Florida schools roundup: Audit call, budgets, schools of hope and more

District audit request: State Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, is calling on the state to audit the Duval County School District to find out how it spent $21 million more than it budgeted to last year. Fischer acknowledges that the call for an audit is motivated, at least in part, by the school board’s consideration of joining a lawsuit against the new state education law, H.B. 7069. “I’m deeply concerned that the school district is taking their eye off the ball by considering frivolous lawsuits against the state rather than getting their financial house in order,” Fischer wrote to Sen. Debbie Mayfield, chairman of the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee. Florida Times-Union. Florida Politics. The Lee County School Board will consider this week whether to join the lawsuit against H.B. 7069. Several districts say they will join Broward and St. Lucie school districts in bringing a suit, or are considering it. Fort Myers News-Press.

School budgets: The Marion County School Board votes today on a proposed $534.7 million budget that hikes spending by $12.7 million over last year. About $7.8 million of that comes from state and federal spending, and the rest will be taken from reserves to help offset increased health-insurance premiums for employees. Ocala Star Banner. Brevard school officials say the tight state budget for education has put raises for teachers in jeopardy. Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, says the state budget includes raises for teachers rated highly effective or effective, which are on top of potential payouts from the teachers bonuses program. “So teachers will make more money because of the budget that we passed,” Fine says. “Brevard Public Schools doesn’t need to give them a raise to make that happen.” Meanwhile, Superintendent Desmond Blackburn gets a raise of $10,500. Florida Today.

Schools of hope: Three schools in north Florida could be home to the first “schools of hope” under the new education law, but 37 other schools that have struggled for three or more years also could qualify in the 2018-2019 school year. Under the plan, the state can offer financial incentives to recruit charter school companies into areas that have persistently low-performing schools. redefinED. The Sarasota County School District is taking a closer look at the Suncoast School for Innovative Studies, the only Title I charter school in the county. It received a D grade from the state. “… Why did (Title 1 elementary school) Emma E. Booker get a B and you got a D when you’ve got the same demographics?” asks board member Eric Robinson. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Anti-bullying boost: A new school code of conduct is approved by the Lake County School Board. One of the provisions allows students to be disciplined if their use of social media, even outside of school, includes bullying. The policy also allows discipline for retaliation against anyone who reports bullying. Daily Commercial.

Speaking policy: The Palm Beach School Board will consider a policy change that would prohibit school officials from contacting students and others who have signed up to speak at board meetings “for the purpose of dissuading, interfering or discouraging the speaker from addressing the board.” Five months ago, two administrators at Lake Worth High School tried to pressure students to cancel plans to speak about a school controversy at a board meeting. Palm Beach Post.

Fewer tests: Polk County students will have fewer tests this year, at both the state and district levels. The state has ended the algebra 2 end-of-course exam, and the district will eliminate mid-term and final exams for K-10 students. Lakeland Ledger. Suicides among middle school students doubled between 2007 and 2014, and some researchers, educators and psychologists think pressure from increased standardized testing is among the factors. Common Dreams.

Computer science expansion: The Seminole County School District is expanding its computer science instruction by adding coding lessons into the curriculum at two elementary schools. “Code to the Future” will work coding lessons into daily work for K-5 students at Altamonte and Pine Crest elementary schools. They are the first in Florida to become “immersion schools” through the program. Orlando Sentinel.

District mulls loan: The Martin County School Board is considering its options for a loan to help pay for a new athletic facilities at South Fork High School Board. The debate centers over whether to take a 5-year loan or a one for 15 to 20 years. TCPalm.

School changes: Goodwill Manasota is taking over operation of the Ave Maria Preparatory School, which serves students ages 6-22 with special learning needs in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto and Hardee counties. The school will be renamed the McKay Academy. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Three new schools open in St. Johns County next month, and renovation projects will change the faces of several other schools. St. Augustine Record. WJAX.

Judge backs board: A federal magistrate judge says a lawsuit against the Monroe County School Board for sexual harassment should be dismissed. The family of a 2nd-grader claimed officials at Stanley Switlik Elementary School ignored complaints about another student harassing their daughter. The matter now goes to a circuit judge. Keynoter.

Opinions on schools: The new state education law isn’t quite as ogre-ish as some people are painting it. For one thing, the law changes little from past practices. Lakeland Ledger. The state’s shortchanging of school districts is having an effect on budget hearings. Naples Daily News. The Florida Department of Education recently told school superintendents that there is nothing in the most recent law that says where recess has to take place, meaning that schools can hold free-play recess indoors. We believe this is a mistake. 

Student enrichment: Thirty Duval County teacher get training in using 3-D printers. At the end of the training, each teacher will get a printer for his or her classroom. Florida Times-Union. Mulberry High School gets technology, medical and future educators career academies this year. Lakeland Ledger.