Teacher raises, tax hike settlement, scholarship bills, projected 2020-2021 enrollment and more

Teacher raises: With less than three weeks remaining in this legislative session, public discussion about teacher raises has virtually disappeared. But that doesn’t mean the issue is dead. “There will be a teacher salary increase,” state Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, who chairs the House PreK-12 Appropriations Committee, said Monday. “it’s just a matter of the end number and who’s going to be covered.” There are significant differences in the bills. The House budget has more money but would limit raises to classroom teachers. The Senate budget would provide lower raises, but spread them wider to include such employees as counselors and pre-K teachers. Latvala said allocations should be decided this week, and that the final negotiations will then head to a conference committee. Gradebook.

Tax settlement proposed: The Duval County School Board is proposing a settlement with the Jacksonville City Council to end a court battle over the city’s refusal to place a sales tax hike for the school district on the ballot. The school board sued the city, and a circuit judge agreed that the board had the right to hire outside counsel and sue the city council. The city has appealed, but the settlement is expected to end the court fight and put the tax hike on the ballot in November so the board can begin repairing and replacing schools. Board members said the settlement language is exactly what the board was originally asking for, which included an allocation from the tax for charter schools, and today the council will consider a proposal to add the sales tax hike to the ballot. “It’s unfortunate we had to get to this point,” said board chair Warren Jones. “We thought the most difficult part … would be selling this to the voters.” Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WJAX.

Scholarship expansion: Bills that increase the enrollment cap for the Family Empowerment Scholarship and make eligibility changes for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship are scheduled for hearings today in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and the House Appropriations Committee. Roughly 126,000 economically disadvantaged students are enrolled in private K-12 schools under the two programs this year. S.B. 1220 also modifies requirements for getting and keeping teacher certificates as a way to ease the teacher shortage. The Senate bill and H.B. 7067 would increase the maximum enrollment growth on Family Empowerment Scholarships this fall from 7,000 to 28,000. Florida Politics.

School enrollment: Florida’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research is estimating that about 2.89 million students will be enrolled in the state’s school districts at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. Steady growth is forecast over the next five years, with 2.976 million students expected in the 2024-2025 school year. Miami-Dade County will be the largest district next fall with a projected 344,920 students, followed by Broward (268,588), Hillsborough (223,019), Orange (209,400) and Palm Beach (194,621). Jefferson is expected to be the smallest district with 774 students. Florida Virtual School is projected for 38,208 and university schools at 7,064. News Service of Florida. The number of Bay County students is edging up and is now at 25,500, district officials said. Before Hurricane Michael hit in 2018, the district had about 28,000 students. WMBB.

School superintendents: Gov. Ron DeSantis has named longtime Clay County school administrator David Broskie as the temporary superintendent until voters select a new one in August. Broskie, who has been the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources, replaces Addison Davis, who was recently hired as superintendent for the Hillsborough County School District. Florida Times-Union. Florida Politics. WJXT. Pam Hightower, who worked as a teacher, principal and administrator for the Leon County School District for 33 years and is now a contractor helping Title I schools, has announced she is running for the superintendent’s job. She is challenging incumbent Rocky Hanna, who filed in January for re-election. Tallahassee Democrat.

Schools’ cleanliness criticized: Volusia County School Board members recently gave a scathing review to the custodial company that cleans the district’s schools and said they are considering switching to another company. “It’s absolutely disgusting to go into elementary classrooms where teachers are going to do activities on carpet that — I’m telling you right now — I don’t want to see those little kids sitting on those carpets because they’re filthy,” said board member Jamie Haynes. The district pays ABM Industries $14.2 million a year for custodial services and ground work as part of a five-year contract that expires in 2023. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

District awarded legal fees: An administrative law judge has ordered Lincoln Memorial Academy Inc. to pay the Manatee County School District $297,987 for legal fees and other expenses associated with the court fight over the district’s takeover of the school last July. The judge ruled in September that the district was justified in taking over the charter school due to school officials’ “gross financial mismanagement.” News Service of Florida.

School shelters space added: More than 5,000 emergency shelter spaces have been added to Pacetti Bay Middle and Switzerland Point Middle schools in St. Johns County. The school district used a $1.2 million grant from the state to upgrade windows and doors to make them hurricane-resistant. About 14,000 shelter spaces are now available in the county. St. Augustine Record.

Early education: Thrive By Five, which is funded by the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg and run by the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County, is launching an initiative to recruit businesses to help improve early education for children under 5. A recent report disclosed that just 60 percent of incoming kindergartners in Pinellas County were considered ready for school. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher takes on Jeopardy!: Christopher Cartagena, a history teacher at Wellington Landings Middle School in Palm Beach County, competes on the TV quiz show Jeopardy! tonight. Palm Beach Post.

Personnel moves: Janet Tuggle, the principal at Pleasant Grove Elementary School, has been named the principal of Crystal River High School in Citrus River. She replaces Linda Connors, who is retiring. Citrus County Chronicle.

Video shows arrest of girl, 6: Video from a police officer’s body camera shows a 6-year-old girl crying and screaming for help as she is led away in restraints after misbehaving at the Lucious & Emma Nixon Academy in Orlando last September. The incident became a national story and led to the firing of the officer who made the decision to put zip ties on the girl and arrest her. The girl’s grandmother shared the video this week, and said she hopes it leads to a change in the law that sets 12 years old as the minimum age for arrest. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG.

School employees and the law: A Brevard County teacher’s aide has been arrested and accused of exchanging sexually graphic messages with a 16-year-old special needs student. Lindsey Thorson, 27, works at Fieldston Preparatory School in Titusville, a private school for K-12 students with special needs. Florida Today. WKMG. A Bay County teacher has been arrested and accused of driving under the influence, resisting arrest and assault on a police officer. Cynthia Busbee, 46, a 9th-grade English teacher at Deane Bozeman High School, has been placed on leave pending a personnel hearing. WMBB.

Teacher reassigned: An Alachua County high school teacher who used a racial slur during a class discussion about the acceptability of using the N-word has been reassigned. Robert Cecil, a 9th- and 10th-grade English teacher at Buchholz High, was suspended for a day, issued a written reprimand, ordered to undergo sensitivity training and has been reassigned to another school. Gainesville Sun. WUFT.

Board, others sued: A former student at Murray Middle School in St. Johns County has filed a federal lawsuit against the school board, Murray’s principal and a teacher she says “groomed her to gain her trust and develop an inappropriate relationship with her.” The suit alleges that teacher Fabian “Frank” Schmidt inappropriately touched the then-13-year-old girl during the 2015-2016 school year and that principal Tom Schwarm discounted her complaint. Schmidt resigned in 2018 while under investigation, and Schwarm was reassigned. St. Augustine Record.

Biking student hit by car: A Hillsborough County student riding a bike to school was hit by a car. The driver stopped and talked to the 15-year-old Armwood High School student, then drove away. The student suffered minor injuries, and troopers are looking for the driver. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: The state’s scholarship programs are succeeding by giving educational opportunities to children of all backgrounds, affiliations, looks and preferences. Alan Jacob and Mimi Jankovits, Florida Politics. Ninety percent of Florida kids attend public schools, and every single one deserves the resources needed to prepare our young people to contribute positively to society. State Rep. Shevrin Jones, Florida Politics.

Student enrichment: Lauren Carlson, a sophomore at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, has raised $12,000 by organizing Dancing for Parkinson’s events at the school the past two years, and is aiming for $10,000 at this year’s fund-raiser to fight the disease. Orlando Sentinel. Students from Barbara Wilcox’s transitional kindergarten class at Tropical Elementary School on Merritt Island were recognized by legislators last week for their efforts to spread a message of kindness. Florida Today. The artwork of Leslie Wu, an 11-year-old student at Gulfview Middle School in Naples, will adorn the “I voted” stickers issued to voters this year by the Collier County supervisor of elections. Naples Daily News. A Pinellas County teacher and her family left $60,000 to the Nina Harris Exceptional Student Education Center in Pinellas Park so a sensory playground could be built. Teacher Christine Stuckey died of cancer in 2015, and her husband Michael died in 2018, also of cancer. WFLA. Ten robotics teams from six Lake County schools have been invited to the VEX World Championships in Louisville, Ky., in April. Daily Commercial. The Leon County School District has donated several hundred classroom chairs and 50 desks to the Jackson County School District. Jackson schools were especially hard hit by Hurricane Michael and are still recovering. WTXL. Several Florida school districts, include Miami-Dade County’s, are testing a high school curriculum developed by the North America Scholastic Esports Federation to use esports to teach career skills. T.H.E. Journal.