Florida schools roundup: DOE budget, SAT scores lag, charters and more

DOE budget request: The Florida Department of Education’s budget request to the Legislature calls for a spending boost of $200 per student. Among the specific spending requests are $100 million more for school safety, $67.5 million for training and arming school staffers and an additional $10 million for student mental health. If the request is approved, it would represent an increase of $673 million, or 3 percent, and boost the budget to more than $21.7 billion. Last year the education budget approved by the Legislature was $321 million less than the DOE requested. Politico Florida.

Florida SAT scores lag: Florida’s class of 2018 posted an average score of 1014 on the SAT exams, trailing the national average of 1068, according to the College Board. The results mirror those on the other big college admission test, the ACT. Last week, the College Board announced that Florida students scored an average of 19.9, below the national average is 20.8. About 97 percent of Florida high school graduates took the SAT, and 66 percent took the ACT. Orlando Sentinel.

Sharing with charters: Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says if voters approve a property tax increase Nov. 6, he will recommend that the district share some of its set-aside security funds with charter schools. He didn’t say how much would go to charter schools, other than it would be a “significantly augmented contribution.” Carvalho has already announced that 88 percent of the $232 million a year generated if the tax is approved would be used to increase teacher pay, with the other 12 percent going to hire officers for the district’s police force. He says the district cannot offer extra pay to charter school teachers, who sign contracts with each school’s board. Miami Herald.

Reading scholarships: Florida elementary school students who struggle in reading can now apply for scholarships from the state, which has $9.7 million available to award to as many as 19,000 students on a first-come, first-served basis. Students can use the money to pay for tutoring or instructional materials. To qualify for the scholarship, a student must be in 3rd through 5th grade at a public school and have scored below Level 3 on the language arts assessment last spring. Priority is given to students who are English language-learners. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarship. redefinED. Gradebook.

School security: The Indian River County School District is considering a panic button app for smart phones that will directly contact law enforcement in case of an emergency. The RAVE Panic Button app could also stream live video to officers. TCPalm. Central Florida school officials say they are not notifying parents before active-shooter drills are held at schools. State law does not require notification before, during or after the required drills. WFTV.

Educators honored: Mount Dora Middle School principal Jacob Stein has been named the Lake County School District’s principal of the year for 2019-20. Charles Feld, of East Ridge High School in Clermont, is assistant principal of the year. Both now enter the state competition. Orlando Sentinel.

School reopening updates: Panhandle schools continue to report progress on getting power and reopening. Here’s the latest from the Florida Department of Education on the districts most affected by Hurricane Michael. Chipley Bugle. WMBB. All Gulf and Washington county students are eligible for free school meals until Nov. 30 through the National School Lunch Program. Thirteen schools and 4,333 students are affected. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

District’s software project: Another $325,000 is committed by the Manatee County School Board to finish a troubled business software project. The board approved spending $260,000 to fix problems with the software, which was supposed to cost $10 million but is pushing past $20 million, and another $65,000 for a retired Seminole County school administrator to oversee the completion of the project. Bradenton Herald.

Transgender guidelines: Sarasota County Superintendent Todd Bowden briefs principals on the district’s new guidelines for dealing with transgender students. Two school board members, Bridget Ziegler and Eric Robinson, have been critical of Bowden’s decision not to talk with the board before publicly releasing the details, and for allowing students talk with school officials about gender identity without their parents involved. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WUSF. WFLA.

Raises for school workers: Non-instructional Volusia County school employees and the school board agree to a contract with 3 percent raises and $350 bonuses. It’s a one-year deal, retroactive to July 1, and represents higher raises than the district is offering teachers and support staff. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

A school’s future: Alachua County school officials say they favor bringing in an outside operator for Terwilliger Elementary School in Gainesville if it can’t improve its grade from the state to a C or better. The school has gotten D grades the past three years, and another D or lower would force the district to close the school, convert it to a charter or hire an outside operator. About $300,000 in state and federal funding is being used for training, extended learning days and classroom materials to bring Terwilliger’s grade up. WUFT.

Personnel moves: David D’Agata, attorney for the Clay County School Board the past 18 months, is resigning to take a job as deputy general counsel for the Florida Department of Education. His last day in Clay County is Dec. 21. Clay Today. Aimee Boltze, principal at Pasco County’s Trinity Elementary School since March 2017, is resigning to work for Academica, a Miami-based charter schools company. Gradebook.

School board elections: Previewing the race for the District 3 seat on the Hernando County School Board. Tampa Bay Times. Previewing the race for the District 3 seat on the Escambia County School Board. Pensacola News Journal. Previewing the races for the District 1 and District 3 seats on the Leon County School Board. Tallahassee Democrat.

A/C for school buses: The St. Johns County School Board approves spending an additional $227,000 to buy 20 school buses with air-conditioning systems already in place. The district will also put air-conditioning units in buses it already owns. WJXT.

School’s flea problem: Parents of students at Ridgeview Elementary School in Orange Park say a flea problem at the school has dragged on for two weeks. Clay County school officials say they have gone “above and beyond” to solve the problem. Exterminators were at the school again Wednesday. WJXT.

Students arrested: The two Polk County girls arrested for planning a knife attack at Bartow Middle School were Satan worshipers who wanted to kill 15 of their classmates, cut them up and leave their body parts at the school entrance, drink their blood and then kill themselves, according to Bartow police. The girls are 11 and 12. Lakeland LedgerAssociated Press. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. WFTV. A 16-year-old Flagler Palm Coast High School student is arrested after deputies say he threatened to shoot a classmate during a confrontation in a classroom. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A student at Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville is arrested and accused of threatening the school and a student who told police he was standing up for a transgender classmate. WJAX.

Bus driver arrested: A bus driver for the St. Lucie County School District is arrested and accused of hitting a student in a wheelchair in the face several times. Johnnie Mcfolley gave the student a bloody lip and cuts on the bridge of his nose and under an eyebrow, according to deputies. TCPalm.

Students hurt in bus crash: Three Hillsborough County day-care students and suffer minor injuries when their bus crashes into a van. The two drivers also were treated. The students attend the Post Sunshine Ranch Daycare. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

Opinions on schools: The current rate of state funding has not provided enough revenue to maintain Martin County school buildings, let alone replace the structures that fall short of industry standards and our expectations. We all should be embarrassed that some of our school buildings have fallen into such disrepair. Joan Gibbons, TCPalm. Will black Florida voters choose a governor based on race or on their own self-interest in school choice? Clarence V. McKee, Newsmax.

Student enrichment: Students at Evergreen Elementary School in Ocala are challenged to dream big about their futures at the career day known as “DREAMspiration.” Ocala Star-Banner.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff