Legislature review and preview, student privacy, standards, pay issues and more

Legislative week in review: Several significant education bills moved ahead in the seventh week of the legislative session. A Senate committee approved a bill creating a new scholarship to eliminate the waiting list for Florida Tax Credit Scholarships after making several significant changes that bring it closer to the House’s version. A bill requiring school districts to share the revenue from voter-approved tax hikes with charter schools also advanced, as did measures allowing students to substitute industry certifications for some graduation course requirements, and naming colleges and universities as alternate authorizers for charter schools. redefinED. A vote on the school safety bill, which includes arming teachers, is among the issues facing the Legislature in the final two weeks of the session. Associated Press. The push to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to limit the terms of school board members has stalled for a variety of reasons. Tampa Bay Times.

Parental bill of rights: Student privacy rights vs. parental rights is the focus of two bills being considered in the Legislature. H.B. 1171 and S.B. 1726 would establish a parental “bill of rights” that would give parents the authority to direct “the education and care” and “moral and religious training” of their children, and give them a voice in any health-care decisions involving their children, including counseling of any kind. Critics of the bills say they are a violation of student privacy, and suggest LGBTQ students will be affected because many seek counseling before they are ready to tell their parents about their sexuality. Political experts say the bills are unlikely to pass this session, but backers say they will bring them up for consideration again in 2020. Miami Herald.

Survey says, keep standards: Many Florida teachers are telling the Florida Department of Education to keep the current state academic standards in place. A review of more than 3,000 responses to a state survey show strong educator support for the current standards for schools, which are based on the controversial federal Common Core standards. Gov. Ron DeSantis has vowed to replace the standards with new ones, and the DOE is asking for feedback from state residents. Orlando Sentinel.

Educator bonuses: Educators at more than half of Florida’s schools would not be eligible for bonuses under the Senate’s revised Best and Brightest proposal because the extra money is tied to improvements by their schools, according to the teachers union. Retention bonuses would be paid only to educators whose schools improve performance by 3 percentage points or more. The Florida Education Association also opposes the bonus plan because it excludes employees such as librarians and paraprofessionals. The FEA wants the state to put the money it’s proposing for the bonuses into the base students allocation, which would give districts the choice of adding to educator pay. Politico Florida.

Teacher, administrator pay: A review of records shows that while St. Johns County teachers are generally paid well below the state average, many district administrators are paid more than their peers around Florida. The 2,339 county teachers earned an average of $45,606 during the 2017-2018 school year, more than $2,500 below the state average. But Superintendent Tim Forson’s pay is $11,000 above average, and the district also pays high school high school principals about $13,000 above state average, and other principals more than $1,000 more than their peers. St. Augustine Record.

Knighted or not? The interim president of the Florida Virtual School says she was knighted as a “dame of justice” in 2008 by an order of the “knights of justice.” But Lady Dhyana Ziegler, as she has been requested to be called, got the title from one of many “fake” orders that charge money “for a completely worthless piece of paper,” says Guy Stair Sainty, owner of a London art gallery who has published books on knighthood and debunks orders that he says are illegitimate. Orlando Sentinel.

Sales tax collections: Revenue from the extension of a sales tax hike has brought in almost 20 percent more than the Pasco County School District had expected. If that collection rate continues, the district could see $44 million more than anticipated from the 10-year tax. School officials say they’re more interested in adding wings to current schools instead of building new ones, citing lower costs and quicker finish times. Gradebook.

Superintendent searches: The Indian River County School Board is preparing to launch a search for a new superintendent for the sixth time since 2003. The first five searches cost the district $668,000. Board members ordered a negotiated exit for current Superintendent Mark Rendell after he informed them he was looking for another job. TCPalm.

District’s software problem: Problems with the new Manatee County School District’s business software, which was delivered more than a year late and at double the original estimate, are overwhelming district operations. “Right now we are just keeping the operation afloat — barely,” said Superintendent Cynthia Saunders. A report from district auditors says the ongoing problems are burdening employees and threatening money the district gets from the state. Bradenton Herald.

Teacher turnover: Collier County school officials say they’ll need to hire about 350 teachers for the 2019-2020 school year. They say the expected turnover rate of 10.7 percent falls within the normal range of 8 to 11 percent. Naples Daily News.

School guardian lawsuit: A circuit judge will hear motions this week to dismiss a lawsuit brought by parents and two nonprofit organizations against the Duval County School District’s armed school safety assistants program. The plaintiffs allege the program endangers students instead of protecting them. Florida Times-Union.

Student vaccinations: Doctors say they want a vaccination against hepatitis A to be added to the list of immunizations students will need to attend school. Nineteen cases of the rare disease have been confirmed in Martin County, and three people have died of complications from hepatitis A. “One set of shots could protect you the rest of your life,” says Dr. Vishwas Vanar, a professor at the University of Central Florida and an expert in the disease. TCPalm.

Charter schools: A developer is proposing to build a charter school on a Jacksonville property that has been the site of a decade-long environmental cleanup. The property was once the site of a city trash incinerator that contaminated the area with lead-laden ash. The developer wants to open the Jacksonville Classical Academy on the site by August 2020. Florida Times-Union. The Okaloosa County School Board votes tonight on the Destin High School Charter School application. School officials say if the board approves it, the school will open on August 2020 with about 200 students in each of the 9th and 10th grades. Northwest Florida Daily News. WEAR. Three more charter schools have filed applications to open in Lee County. Palm River Charter High School and Sunfire High of Lee County would focus on high school dropouts and students at risk of dropping out, and the K-8 Collegiate School of Fort Myers wants to draw low-income students currently at low-performing traditional public schools. All three propose opening in August 2020.  Fort Myers News-Press.

School property: The Marion County School Board will consider a proposal to sell the 60-year-old Marion Technical Institute campus and move vocational programs to the Marion Technical College. Selling MTI would also mean finding another building for the district’s administrative staff. The costs are estimated at $7 million to buy an existing office building and $8.15 million to renovate it, or that $15.15 million could be used to buy property and build a new district office building. The district also plans to spend $2 million to renovate Marion Technical College and $9.25 million to build new buildings for MTI programs at MTC. Ocala Star-Banner.

Employee honored: Gerrie Griswold, a programmatic technical analyst for the Lake County School District, is named the school-related employee of the year. Daily Commercial.

Spelling issues: A spelling-challenged contractor painted the word “school” as “scohol” on a crosswalk on a Doral street, a driver noticed Thursday. It was corrected later in the day. WPLG.

Union election: Three teachers are competing to replace the retiring Marianne Capoziello as president of the Polk Education Association. Sherry Ross, Stephanie Yocum and Cynthia White are running for the $100,000-a-year job. Ballots will be counted April 30 and the results will be announced May 2. Lakeland Ledger.

Complaint against student: A Volusia County teacher has filed a criminal complaint against a 9-year-old student who allegedly hit her in the classroom. The 3rd-grade teacher at Woodward Avenue Elementary School in DeLand says the girl hit her after she was told to pick up a book she threw. WESH.

Opinions on schools: This is how the slippery slope works. First, you pass a law that allows certain school staff — but not teachers — to arm themselves at Florida schools. The next year, you come back with another law that lets teachers carry guns in classrooms. This is precisely what’s happening in the Florida Legislature. Right now. Orlando Sentinel. Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna and the school board have been trailblazers in demonstrating the importance of filtering lead from drinking water. By proactive leadership, Leon County has leaped to the vanguard for direct action by all counties. Don Axelrad and Cliff Thaell, Tallahassee Democrat. All parents need to know that a quality Pre-Kindergarten experience is a must to build a solid foundation for students’ academic success. Scott Bass and Denise Carlin, Fort Myers News-Press. Charter schools saved taxpayers $997.8 million in 2017-18, and the tax credit scholarship saved $476.6 million, for a total of $1.47 billion. That is money the public schools — or more precisely the taxpayers — would have to raise if the voucher students returned to public schools. Lloyd Brown, Florida Politics. Florida should abolish the religious exemption parents are using to send their children to school without vaccinations. Tampa Bay Times. Discussions over the superintendent’s job make the Indian River County School Board look like stooges. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm. I believe in educational choice. I believe every student should be able to choose any major offered at a higher educational institution and to succeed at it because she or he obtained the tools necessary to succeed in that major during her or his high school studies, wherever that school is. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Hypocritical attacks on for-profit organizations providing services to school districts and state governments are not serving the greater good. We need to focus our collective energy on how to efficiently deliver educational excellence and equity to every child. Doug Tuthill, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Cutler Bay High School Academy of Hospitality and Tourism students Laura Leon and Robert Leonard are walking the 500 miles between Sarriá and Santiago de Compostela in Spain as part of a cultural exchange. Miami Herald. About 100 Okaloosa County K-12 students take part in a drone competition in Fort Walton Beach. Northwest Florida Daily News. The Polk County Fire Rescue honors Carter Bascomb, a student at Spessard L. Holland Elementary School in Bartow, for bravery after he called 911 when his mother suffered a medical emergency. Lakeland Ledger. The math team at Gainesville’s Buchholz High School won the Mu Alpha Theta state championship competition last weekend to advance to the national competition in Las Vegas. Gainesville Sun.