Pre-K testing, school tax holiday, water filters, storm help for schools and more

Pre-K testing plan: Legislation that would create a standardized, statewide test for pre-K students gets the approval of the Senate Education Committee and two House committees. Legislators say the tests would cost about $11.5 million and are intended to identify students’ problems before they enter schools. Voluntary pre-K providers also would have to measure student learning gains, and would be held responsible for failing to have students ready for kindergarten. Politico Florida.

School tax holiday: A bill that calls for a three-day back-to-school sales tax “holiday” on purchases of clothes, supplies and computers in early August is part of a package of tax cuts introduced Tuesday in the Florida House. The measure will get its first hearing next week. News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel.

Water filters for schools: The Senate Education Committee approves a bill that would require school districts to add filters to drinking water sources in schools built before 1986. The intent is to reduce high lead levels, which have been a problem for some districts. The bill would also require districts to post information about drinking sources in schools, as well as dates when filters were added and when they should be replaced. Not addressed is who pays for the requirements. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. WFTS.

After the storm: A bill providing assistance to K-12 schools affected by Hurricane Michael is approved by the Senate Education Committee. S.B. 520 would provide a special, one-time appropriation for K-12 schools that lost enrollment because of the storm, which would offset the decline in revenues from the state because the districts have fewer students. The measure would benefit school districts in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty and Washington counties. Florida Politics.

Dual enrollment: The Senate Education Committee also approved a bill that would pay the fees for dual-enrollment classes for students in private schools and those who are home-schooled. During the 2017-2018 school year, 72,465 students took dual enrollment class: 66,472 students from public high schools, 2,934 students from private high schools and 3,381 students who have been in home school. Florida Phoenix.

School security: In a 3-2 vote, the Sarasota County School decides the district won’t arm teachers even if the Legislature gives it the option. The resolution lets “teachers know regardless of what happens in Tallahassee, even if that bill passes, we will not be arming our teachers here,” board member Shirley Brown said. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WTSP. The Pasco County School District is proposing a change to the code of conduct that would impose disciplinary action on students who know about a weapon on campus and say nothing about it. There are exceptions for students who fear retribution. The school board tentatively approved the change, which will be finalized later this spring. Gradebook.

Superintendent’s evaluation: A month ago, the Broward County School Board voted 6-3 against firing Superintendent Robert Runcie. Now it’s rejected a proposal to add a midyear review of his performance. Runcie used to be evaluated by the board twice a year, but that stopped in 2017 when his last contract was renewed. “This is another attempt to try to backdoor overturn a decision to keep Mr. Runcie as superintendent,” board member Rosalind Osgood said. “When we make a decision as a board and I don’t get my way, does that mean we keep trying through different processes?” Sun Sentinel.

Superintendent’s job: The Indian River County School Board decides to hold a workshop session next week to decide if it wants to go ahead with a search for a new superintendent, and when. Mark Rendell holds the job now, and his contract runs through July 2020. But he has told the board he is job-searching, and some members want to fire him so they can begin a search for his replacement and have that person in the job by the time school starts in August. TCPalm.

Mental health services: The Hillsborough County School District’s mental health plan for students has been approved by the state, Superintendent Jeff Eakins tells school board members in a briefing. Components of the plan include monthly meetings of the District-Behavior Threat Assessment Team, the formation of threat assessment teams at schools, the addition of clinicians to gather data, and added training for teachers. Gradebook.

Tax hike money arriving: The Hillsborough County School District has received the first sales tax receipts from a voter-approved referendum last November. January’s tax collection of $9 million will be used for maintenance that has been deferred in schools. The district is expecting to receive up to $1.5 billion over the 10-year life of the extra half-cent sales tax. Gradebook.

Board members resign: Two more members of the seven-member Florida Virtual School Board announce their resignations. Chair Robert Gidel and Iris Gonzalez say they will leave the board as soon as Gov. Ron DeSantis appoints their replacements. That makes six board resignations in the past 10 months, a period in which the general counsel resigned after an investigation and the CEO job has changed hands twice. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher survey says: A survey of about 1,200 Sarasota County teachers show that they are happy with their principals, but not with the district’s leadership. Nine in 10 teachers think their principal is committed to improving student achievement, and 84 percent say their principal supports them. But 78 percent disapprove of the job Superintendent Todd Bowden is doing, 75 percent say the majority of the school board doesn’t care about them, and 66 percent described morale in the district as low. The survey was conducted by the teachers union. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student testing: Some Volusia and Flagler students express nervousness as they begin taking the Florida Standards Assessments tests. Both districts have aspirations of improving their B grades from the state to A’s. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The testing stakes are high at Leon County’s Oak Ridge Elementary School, which is under management by an outside company, and at Pineview Elementary School, which could be if it doesn’t improve on its F grade from a year ago. Tallahassee Democrat. Leon County school officials say the first step to improve student learning is having the child at school every day. Tallahassee Democrat. Officials from the company managing Evergreen Elementary School in Ocala say they expect students to do well enough on the tests to earn the school a C grade from the state after six years of D’s and F’s. Ocala Star-Banner.

Personnel moves: Kim Poe, who has been the executive director overseeing low-performing elementary schools in Pasco County, is named assistant superintendent and will help deal with elementary schools. Her previous job will not be filled. Gradebook. The Hillsborough County School Board approves the appointments or transfers of principals for six schools. Gradebook.

New school plans: Last month, the St, Johns County School Board voted against a request by the developer of the SilverLeaf community to move a site for a new high school out of the development. This week, the developer submitted two new proposals, and one does not include a school. A vote on the two options will be held April 9. St. Augustine Record.

School in jeopardy: Island Community Church and school officials are meeting to decide whether to keep the Island Christian School in Islamorada open beyond this school year. The private school opened in 1974 and generally enrolled about 300 students. But the combination of the recession, Hurricane Irma, rising housing costs and other educational options has pared that down to about 95. The school needs 145 students or grants totaling $400,000 to stay open. Key West Citizen.

Lacrosse player collapses: A lacrosse player from Viera High School in Brevard County collapses during practice after suffering cardiac arrest. Two coaches administered CPR to revive the player, and he was taken to Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando. Florida Today.

Opinions on schools: Critics say the use of state funds for scholarships to help students attend private schools is unconstitutional. But Florida has a history of taxpayer funded scholarship programs that help students attend private schools, even religious schools. Patrick R. Gibbons, redefinED. Once again, legislation is moving in the Legislature as a “feel good” measure that will favor a few craft brewers looking for more opportunities to bring in revenue. But the move could cut the money the industry contributes to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship by nearly 25 percent. Peter Schorsch, Florida Politics. The bill to require public schools to offer a course in Bible studies may be dead for this session, but sponsor Kim Daniels, a Democratic representative from Jacksonville, is not the type to be deterred by a bill dying. This could be resurrected in the next session. A.G. Gancarski, Florida Politics. The high school Bible class bill looks to be dead this session, as it should be. Joe Henderson, Florida Politics. Adopting a policy of arming teachers would force teachers with sparse training to make rapid, tactical and mortal decisions in a classroom full of children. It’s a dangerous proposal. State Rep. Adam Hattersley, Tampa Bay Times. The state should give teachers raises with the money it plans to spend on vouchers. Stephanie Karst, Gainesville Sun. Sen. Dennis Baxley, Gov. DeSantis and all our Christian soldiers are doing their best to make sure we don’t get Californicated here in Florida. Diane Roberts, Florida Phoenix.

Student enrichment: Students, staff and volunteers at Heritage Middle School in Deltona complete a beautification project in which flowers and foliage were planted in six zones around the Volusia County school. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Buddy benches to combat bullying are donated to Vineland Elementary School in Charlotte County by three Englewood Rotary clubs. Charlotte Sun.