Florida schools roundup: Budgeting, bullying, school oversight and more

State budgeting: The Senate and House pass budgets that are close in size, but at odds on how to pay for education, among other things. The House’s $87.2 billion budget includes tying the changes in education proposed in H.B. 7055 to the overall budget. But senators used a procedure to force the House to uncouple the education bill from the budget, and passed its own $87.3 billion budget. H.B. 7055 will now have to pass through several Senate committees. Tampa Bay Times. News Service of FloridaAssociated PressPolitico Florida. A discussion of the House education bill, its chances of becoming law, and how it’s connected to the overall state budget. Gradebook.

Senate moves bills: Bills that would provide scholarships for bullied students and increased oversight of private school choice programs are approved by the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee. S.B. 1172 would allow victims of bullying and violence to transfer to other public schools or receive a state scholarship to attend a private school. The House also passed its version of the bill, known as the Hope Scholarship. S.B. 1756 calls for tightening state oversight of those private schools that accept state scholarships. It also requires  those private schools to employ only teachers with degrees. But that stipulation has run into some resistance, so Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, is proposing that the language be amended to apply only to teachers hired after July 1, 2018, and who are assigned to grade 2 or higher. Those teachers with experience but no degrees would be grandfathered in. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit and Gardiner scholarship programs. redefinEDGradebook. WFSU. Naples Daily News.

Teacher-student romances: Two bills being considered in the House would crack down on romantic entanglements between teachers and students. H.B. 515 would make any such relationships, regardless of the age of the student, a second degree felony for the teacher. Another bill, H.B. 1391, would hold schools and school officials accountable if they fail to report certain misconduct to law enforcement officials or to other prospective employers checking references. Both have been approved by the House Education Committee. Miami Herald.

Charter payments: The Florida Department of Education is calling on the Broward and Orange school districts to pay what they owe in local construction funding to charter schools by today or provide a valid reason why they won’t. The districts say they’re keeping the money in an escrow account until there’s a decision in their lawsuit against the state, which argues that it’s unconstitutional to force districts to share money they collect in local property taxes with charters. Hershel Lyons, the state’s chancellor of K-12 education, says pending legal action “is not an appropriate basis for nonpayment of the capital outlay funds.” redefinEDWLRN. Charter schools in Collier County say they worry that the school district will take back the school construction money the charters have already received if a judge agrees with Collier and other districts that the law forcing the payments is declared unconstitutional. Naples Daily News.

Alleged abuse ignored: A boy who accused a renowned Palm Beach County teacher of sexual molestation says the school district did nothing for years. Only after a newspaper began an inquiry did the district put Richard Valentine, a Bak Middle School of the Arts theater instructor, on paid leave. Six days later, Valentine retired. In a statement, school officials say: “We can confidently say that … the current administration would have reacted differently to the allegations,” which were lodged in 2010. Palm Beach Post.

District apologizes: Indian River County school officials are apologizing for posting a story about a Confederate general on the district’s website for Black History Month. A statement called the posting “inadvertent … but wholly unacceptable.” TCPalm.

Turnaround schools: Polk County School Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd says she still hopes some of the six schools can avoid being turned over to a private company by improving their state grades to a C or higher. She is also critical of the law that is forcing her to choose a new path for persistently struggling schools. Lakeland Ledger.

School expansion: Volusia County school officials say the George W. Marks Elementary School in DeLand will be expanded over the summers of 2019 and 2020 to accommodate up to 850 students. The school now has fewer than 600. West Volusia Beacon.

Personnel moves: Luke Williams, a 54-year-old former assistant chief for the St. Petersburg Police Department, is named the Pinellas County School District’s chief of police. If approved by the school board, he will start March 1. The district also says Evelyn L. Mowatt, an assistant principal at Osceola Fundamental High School, is the new executive director of exceptional student education. Gradebook.

Duties reviewed: The duties of the Okaloosa County School District’s assistant superintendent of human resources will be reviewed after the person holding the job resigned. Stacie Smith is accused of failing to report child abuse. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Teachers honored: Eleven Florida teachers are presented with Governor’s Shine Awards for their contributions to the field of education. Bradenton Herald.

Suit facts disputed: Hillsborough County school officials say a lawsuit filed by a fired staffer is filled with errors and are asking a judge to have it stricken. The suit filed by former human resources chief Stephanie Woodford alleges that school officials defamed her after she was fired for refusing to go along with favors district staffers were doing for board members and their friends. Tampa Bay Times.

School board sniping: Hillsborough County School Board member April Griffin points to a photo on Facebook as proof that colleague Melissa Snively is a friend of frequent board critic Jason Ferger and is feeding information to him. Ferger denies that he and Snively are friends, and Snively has not commented. Gradebook.

Principal ordered to class: A plagiarizing principal is fined $750 by the Education Practices Commission and ordered to take a creative writing class. Mark Stenner was the principal at West Boca Raton High School in 2015 when he gave a commencement speech that leaned heavily on one given by the writer David McCullough Jr. in 2012. Stenner was transferred after the similarities were pointed out, and retired last June. Sun-Sentinel.

Teacher removed: A Broward County teacher is removed from the classroom after allegations that he molested a student. Wyman Gresham, 48, who was teaching at the Lauderhill Stem-Med Magnet School, had been accused of sexual misconduct before. WPLG.

Student hit by car: A 16-year-old Western High School student is critically injured when she was hit by an SUV as she was walking to her school bus stop in Davie. Police say Melani Rivera was walking outside the crosswalk when she was struck, and the 100-year-old driver has not been cited. Sun-Sentinel.

Rape reported at school: A 14-year-old 9th-grader says she was raped by three boys in a bathroom at Miami Carol City Senior High School. School police officers are investigating. WSVN.

School fights: It took 37 Hillsborough County deputies to break up a brawl at Wharton High School in Tampa on Thursday, less than a week after another fight at Tampa Bay Technical High School. Twenty-four students have been arrested. Deputies say the brawls were sparked by “neighborhood issues.” Tampa Bay Times.

Bus stop problem: An Okaloosa County school bus driver is accused of forcing an 8-year-old disabled girl off his bus at the wrong stop, even after the girl told him it wasn’t her stop. School officials and the sheriff’s office are investigating. WEAR.

Vandals hit school: Vandals damage computers and televisions in the media center and toss garbage around the football field concession stands at Bishop Verot High School. Police are investigating. Fort Myers News-Press.

Opinions on schools: Young children should not be arrested in school and sent to psychiatric hospitals. Matthew Dietz and Carlos J. Martinez, Miami Herald.

Student enrichment: Boca High School student Michael Gorlano has autism and a passion for yoga. This week he taught a class of 1,000 students at his school. Sun-Sentinel. A team of 20 Gulf Coast High School students will compete next week at the North American Invitational Model United Nations conference. Naples Daily News. About 40 Volusia County high school students get an up-close look at cases of dismemberment, murder and drugs in a visit to Circuit Judge Leah Case’s courtroom. Daytona Beach News-Journal.