Florida schools roundup: Amendment 8 off ballot, education lawsuit and more

Amendment 8 off ballot: A Leon County judge rules that proposed constitutional Amendment 8 should be removed from the November ballot because it “fails to inform voters of the chief purpose and effect.” The amendment would allow the Legislature to create an entity to authorize charter schools. It would also set term limits for school board members and require civics education in schools. Judge John Cooper agreed with the plaintiffs, the League of Women Voters, that the ballot language was misleading and that the Citizens Review Commission bunched the three separate proposals to boost its chance of passage. The state is expected to appeal the decision. News Service of Florida. Associated PressTampa Bay TimesOrlando Sentinel. Florida Phoenix. WFSU. Southern Poverty Law Center. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi files a response to the Supreme Court to a separate challenge from former chief justice Harry Lee Anstead, who contends six amendments are unconstitutionally bundled and should be removed from the ballot. Bondi argues that only the ballot proposals put forward by the public through petitions need to adhere to the state’s single-subject rule because they don’t have the oversight that the Constitution Revision Commission and Legislature have when creating and adopting proposals. Gradebook. Florida Politics.

Education lawsuit: Each side in a nine-year-old lawsuit over the way the state funds education will get 20 minutes Nov. 8 to make their cases before the Florida Supreme Court. The group that filed the suit, Citizens for Strong Schools, claims the state is failing in its constitutional duty to provide a “high quality” public education system. The state argues that the constitutional language is aspirational and can’t be measured. Two courts have already sided with the state. Gradebook. WFSU. News Service of Florida.

Videos won’t be shown: After parents questioned plans to show elementary and middle school students videos of what to do during a school shooting, Pinellas County school officials change course and say the videos won’t be shown to elementary students. Instead, the district will put the videos on its website so parents can decide whether to show them to their children. WTVT. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. Parents in St. Johns County also object to videos the school district plans to show students about what they should and should not do during a school shooting. The district plans for all students to watch the videos by Sept. 15. WJXT

School security: Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings is asking the county commission for enough money to hire 75 deputies who can be assigned to every school in the unincorporated parts of the county. The $11.2 million cost would be split among the school board, county and state. Orlando Sentinel. States have put more than $900 million into school security since the Feb. 14 shootings in Parkland. About $400 million of that total is in Florida. The 74.

Back to school: The state’s largest school district, Miami-Dade, began its school year Monday with about 350,000 students and increased police presence at every one of its 389 public schools. The district still is short about 220 teachers, but academic coaches and curriculum support personnel will handle those classes until the positions are filled. Miami Herald. “Now is the time to shift our focus from the necessary obsession over safety and security to the normalcy of teaching and learning,” says Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. WLRN.

Software deal update: The Manatee County School District is likely to spend even more on software for its business operations, according to interim Superintendent Cynthia Saunders. The project is already $10 million over budget and a year behind schedule. Deputy superintendent Ron Ciranna, who directed the project, has been put on administrative leave while the district investigates how the project ballooned in cost. Saunders says she initiated an investigation after being asked to approve another $2 million for the project. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teachers fail tests: More than 200 south Florida teachers have been fired because they failed their Florida Teacher Certification Examinations. In Broward County, 171 teachers lost their jobs, and in Miami-Dade 52 were fired. WSVN.

Charter back on meal plan: Marion Military Academy officials say they still don’t agree to provisions in the contract with the Marion County School District, but signed anyway because “we wanted to make sure the cadets were fed,” says Charles deMenzes, a board member at the charter school. The school objects to the contract’s public records provision and clause giving the district sovereign immunity to provide food services. Ocala Star-Banner.

Advanced classes cut: Advanced classes have been eliminated at Callahan Middle School in Nassau County. District officials say the move was made to improve the school’s grade from the state from a B to an A. Earlier this month another Nassau County school, Yulee Middle, cut about half its advanced classes. WJAX.

School board elections: Previewing the District 7 race for the Orange County School Board. Orlando Sentinel. Candidates for the Flagler County School Board talk about special education. Flagler Live.

Old school site sold: Lake County School Board members approve the sale of the old Dabney Elementary School property to a developer for $750,000. Dabney was closed in 2008 and demolished in 2015. Daily Commercial.

Games rescheduled again: Two Palm Beach County high school football games that had been rescheduled after a shooting at a game Friday night have been rescheduled yet again. This week’s games were originally changed to Saturday morning, but were changed again after school officials realized many students are taking their SAT exams then. Now they’ll be played at 5 p.m. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel. WLRN.

Teacher pleads guilty: A former Palm Beach County music teacher accused of molesting a student has pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted lewd acts with a minor. Terrence Dwarika, 39, was sentenced to four years of probation. He taught at Trinity Christian School in Palm Beach Gardens. Palm Beach Post.

Student arrested: A 15-year-old Timber Creek High School student is arrested and accused of posting a threat against the Orange County school on social media. Extra law enforcement was at the school Monday as a precaution. Orlando Sentinel.

School bus drivers arrested: A Martin County school bus driver is arrested after she pulled her crying 5-year-old daughter out of their car last week in St. Lucie County, left her on the side of a road and drove away. Jami DePriest, 46, said she was teaching her child a lesson. She’s been charged with neglecting a child without great bodily harm and has been reassigned by the school district pending an internal investigation. Miami Herald. A Clay County school bus driver is arrested and charged with possession of child pornography. Paul Milton Rigsby, 48, resigned after his arrest. WOKV. Miami Herald.

PTA embezzlement: A former official of an Escambia County elementary school’s PTA is sentenced to two years in prison after she pleaded no contest to charges of stealing more than $20,000 from the organization. Sarina Young, 35, was arrested in 2016 after an investigation by the school district and the State Attorney’s Office disclosed the theft from the Ferry Pass Elementary PTA. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Opinions on schools: In Florida, good news about public schools is increasingly ignored by public school groups and over overlooked by media; meanwhile alternative facts seed conspiracy theories. Ron Matus, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. There has been a zealous push by Tallahassee lawmakers supporting school privatization that would effectively undermine our public schools. Rita Ferrandino, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Community partnership schools work because they eliminate barriers, bringing necessary services and resources like health care, counseling, mentoring, leadership opportunities and after-school enrichment opportunities right on site. Michael Shaver, Gainesville Sun. The effort to interest students in careers in physics, engineering, computing and mathematics need to begin in middle schools. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Florida needs a better system for approving and working with charter schools. We need to put the needs of students first, and avoid setting up charter schools and their governing organization for a rocky relationship. Lane Wright, The Capitolist.