Budget and teacher raises: The amount of money allotted for teacher raises could be changing again, as legislators reassess the budget to make sure the state has enough to fight the coronavirus outbreak. Legislators from both chambers did not resolve their differences over teacher raises, the base student allocation and the rest of the budget on Monday, which means it is now in the hands of the Senate’s and House’s appropriations chairs, Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and Rep. Travis Cummings, R-Orange Park, respectively. Both Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Springs, signaled that the budget will have to be rethought to make up to $200 million available to fight the coronavirus and the effects it will have on the state’s economy, and that could cut into the money going to education and teacher raises, the state’s land conservation program, the tourism program Visit Florida, affordable housing and more. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. Sarasota County school leaders are worried about the effect the latest moves in the Legislature will have on their budget. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Coronavirus concerns: The latest coronavirus headlines include Gov. Ron DeSantis declaring a state of emergency, the state Department of Education coordinating with the Florida Virtual School to train teachers so they can conduct online classes for up to 400,000 students, the University of Florida urging professors to offer their classes online as soon as possible, an Okaloosa County Christian school being shut down for a week after several students and staff members had direct contact with a church member who tested positive for the coronavirus, districts canceling international field trips, two Sarasota County students being taken out of school and are being monitored, five state lawmakers briefly self-quarantining and the House chamber being disinfected, Florida health officials wanting all travelers to certain countries self-quarantined for two weeks after returning to the state, and more. News Service of Florida. Miami Herald. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Associated Press. Politico Florida. WEAR. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WWSB. Palm Beach Post. USA Today Network. Florida Politics. Panama City News Herald. Florida Today. Florida Phoenix. WPLG. WFLA. WFTS. School districts around Florida continue to make plans on how they will fight the virus. WLRN. Florida Today. WKMG. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. WFTX. WJHG. WMBB. Ocala Star-Banner. Questions and answers about the coronavirus. Florida Department of Health. Florida Today. Tampa Bay Times. WJXT. WUFT. The tradeoffs of closing schools. Chalkbeat. Associated Press. The role of school nurses is magnified in a crisis like this. Chalkbeat.
Scholarship expansion: The Florida House has overwhelmingly approved changes in a bill expanding and aligning two state scholarship programs that provide education choice to economically disadvantaged students. H.B. 7067 increases the allowed annual enrollment growth for the Family Empowerment Scholarship from 7,000 to 28,000, and aligns some of its income eligibility provisions with the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. About 126,000 economically disadvantaged students are enrolled in private K-12 schools under the two programs this year. The nearly identical Senate bill is expected to be heard today in that chamber. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer both scholarship programs. News Service of Florida. redefinED. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics. Orlando Sentinel. State Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, explains why she was one of eight Democrats to vote for H.B. 7067. redefinED.
Parental rights: A bill that gives parents specific rights to opt their children out of instructional materials they deem objectionable and vaccinations at schools has been approved by the Florida House. Schools would also need to get permission from parents to consent to medical care for their children or to collect data about them. The Senate version of the bill did not advance out of a committee. Florida Politics.
Turnaround schools: The House has approved a bill, H.B. 7079, that gives struggling schools less time to improve, cuts testing for students and boosts civics education. Persistently low-performing schools that work their way out of the turnaround program, then slip back, would have to improve again within the remainder of a school school and one more year or face closure, be converted into a charter school or be run by an outside operator. Florida Politics.
Holocaust education: A House bill requiring the Florida Department of Education to set standards for how K-12 schools should teach about the Holocaust was passed unanimously on Monday. It also requires schools to teach students about the state’s anti-Semitism policy, and districts to prove they are in compliance. The Senate companion bill is awaiting a vote. Florida Politics.
Compensating athletes: The Florida Senate has approved a bill that would allow college athletes to be paid for the use of their name, likeness or image. S.B. 646, which was sponsored by Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Rockledge, would also require student-athletes to receive financial literacy training. If approved, it would go into effect in July 2021. The House still has to vote. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Florida Politics.
Training for trauma: Teachers and other staff at Northside Elementary School in Bay County are being trained in new ways to deal with student trauma as part of the long-term plan for recovery from Hurricane Michael. The program, called the Trauma Sensitive Classrooms Project, offers new concepts to dealing with issues that Bay County teachers say they haven’t seen before. The training is coordinated by Dr. Elizabeth Connors of Yale University and Scott Sevin and Elizabeth Granzow of 7-Dippity Inc. Panama City News Herald.
Educators honored: Palmetto Ridge High School’s Jim Ragusa has been chosen as the Collier County School District’s principal of the year. Melissa Stamper, who works at Naples Park Elementary, was named the assistant principal of the year. Naples Daily News.
Audit faults district: Duval County school officials said financial issues pointed out in a recent state audit were caused by a “misunderstanding” by accounting employees. Best and Brightest bonuses totaling $74,958 were wrongly awarded to ineligible teachers, charter schools were given $276,239 less than required by state law, and $737,674 was incorrectly placed into the general fund. The employees were counseled, according to school officials, and the district has outlined the steps it is taking to keep the errors from reoccurring. WJAX.
Zero-energy school: Environmentalists are trying to convince the Manatee County School Board to make the new W.D. Sugg Middle School into a net-zero energy school. Construction on the Sugg school is supposed to begin in June, and tonight the school board will consider a proposal from the Manatee Clean Energy Alliance to outfit the new school with solar power to reduce the energy costs. Advocates are using the example of the NeoCity Academy High School in Osceola County in the pitch. The school has 650 solar panels, which generates all the power the school needs and is projected to save the district $3.2 million over the next 20 years. Bradenton Herald.
New school construction: Construction is starting on a K-5 school in Panama City Beach that is expected to open in August 2021. “The population of the beach area continues to grow and the numbers just keep going up and up,” said Bay County School District Superintendent Bill Husfelt. “The needs for another school are obvious and so we are excited to be able to provide that.” WMBB.
Personnel moves: Matt Gruhl, the principal of Brookside Middle School in Sarasota, is stepping down at the end of the school year. Gruhl has been scrutinized for two high-profile incidents at the school in each of the past two years. In 2018, he was criticized when he tried to delete student videos of a violent incident, and last year a former school resource officer accused him of ignoring complaints about sexual harassment by a teacher, then retaliating against her. A district official said Gruhl is hoping to find an assistant principal’s job in the district. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Students and the law: A 14-year-old Volusia County student has been arrested and accused of posting fake Instagram messages about a threatened shooting at Spruce Creek High School. She told police she sent the messages to let other people know how she felt about herself. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Opinions on schools: It is time to put all of our schools on a level playing field. We regularly impose accountability and transparency requirements on our traditional public schools. We should demand nothing less from those schools participating in the state’s voucher programs. State Rep. Javier Fernandez, Miami Herald. Prayer and football have always gone together, at least in our coaching careers. And it’s time our lawmakers recognized that freedom for high school student athletes as well. Bobby and Tommy Bowden, Tallahassee Democrat.
Student enrichment: More than $10,000 in community donations has saved the Canine Commands program, in which gifted students at Quest Elementary School in Viera help train and socialize dogs so the dogs can be adopted. Florida Today. Students at Lake City’s Eastside Elementary School in Columbia County have broken the Guinness World Record for the largest tape ball. The ball is 17 feet and 11 inches in circumference and weighs 2,268 pounds. The previous record, set in 2011 in Kentucky, was a ball 12 feet, 9 inches around that weighed 2,000 pounds. WJXT.