DeSantis and higher teacher pay, sales tax vote, ‘placebo’ test, contracts and more

Higher teacher pay: Gov. Ron DeSantis says higher teacher pay will be a priority for him in the next legislative session, and he expects to have a plan to boost salaries ready to announce by the fall. “I do think the starting salary probably needs to go up and the state should help with that,” DeSantis said during an interview with WPLG. The average teacher’s salary in Florida schools is $48,168, which is more than $12,000 below the national average and ranks 46th in a recent analysis by the National Education Association. WPLG. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics.

Sales tax referendum: The Jacksonville City Council declines to reconsider the sales tax referendum for the Duval County schools, leaving the issue for the new council that is sworn in next month. The school district wants to ask voters for a half-cent more in the sales tax to pay for the replacement and repair of schools. The council must decide whether a vote will be held, and when, and has balked at the district’s request for a special election this November, citing cost and turnout concerns. “Really, the only action required by city council is to take a vote to place it on the ballot,” said school board chair Lori Hershey after the meeting Monday. “I recognize that they also have the authority to change the date. The question is, when will they put it on the ballot?” Florida Times-Union. WJXT. Florida Politics. Thursday, the Clay County School Board will consider a resolution for a half-cent increase in the sales tax to replace and renovate its schools. WJXT.

Principal’s ‘placebo’ test: A Volusia County principal is under investigation after giving 336 freshmen at Mainland High School a “placebo” exam instead of the official one for an Advanced Placement Seminar course. Of the 414 freshmen who enrolled in the course, only 78 were given the real exam, which awards college credits for those who pass. Offering the test to all the students taking the course would have cost the school $60,000, so principal Cheryl Salerno decided to pay $11,000 to give it to 78 students and gave the rest of the students last year’s test, which offered no college credit. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Contract negotiations: The Orange County School Board approves a contract agreement with the teachers union that thousands of teachers are criticizing. Some board members said while they had reservations about the deal, they felt the best option would be to let the teachers vote on it. For most teachers, the raises approved will be largely offset by an increase in health insurance premiums. Orlando Sentinel.

Controversial materials: The St. Lucie County School District continued using controversial curriculum materials more than a year after they were taken out of Martin County classrooms. The K-6 social studies materials are from Studies Weekly, a Utah company, and have been called biased and culturally insensitive in an investigation by Education Week. TCPalm.

Quizzing a candidate: Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is questioned about education issues such as teacher salaries, charter schools and more at an American Federation of Teachers town hall in Miami. The Democratic presidential debates begin tonight and tomorrow in Miami. Miami Herald. Education Week. Education issues could become a part of the debates in Miami. The 74. Education Week. Here are the Democratic candidates’ views on education issues. Chalkbeat.

State defends choice: Lawyers for the Florida Department of Education tell an administrative law judge that NTTA Data’s bid was chosen for a statewide social media monitoring tool because it was a more “cost-effective” plan. One of the other bidders, Abacode, filed a complaint, saying the decision by DOE Commissioner Richard Corcoran was “arbitrary and capricious” because he ignored the recommendation of a committee evaluating the bidders. Politico Florida.

Personnel moves: Genelle Zoratti Yost, who was a teacher, administrator and assistant superintendent in the St. Lucie County School District for more than 35 years, has been hired as the deputy superintendent of instruction for the Manatee County School District. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Mark Akerman has been named the principal at James Madison Preparatory High School in Madison County. Madison County Carrier.

Teachers honored: The first winners of the Flagler Schools Excellence in Diversity Education Award are Nina deBodisco, a 5th-grade teacher at Bunnell Elementary, and DeAndre Harris, an intervention teacher at Wadsworth Elementary. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Portables being removed: Repairs at the Holy Nativity Episcopal School in Panama City have progressed enough that the private K-8 school is removing the portable classrooms it has used since Hurricane Michael damaged the school last October. Panama City News Herald.

School funding explainer: Lake County school officials are staging a community meeting tonight to explain the way education gets funded in the state. Other topics include state funding trends, teacher salaries, capital funding, the role of the lottery in education funding and more. Daily Commercial.

Teacher fired: A Lake County special education teacher has been fired for spraying an autistic, nonverbal student with water after he failed to follow her directions. The school board approved Superintendent Diane Kornegay’s recommendation to fire Cara Sanderlin, who taught at Pine Ridge Elementary School. Daily Commercial.

Ex-teacher sentenced: A former Lee County teacher has been sentenced to 30 months in prison after she pleaded no contest to sexual activity with a child. Deputies say Suzanne Owen, 36, a Spanish teacher at Evangelical Christian School in Fort Myers, had sex with a 17-year-old student. Fort Myers News-Press.

Opinions on schools: School choice advocates have applied a totally free-market philosophy to publicly support private schools. Caveat emptor is sound advice when you’re buying a new air conditioner or car. As a society, we need a higher bar when it comes to the education of children. Orlando Sentinel. Some companies that want to support private education are deciding they want nothing to do with funding schools that deny admission to LGBT students and expel gay students. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. The debate shouldn’t be whether voucher schools should be regulated and held accountable (they are). Rather, it should be about finding the right mixture of different methods. Scott Kent, redefinED. The half-cent sales tax proposal by the Duval County School Board has produced all kinds of reaction. But one major point has been missed: a nearly $2 billion construction program would be a major boost for Jacksonville’s economy. Florida Times-Union.

Student enrichment: iFlagler, the online school for Flagler County students, wins the Florida Virtual School small district franchise of the year award for 2018-2019 for the second time in four years. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Lucas Miner, a 17-year-old junior at Ransom Everglades School in Miami, advances to the finals of the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament. Sun Sentinel.