Florida schools roundup: Charter suits, budgets, funding for schools and more

Charter lawsuits: An administrative law judge rules that the Florida Department of Education can withhold money from charter schools for construction and maintenance if they receive an F grade or two straight grades below C from the state. Charter school officials challenged the state’s rules, claiming DOE officials had overstepped their legal authority. News Service of Florida. For the Palm Beach County School Board, fighting the education bill in court is progression in the district’s ongoing battle against charter schools. The district has lost several cases to charters recently, but is likely to have other districts on its side this time. Several have announced a plan to sue the state over H.B. 7069, which they believe is too charter-friendly – at the expense if traditional public schools. Palm Beach Post. The Indian River County School Board is still trying to decide whether to appeal a judge’s ruling that the district unlawfully withheld money from five charter schools. TCPalm.

Proposed budgets: The Polk County School will consider a proposed $1.4 billion budget that has a slightly lower tax rate. The budget calls for repairs to some schools, technology improvements at 30 schools and the purchase of 50 school buses. Lakeland Ledger. The Leon County School Board will vote this week on a $305 million budget that includes an $8 million boost in spending with a slightly lower tax rate. The district will trim capital spending from $105 million last year to $103 million this year, but also sets aside $250,000 for buying additional school supplies. Tallahassee Democrat. The Volusia County School District plans to shift $2 million from its savings to help balance its proposed $869.8 million budget. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School funding: School officials in Lake, Osceola and Seminole counties complain that the state’s funding formula for schools is discriminatory against their districts and 52 others in the state. Florida’s “district cost differential” takes money from 55 districts and sends it to a dozen school districts with higher costs of living. Orlando Sentinel. Volusia County School Board chairwoman Melody Johnson will visit schools around the state to gather support against the state’s district cost differential formula it uses in determining how much money each district receives. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Activists in Florida join those across the country Saturday to rally behind public education. While many across the nation were protesting what they call Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ drive to privatize schools, those in Florida are largely angry with what they see as inequities in school funding and money being moved to charter schools from traditional public schools. Miami Herald. The Pinellas County School Board and Superintendent Michael Grego ask the county’s legislative delegation for help in correcting what they’re calling an “unjust” movement of money from districts for charter school construction and maintenance. Gradebook.

Making the law work: H.B. 7069 has been a law for three weeks, and the Florida Department of Education has issued just a few items of guidance to districts on implementation. Advisories on recess rules, testing schedules and mandates and resources for failing schools have been issued. Among the missing is how so-called “schools of hope” will be chosen and how the state will choose operators of those charter schools that will be recruited into areas with persistently low-performing schools. Miami Herald.

Concussion testing: The Miami Dolphins will pay for about 15,000 Miami-Dade high school athletes to get baseline concussion tests this year. Boys and girls competing in football, soccer, wrestling, basketball, baseball and cheerleading will be tested. The Dolphins will also help pay for counseling, education and a workshop on concussions put on by the University of Miami Sports Medicine Institute and KiDZ Neuroscience Center. Miami Herald.

Algebra test: A Florida state senator questions the fairness of dropping the algebra 2 end-of-course exam for students while counting it as part of a grade for others who took it and passed. In a letter to Department of Education officials, Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton wrote: “There is a current cohort of students who took the exam and had their grades negatively affected by a flawed test that their peers who will take Algebra II next year will not have to worry about.” News Service of Florida.

Spending projects: More than $400 million in contracts have been issued for Miami-Dade County school renovations, and a report indicates more than 63 percent of the work has gone to businesses owned by Hispanics or African-Americans. The district is in the middle of a $1.2 billion school improvement projects. Miami Herald.

Charter conversion: Lincoln Memorial Middle School leaders have met with Manatee County School District officials to lobby for approval to convert to a charter school. Superintendent Diana Greene is expected to make a recommendation for a school board vote at the Aug. 22 meeting. Principal Eddie Hundley says the conversion would allow the school to develop program that will benefit children in Palmetto. Bradenton Herald.

Search for teachers: South Florida schools are widening their search for teachers as more leave the profession and fewer choose to join it. In the past, the districts simply went to job fairs in Florida and the northeast United States. Now they’re going to Hawaii, California, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. They’re using federal grant money to pay for teacher’s aides to get teaching degrees. And they’re even attending job fairs for athletes, offering them teaching as a backup if a pro career in sports doesn’t happen. Sun Sentinel.

School officers: Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan threatens to remove resource officers out of seven schools if county commissioners don’t approve his budget request. Schools that would lose officers are Ernest Ward Middle, Northview High, West Florida High, Ferry Pass Middle, Rensom Middle, Bailey Middle and Bellvue Middle. WKRG. Pulse.

School board appointee: Gov. Rick Scott appoints Scott Hopes to an open seat on the Manatee County School Board. Hopes, a 56-year-old health care executive, replaces Karen Carpenter, who resigned June 1 and moved out of state. Bradenton HeraldSarasota Herald-Tribune.

District website hacked: The Bay County School District’s website is hacked, with an anime character making an obscene gesture and text stating “Hacked by Typical Idiot Security” replacing the usual content. Panama City News Herald.

Teachers honored: Jason Kester, the culinary teacher at Mainland High School, wins an award from the Florida Department of Education for instilling leadership skills in his students. Ormond Beach Observer. Five Florida teachers are awarded State Teachers Artist Residencies and will spend a week at the Hermitage Artist Retreat to work on individual art projects. They are: Brian Capley, a creative writing teacher from Osceola County School for the Arts; Jennifer Gironda, visual arts, Lake Worth High; Kathleen Holt, visual arts, Seminole High; Gerald Obregon, visual arts, Arthur & Molly Mays Conservatory of the Arts in Miami-Dade County; and Sandra Stiles, creative writing, Louise R. Johnson Middle School for International Studies in Manatee County. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Preparing for school: It’s not too early to start preparing your child to go back to school. Lakeland Ledger. The Florida Health Department is offering walk-in immunization clinics for students July 31-Aug. 11 in Marion County. Villages-News.

Teacher reinstated: A Golden Gate High School teacher is reinstated after an investigation disclosed no evidence that he had a sexual relationship with a student. The student made the claim in May, and the teacher was removed from the school. Naples Daily News.

Ex-principal arrested: The former principal of Kathleen Middle School is arrested for a second time. Ginger Collins, 46, is now accused of stealing $105,426 from McKeel Academy, a charter school, and trying to hide her crime by creating fake companies. Collins is already in jail, accused of using a district-issued credit card to steal at least $23,000 worth of equipment from Kathleen Middle School. WFLA.

Actions investigated: Lake County school officials are investigating how a sexual assault allegation against a Lake Minneola High School band teacher was handled. The sheriff’s department said the district discovered questionable social media contacts between teacher Jon North and a student in mid-June, but he was not arrested until last week. WFTV.

Plea deal tossed: A plea deal in a DUI case that left South Dade High School principal Javier Perez without legs is thrown out when the driver arrives four hours late for court. A trial date is set in December for Marilyn Aguilera. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: The K-12 education system in Florida — the one that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos likes to praise as a model for the nation — is in chaos. Valerie Strauss, Washington Post. For 90 years, Grand Avenue School was the vital center of Orlando’s Holden Heights neighborhood. Now community advocates are hoping the two-story Mediterranean Revival building won’t be leveled by a wrecking ball. A civic asset of such cultural and historic value deserves a far better fate from the city and the school district. Orlando Sentinel. Sarasota County’s experience passing school tax initiatives provides a lesson for Manatee County. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: The rapper Kodak Black is planning to give away school supplies for 1,300 Pompano Beach students at a fund-raiser Aug. 14. Sun Sentinel. TMZ. Girls learn coding, programming and more at a girls-only AspireIT summer camp. Fort Myers News-Press.