Florida schools roundup: Funding for education, guardians, charters and more

Board’s budget request: The Florida Board of Education’s formal budget request to the Legislature asks for a $673 million boost in funding for the 67 school districts that includes $200 more in per-student funding and a $100 million increase in the safe schools initiative. Of that total, $170 million would be new funding from the state and the rest would come from increases in local school property tax collections. The board also is asking for $67.5 million for the school guardian program, and ignored one member’s call to let districts use unspent funds from the program for other security measures.  The budget request now goes to the Legislature for consideration. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Gradebook. Meanwhile, the Joint Legislative Budget Commission officially rejects requests to make $58 million in unused funds from last year’s school guardian program available for districts to spend for resource officers and other security measures. TCPalm.

Charter rejection overturned: The Florida Board of Education overturns the Leon County School Board’s rejection of a charter school’s application. The decision means the Tallahassee Classical School will be allowed to open in the 2019-2020 school year. Leon school board members unanimously denied the charter’s application because they felt the school did not reflect the community’s diversity and that it would discriminate against disabled students. But the state BOE sided with the Florida Department of Education’s Charter School Appeal Commission, which ruled that the Leon board did not have good cause to reject the application. It’s the second time this summer that the board has overruled local decisions to deny charter schools’ applications. redefinED.

Officials: school water safe: Brevard County school officials say utility officials assure them that tap water at Satellite High, Gemini Elementary and Ocean Breeze Elementary schools is safe to drink. Water at schools along the beaches has been tested for a variety of chemicals. “We would look to Melbourne Utilities,” says Dane Theodore, the district’s assistant superintendent of facilities services. “This is not a school issue. It is a community issue. … Our understanding is that they believe it’s safe.” Florida Today.

Education and politics: Spending on education is becoming a critical issue in November’s gubernatorial election. Democrat Andrew Gillum is proposing to raise the state’s corporate income tax by 40 percent to generate an extra billion dollars a year for public schools. Ron DeSantis, Gillum’s opponent, and other Republicans are being joined by business leaders in attacking the proposal, claiming it will be a “disaster” for the state’s economy. Gillum defends it, saying “Florida cannot be a cheap date and still be the state that is deserving of our children.” GateHouse.

Taxing issues: The Pasco County teachers union is calling on the school board to hold a referendum to let voters decide whether they want to raise property taxes to pay teachers higher salaries. Teachers are offering the vote as an alternative to a plan pushed by Superintendent Kurt Browning to trade higher pay for longer days for schools. Gradebook. As Hillsborough County School Superintendent Jeff Eakins begins a tour to promote the passage of sales tax increase to raise money for repairs at the county’s schools, he’s also got to convince voters that the district, which has struggled financially for years, can be trusted with their money. Tampa Bay Times.

Bond project leader: A new leader of the Broward County School District bond construction program is expected to be chosen soon by Superintendent Robert Runcie. The program has come under fire for delays and the subsequent increase in costs because of those delays. Runcie wants to put construction director Frank Girardi in charge of the the program, but hasn’t decided yet what to do with Leo Bobadilla, the man Girardi would replace. Sun-Sentinel.

Dual enrollment vs. AP: Dual enrollment is an increasingly popular option for high school students to take college courses, especially to satisfy freshman English requirements. But for introductory college math and science courses needed to pursue degrees in fields like engineering and computer science, students are overwhelmingly choosing Advanced Placement classes. Bridge to Tomorrow.

Medical marijuana: The St. Johns County School Board is being asked to change a policy that forbids students from receiving prescribed medical marijuana treatments on campuses. The family of 14-year-old Haleigh McKee says the policy of forcing her to leave school to get treatment is disrupting her education. Haleigh has a rare neurological syndrome and receives medical marijuana treatments three times a day to help with the symptoms. WJAX.

Seat belts for buses: A proposal to require seat belts on all new school buses is being rolled into another, broader piece of school safety legislation in the Congress. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, has pushed the legislation, and says recent school bus crashes in Tennessee, Maryland and New Jersey illustrate the need for restraints. Sunshine State News.

Superintendent evaluation: Volusia County School Board members have mixed opinions of Superintendent Tom Russell’s performance, but just two of the five are setting specific benchmarks for him to meet. They’ll talk more about the evaluation process at a meeting next month. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Ex-superintendent’s comeback: After 10 years as Leon County school superintendent, Jackie Pons lost an election, then came under the cloud of an FBI investigation for more than four years before being cleared of wrongdoing. Now, at 62, he’s considering his next act. Tallahassee Democrat.

School’s last year: George Marks Elementary School in DeLand will be demolished after this school year and construction will begin on a new campus to open in August 2020. Students and staff will be located in a “portable village” during construction. Replacing the 63-year-old school is expected to cost $19.5 million. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Notable deaths: Dan Leslie Bowden, who taught at Ransom Everglades School in south Florida for 44 years before retiring in 1999, has died at the age of 89. WPLG. A 17-year-old Indian River County high school senior collapses and dies after playing basketball during an open gym at Sebastian River High School. Kamaree Jevon Lyons was a senior football and basketball player. Grief counselors will be at the school today. TCPalm. Two Manatee County high school students die in a car crash Saturday. Troopers say a car driven by Lakewood Ranch High School senior Chase Coyner, 17, pulled in front of another vehicle and was hit. Coyner and 15-year-old sophomore passenger Matthew Powers were killed. A 12-year-old passenger in the other car is in critical condition. Bradenton Herald. WFLA.

Administrator’s plea: A former dean of students at a Polk County elementary school pleads guilty to a reduced charge of contributing to the dependency of a minor and is sentenced to one year of probation. Courtney Michael Stanley, 37, who worked at Horizons Elementary School in Davenport, originally was charged with failure to report child abuse after two special-needs student told him a school bus driver was molesting girls on his bus, and Stanley waited a day before passing the report along to the state Department of Children and Families. Lakeland Ledger.

Students arrested: Two students are arrested for gun incidents Friday at Boynton Beach High School in Palm Beach County. One discharged a weapon at a bus stop. His attorney says the 18-year-old student was trying to scare off a dog. The other student is accused of bringing a gun to school. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: The Florida Supreme Court got half its rulings right on proposed constitutional amendments. Deleting the three-subjects-in-one Amendment 8 was fortunate for Floridians, but the court mysteriously approved the same confusing tactics in Amendments 6 and 10. Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat. The Marion County School Board should not be relying on a special tax that sunsets every four years to pay for what are clearly critical, essential resources, including hundreds of teachers and aides. Ocala Star-Banner. I’m a high school teacher in Palm Beach County, and I am not prepared to handle an active shooter. Edwena Timpson, Palm Beach Post. School choice is constantly evolving, being shaped by technology, politics and the courts while being driven by parental demand. Absent a crystal ball, government at all levels will have to be nimble and flexible in accommodating new ideas. Scott Kent, redefinED. Vaccinations are not only important for your child’s health but also for the entire community of students. Debbie Sawa-Szostak, Palm Beach Post. A promising football player at Braden River High, Knowledge McDaniel, has had his season cut unfairly short by the Florida High School Athletic Association, the governing body of prep sports that had the audacity to punish a player for living a better life than the one he had before. Chris Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Roadblocks obstructing school choice in Florida are re-energizing education reformers. Erika Donalds, Florida Politics.

Student enrichment: One hundred and twenty-six students from Tampa Bay area high schools are named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. Gradebook. Duval County’s nonprofit I’m A Star Foundation is focused on helping the estimated 3,300 homeless students in the county. Florida Times-Union. Fort Walton Beach High School is the only school in Okaloosa County that offers vegan options for lunch. Northwest Florida Daily News. A Title IV grant from the U.S. Department of Education is helping the Leon County School District expand its gifted program and help struggling students. Tallahassee Democrat. The Florida Department of Transportation is replacing the Pensacola Bay Bridge, and is using the project as a real-life learning teaching tool for STEM students from Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. WEAR.

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BY NextSteps staff