Teacher pay raise questions, DeSantis and education, H.B. 7069 court fight and more

Teacher pay raise questions: Members of the House PreK-12 Education budget committee begin their consideration of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ call for a $47,500 starting teacher salary by wondering where the money will come from to pay for it. The estimated cost of the higher starting salary is $603 million. The chairman of the committee, Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, said Thursday that the House isn’t likely to agree to raise local property taxes to pay for the higher salaries. DeSantis has said he thinks property tax rates should stay the same, with the money generated by rising property values being made available for schools. Historically, the Legislature has considered such a policy a tax increase, and insisted on rollbacks of local property tax rates to at least partially offset rising property values. Lawmakers also expressed a concern that DeSantis’ proposal does nothing for veteran teachers. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics. Capitol News Service. The lowest average teacher salaries in Florida are in Gadsden, Franklin, Madison, Calhoun and Union counties, according to a state analysis. WFSU.

DeSantis and education: Gov. Ron DeSantis has only been in office about nine months, but he’s already generated a strong buzz with several major education initiatives, such as calling for a significant increase in starting teacher pay and a major overhaul of the controversial educator bonuses program, helping push a new voucher program through the Legislature, promoting more career and technical options in schools and initiating a review of the state’s academic standards. What’s next? Education Week.

School law court fight: Nine school districts urge the Florida Supreme Court to take up their challenge of the constitutionality of the state’s 2017 education law. The districts say  H.B. 7069 strips local school boards of the authority given to them in the state constitution, specifically by allowing entities other than school boards to authorize the creation of charter schools. An appeals court has ruled against the nine districts (Alachua, Bay, Broward, Hamilton, Lee, Orange, Polk, St. Lucie and Volusia). News Service of Florida.

School shooting trial: Jury selection for the trial of the accused Parkland school shooter has been set for Jan. 27, a Broward County judge ruled Thursday. Nikolas Cruz, 21, could get the death penalty if he’s convicted on any one of the 17 first-degree murder charges he faces for the deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. Cruz’s public defender, Gordon Weekes, says “the timeline is not realistic, given how much work needs to be done to prepare.” Sun Sentinel. Senate special master Dudley Goodlette receives a death threat after recommending the reinstatement of Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, who was suspended by the governor for his agency’s actions during the Parkland school shooting. Sun Sentinel. Florida Phoenix.

Vaping survey: Almost 17 percent of Florida middle and high school students have used vaping products in the past 30 days, according to the 2019 Florida Youth Tobacco survey of 10,844 students. That’s an increase of 5 percentage points, members of the state Tobacco Education and Use Prevention Advisory Council were told Thursday. “I’m almost distraught looking at this information,” said Jim Howell, a former Department of Health secretary who is a member of the council. News Service of Florida.

Medical marijuana in schools: The Lee County School Board will consider a new policy that would allow students with prescriptions to use medical marijuana at schools. The policy would require a caregiver or parent to bring the drug to school, administer it in a nonsmokeable form, then take it off school property. Fort Myers News-Press.

Storm’s effect on schools: Many after-school activities scheduled for northwest Florida schools tonight have been canceled as a potential tropical storm approaches the area, but classes will be held today, say officials in the districts that are expected to be in the storm’s path. Northwest Florida Daily News. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR. WTXL.

Contract negotiations: Union officials representing school-related employees in the Pasco County School District want 4 percent raises instead of the 3 percent the district has offered. They also want the district to drop its wish to link higher raises for their workers with added teaching time for middle and high school teachers. Gradebook.

Responding to report: One Sarasota County School Board member is calling for a special meeting to discuss the results of the report on sexual harassment as soon as the report becomes a public document in 10 days. The report says there’s evidence that chief operating officer Jeff Maultsby sexually harassed his assistant, and that Superintendent Todd Bowden did little to address her complaints. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Academic standards tour: Several of the 70 or so people who attended the Florida Department of Education’s meeting about the proposed academic standards revisions say the proposed changes would be confusing for teachers and for students who will have gone through four changes in their K-12 careers. The tour concludes next week with meetings in St. Johns County Monday, Hamilton County Tuesday and Walton County Wednesday. Naples Daily News. Florida Department of Education.

Security in schools: The Sarasota County School District now meets or exceeds standards in all seven safe school categories required by the state, the district’s chief of police, Tim Enos, has reported to the school board. Your Observer.

Education podcasts: More and more school districts have decided to start their own police forces, partly as a way of controlling costs. But should they? Gradebook.

Naming a school: A second survey will be held to get community input for a name for the new Lee County high school that will be built in Fort Myers. The top four choices from the first survey will be the only options presented. Those are Gateway High School, Thomas Edison High School, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. High School and Gabriela Mistral High School. Fort Myers News-Press.

School enrollment: The Manatee County School District now has more than 50,000 students, according to the October head count reported by the Florida Department of Education. SRQ magazine.

School board elections: Bridget Mendel has announced she is a candidate next year for the District 1 seat on the Manatee County School Board. She’s challenging incumbent Gina Messenger, who announced last week that she’s running for re-election. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teachers honored: The Escambia County School District has chosen its 2021 teachers of the year from each school. Pensacola News Journal.

State’s top teachers: Fifteen of the 50 public schools in the state with the highest-rated teachers are in St. Johns County, according to rankings by Niche.com. The website considered grades, parent/student surveys, teacher absenteeism, teacher salaries, the number of new teachers, and the student-teacher ratio. WJXT.

Schools and lawsuits: A court has denied the appeal of a student who was found guilty of making online threats against Miami Lakes Middle School. The judges ruled against the argument that the student shouldn’t have been prosecuted because the threat was not made on school grounds. News Service of Florida. Six former employees of the Lincoln Memorial Academy charter school are suing the school for $80,000 in lost wages. The suit names the school, which has since been taken over by the Manatee County School District, former principal Eddie Hundley and others. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Palm Beach County School Board has agreed to pay $155,000 to settle a retaliation claim made by a technology worker who was fired in 2010. Palm Beach Post.

Educators arrested: A former teacher and basketball coach at New Smyrna Beach High School has been arrested and accused of unlawful sexual activity with a 16-year-old male student. Volusia County deputies say they began an investigation of the accusation against Megan Parris, 28, in March, when she was placed on administrative leave. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A Seminole County middle school principal has been arrested and accused of domestic battery. Sanford police said Mia Coleman-Baker, principal at the South Seminole Academy middle school in Casselberry, slapped a man twice in the face in her home early Sunday morning. She’s now on personal leave. Orlando Sentinel.

Students arrested: A 13-year-old Manatee County student is arrested after allegedly making threats through the House Party phone app against another student at R. Dan Nolan Middle School in Lakewood Ranch. Bradenton Herald. A 13-year-old student at Forest Grove Middle School in Fort Pierce is arrested and accused of stabbing a classmate with scissors. WPEC.

Opinions on schools: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to boost starting teacher pay to $47,500 would affect 60 percent of the state’s teachers. Why leave 40 percent out in the cold? Florida Times-Union. Family Empowerment Scholarships are not the only voucher program funded by the state of Florida. Jon East, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Feeding Children Everywhere gets a $1 million grant from the Cigna Foundation to help set up a service that gets meal kits delivered to students with unmet food needs. Orlando Sentinel. A German short-haired pointer named Erma is providing a listening ear for students as they read during the weekly Reading Education Assistance Dogs program at Kingsford Elementary School in Polk County. Lakeland Ledger. The Okeechobee County School District is named a gold level winner by the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation for promoting the social, emotional and physical well-being of students and staff. Lake Okeechobee News.