Florida schools roundup: Budget, recess, ‘schools of hope’ and more

Education budget: The Legislature approves a massive education bill that would, among other things, require 20 minutes of recess daily for traditional public elementary schools, provide $140 million in incentive money for charter schools – called “schools of hope” – to move into areas with struggling schools, allot $234 million for bonuses to teachers and principals, and make changes in the standardized testing process. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, calls it “the greatest education K-12 policy we’ve passed in the history of the state.” Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, calls it a “piece of junk,” and others acknowledge parts of the bill will have to be “fixed” in the 2018 legislative session. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Associated PressPolitico Florida. redefinED. Accountability measures for charter schools that were proposed early in the legislative session disappeared from the education bill that was put together last Friday. Miami Herald. More school districts lobby against the education budget, urging Gov. Rick Scott to veto it, but also start preparing for the cuts they say will be required. Gradebook. Florida Times-Union. The state’s largest teachers union joins those calling on Scott to veto the bill. Miami Herald.

State budget: The Legislature approves the $83 billion budget bill, which now goes to Gov. Rick Scott. Included in it were the nearly 300-page education bill that expands charter school options, among other things, but not many of Scott’s priorities. Tampa Bay Times. Sun-Sentinel. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Naples Daily News. Sarasota Herald-TribunePolitico Florida.

Testing practice: Orange County students say online practice tests are boosting their test scores when they take the SAT college admissions exam. College Board officials attribute the average 115-point gain from the PSAT to the SAT to the Khan Academy’s free online practice tests. The College Board partners with Khan to provide the tests. Orlando Sentinel. Associated Press.

Mainstream protest: Parents and guardians of special-needs students in Pinellas County are criticizing a school district plan to move 50 adult students into local high schools. They say changing schools could be harmful to the students, and that the students might also see the change as a demotion. “I don’t want to have to educate the world again,” says Sue Maltzahn, alluding to the training the school staff would need to handle her daughter’s seizures. “We did that. Our kids are grown.” The district is making the change to cut costs and make the “Extended Transition” program more efficient. Tampa Bay Times.

Teach for America: More than 100 parents urge the Duval County School Board to keep funding the district’s relationship with Teach for America. Some board members say cutting the program can save costs. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has recommended spending $400,000 to hire 50 teachers from the program. Florida Times-Union. WJAX.

Fires affect schools: Two Pasco County schools will start later in the day the rest of the week as officials expect heavy early-morning smoke from two nearby wildfires. River Ridge middle and high schools were closed Monday, and will begin at 10:45 a.m. the rest of the week, three hours and 15 minutes later than usual. Gradebook. WTSP.

Educational equity: The Alachua County Council of PTAs will focus on helping the school district improve educational equity for the 2017-2018 school year. Gainesville Sun.

Assignment questioned: Parents of students at Deerfield Middle School are criticizing a critical thinking class assignment that has students creating Nazi propaganda posters. WTVJ.

Union election: The Palm Beach County teachers union won’t certify the election for president because the losing candidate has asked for a recount. Justin Katz defeated Gordon Longhofer by 28 votes out of 1,356 cast. The union meets Wednesday to decide on Longhofer’s request. Palm Beach Post.

Personnel changes: David McKenzie, the president of Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala, is leaving the school to take a job in St. Louis. He’ll be replaced by principal Lou Pereira, who will be replaced by Erika Wikstrom. Ocala Star Banner.

Teacher cleared: A school district investigation clears a Hillsborough County teacher accused by a conservative organization of banning students from wearing crosses and pushing a gay agenda. Lora Jane Riedas, a math teacher and faculty adviser of Riverview High School’s Gay Straight Alliance, said she banned rosaries because they’re not allowed in the school dress code. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher pleads no contest: A St. Johns County teacher pleads no contest to having a sexual relationship with a student. Virginia Hinckley will be sentenced May 31. WJAX.

Teacher on trial: A trial is expected to start next week for Brian Kornbluth, a Somerset Academy teacher who is accused of simple battery after allegedly being caught on camera kissing a 10-year-old male student Feb. 9. Kornbluth was suspended from the Boca Raton charter school without pay. Palm Beach Post.

Charter school bullying: A Duval County parent thought sending her daughter to a charter school would keep her safe. Instead, she finds that getting help for the bullying her daughter faces on a daily basis isn’t any easier at a charter school than it is at a traditional public school. Florida Times-Union.

Opinions on schools: Despite what you’ve heard or read, the Legislature’s education bill will greatly help the state’s students. Florida representatives Michael Bileca and Manny Diaz, Tampa Bay Times. A state report touting the performance of charter school students comes to an exaggerated conclusion because it fails to take into account selection effects, demographic differences and faulty analysis. William J. Mathis, National Education Policy Center. The Legislature’s bill on K-12 education has to be counted as a loss for Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Teach for America deserves the ongoing support of the Duval County School Board. Florida Times-Union. What states should Florida study for tips on improving math and reading achievement for middle school students? Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: The Orlando Science Center is developing a STEM-centric program to educate critically ill children who are hospitalized. Orlando Sentinel. All seven Marion County traditional public high schools are named to the Washington Post’s list of the most challenging U.S. high schools. Just 10 percent of the nation’s 23,000 high schools are chosen, and 374 are in Florida. Ocala Star Banner. Students at the i3 New Tech Academy in Palm Coast use 3D printers to create prosthetic limbs for two dogs. Daytona Beach News-Journal. In its 18th year, the Lake Worth Dollars for Scholars Foundation reaches $1 million in scholarship money awarded. Palm Beach Post. Eleven Polk County students are honored with Silver Garland awards for their volunteerism. Lakeland Ledger.

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BY NextSteps staff