Florida schools roundup: Shooting report, arming teachers, education bills and more

School shooting report: The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission approves a 458-page final report that calls on the state to arm willing teachers, provide more money to add school resource officers and harden school buildings and campuses, and streamline communications between schools and law enforcement agencies, among the dozens of recommendations. The report now goes to Gov. Rick Scott, Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis and Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. Sun Sentinel. Miami HeraldAssociated Press. News Service of FloridaGradebookWJCT. WTVJ. WTLV. Capitolist. Florida Politics. DeSantis says he’ll decide soon whether to suspend Broward Sheriff Scott Israel for the agency’s failures during the shooting at the Parkland school Feb. 14. Sun Sentinel.

Education and Legislature: State Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, the chair of the PreK-12 Appropriations committee and vice chair of the education committee, says the Legislature is likely to tweak the significant education bills passed in 2017 and 2018, but probably won’t have any single bill that “will dramatically change the education system, as we’ve done the past few years.” Gradebook.

Retiring and returning: State Rep. Margaret Good, D-Sarasota, introduces a bill that would allow retiring teachers to immediately be rehired as substitute teachers instead of having to wait for six months to protect their retirement benefits. The bill could help ease the shortage of qualified substitute teachers. Gradebook. Teachers are leaving the profession at the highest rate since records began in 2001, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Wall Street Journal. WJAX.

Renaming schools: A bill introduced in the Legislature would make it illegal to remove Confederate statues or rename schools that bear the names of soldiers. State Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola, says the bill is more about supporting veterans than it is about school names or Confederate statues. “If there is anyone that’s not willing to support that, then I would challenge their patriotism,” Hill says. WSVN.

Graduation rate inflation: Several top Manatee County School District officials told Florida Department of Education investigators in 2016 and 2017 that then-deputy superintendent Cynthia Saunders ordered them to apply a false code that labeled dropouts as home-educated to improve the district’s graduation rate. The state has accused Saunders, now the interim superintendent, of deliberately manipulating the graduation rate and could sanction her. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Graduation rates: More reports on 2018 high school graduation rates from school districts around the state. Florida’s rate hit a record high 86.1 percent, according to figures released in December by the state Department of Education. Osceola News-Gazette. Suwannee Democrat. St. Augustine Record. Clay Today.

Superintendent election: The 2020 election for the Citrus County school superintendent’s job already has a candidate. Paul John Reinhardt of Beverly Hills, who lost a Florida House race in November, has prequalified to run for superintendent. Sandra Himmel is the current superintendent. Citrus County Chronicle.

School choice: The school choice application process is open until Jan. 31 for students in Marion County, through Feb. 28 in Duval County and through March in Manatee County. Ocala Star-Banner. Bradenton Herald. WJXT.

Opinions on schools: A proposed bill that would prevent the removal of school names associated with soldiers might have a better chance if it could be disassociated from the Civil War. Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat.

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BY NextSteps staff