is being recruited to run as a Democrat and says if he does run, he may do so as an independent. Politico Florida.

Superintendent Q&A: New Lake County School Superintendent Diane Kornegay talks about the feedback she’s getting from teachers, the creation of regions to decentralize decision-making for schools, school capacity and more in a Q&A. Orlando Sentinel.

Millage rate discussion: The Manatee County School Board will consider raising its millage rate to provide more revenue for schools. The current rate is 6.92 mills. A half-mill increase would raise about $16.5 million. Bradenton Herald.

School sexual assaults: Student-on-student sexual assault is often minimized as bullying or hazing in boys’ sports, according to an investigation of state education records and federal crime data. Associated Press.

Settlement approved: The Legislature approves a bill authorizing a $1.5 million payment to a woman whose 9-year-old son was killed in a St. Lucie County school bus crash in 2012. Aaron Beauchamp died when his school bus driver failed to stop at an intersection and the bus was hit by a tractor trailer. Legislative approval is required when any government agency is ordered to pay more than $300,000 in damages. TCPalm.

Educating refugees: About 60 refugees are enrolled in the Leon County School District, mostly from Syria and the Congo, prompting the district to buy workbooks and language software and hire translators and tutors. Tallahassee Democrat.

New union leader: Justin Katz is elected president of the Palm Beach County teachers union. Katz, a 33-year-old teacher at Park Vista High School, defeated Gordon Longhofer by less than 60 votes of the 1,300 cast. The union had attempted to bar Katz from running, saying he was ineligible because he let his dues lapse when he took a leave to care for a family member. But that decision was reversed after the state teachers union recommended he be allowed to run. Palm Beach Post.

Personnel changes: The man hired to help turn around several failing schools in Pinellas County is leaving after a year and a half on the job. Antonio Burt is resigning as director of the district’s new Transformation Zone for what Superintendent Michael Grego calls personal reasons. Burt has offered to continue working with the district, but as a consultant. Tampa Bay Times. Richard Gehman, who has been headmaster at the Oak Hall School in Gainesville for 24 years, is retiring. Gainesville Sun.

Technology Q&A: Chad Lewis, director of technology at Tampa Preparatory School, talks about the decision to provide an iPad for every student, apps teachers use, digital books vs. hardcovers and more in a Q&A. T.H.E. Journal.

Second rape charge: A second student has told Volusia County deputies that he was raped by a former campus adviser and assistant volleyball coach at T. Dewitt Taylor Middle-High. Keyunta Murphy, 23, is already in jail on charges that he raped another student. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Graduation gifts stolen: Thousands of dollars worth of gifts for students graduating from Mount Dora High School are stolen from the school. Parents spent a year raising money for the gifts, which were to be given out on at the May 19 graduation party. Orlando Sentinel.

Employee arrested: A employee at the New Leaf Center alternative school in Ocala is arrested and accused of throwing a backpack at an 11-year-old student and placing him in a chokehold. Matthew Miller, 26, has been suspended with pay pending an investigation. Ocala Star Banner.

Opinions on schools: The proposed state budget slashes the Base Student Allocation for the upcoming fiscal year by $27 per student, from $4,161 down to $4,134 per student. This is a significant blow to public education, particularly when you consider Florida’s per-student funding is already below the national average. Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie, Sun-Sentinel. Considering the overall economic strength of the state, it is unconscionable that the Legislature isn’t even funding the basic needs of its public schools. I join my fellow Florida superintendents in calling upon Florida legislators to increase the base student funding for public education to meet the basic needs of Florida’s 2.8 million students, and reject any effort to divert Title I funding away from our neediest children. Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning, Tampa Bay Times. When you consider what the Legislature has done, it’s hard not to come to the same conclusion as Alachua County School Board member Eileen Roy — that state lawmakers are depleting public education of funding to facilitate a shift to charter and private schools. Nathan Crabbe, Gainesville Sun. What Marion County School Superintendent Heidi Maier has done and is doing is noteworthy and will undoubtedly make a difference. But to make significant strides means confronting — and, to some extent, overcoming — our socioeconomic realities head on, and that will necessitate communitywide participation. Ocala Star Banner. The few surviving Rosenwald schools in Florida are places that matter, because they are emblems and centers of their communities. Joy Wallace Dickinson, Orlando Sentinel. The Flagler County School Board picked a winner when it hired James Tager as superintendent. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Student enrichment: Students in the 3D art class at Lake Worth High School create clothes out of such things as old newspapers, cat food packets, plastic bags, discarded toilet paper and candy bar wrappers for an exhibit at an art studio. Palm Beach Post. The Deane Bozeman School symphonic band is awarded the Florida Bandmasters Association’s Otto J. Kraushaar Award, which is given to just 1 percent of the state’s top band programs. Panama City News Herald. Students at Sawgrass Bay Elementary have been raising money for the South Lake Animal League all year, and last week the league sent service dogs to the school to join the students’ reading groups. Daily Commercial.

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BY NextSteps staff