Coronavirus concerns: The latest coronavirus headlines include all universities in the state system being told to send students home and shift to online instruction as soon as possible, more cases confirmed as a pandemic is declared and travel restrictions are announced, Tampa’s Farnell Middle School being closed for the next two days for a deep cleaning after a person who was at the school reported he was exposed to someone with the virus, the state allocating $25 million to fight the coronavirus and getting $27.3 million more from the federal government, the question of whether low-income students will still get their free meals if schools are closed, the list of trip and event cancellations is growing, and more. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Times-Union. Palm Beach Post. WLRN. Sun Sentinel. Orlando Sentinel. New York Times. Florida Phoenix. What school districts around Florida are doing to prepare for and fight the virus, and what it’s costing them. Bradenton Herald. WOFL. Florida Today. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tallahassee Democrat. Flagler Live. St. Augustine Record. Citrus County Chronicle. Port St. Joe Star. Clay Today. WSVN. WPTV. WJXT. WUFT. Questions and answers about the coronavirus, and a glossary. Florida Department of Health. WUSF. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Times-Union. Associated Press. Yahoo News. Volusia County School Board member Ruben Colon apologizes after posting an insensitive meme on Facebook about women and the coronavirus. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Budget deal, tax breaks: Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said a state budget deal is “within sight,” with negotiators aiming to wrap things up Friday so it can be voted on next Wednesday. But one of the key issues, teacher raises, remains a sticking point. “We’re working on a final number for teacher pay where we include starting teachers and veteran teachers,” Galvano said. House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, added that he and Galvano want to put “few hundred million dollars” in reserve in case the state needs it to fight the coronavirus. Galvano also said another part of the budget, a $230 million tax cut package that came out of the Senate Wednesday, will be trimmed significantly, but the back-to-school tax holiday on clothing, school supplies and some electronics is likely to be unaffected. That tax holiday is scheduled Aug. 7-9, and is projected to save consumers $40 million or so. Florida Politics. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ legislative agenda, which included $900 million for teacher raises and bonuses, has taken a hit. Orlando Sentinel.
Minimum arrest age: An amendment limiting the arrests of anyone under the age of 7 was attached to the school safety bill, which was unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday and sent to the House for consideration. State Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Ocoee, offered the amendment, which is called the “Kaia Rolle Act” after the 6-year-old girl who was arrested at her Orlando school after misbehaving and ushered out of the school in restraints. The amendment reads, in part: “A child younger than 7 years of age may not be adjudicated delinquent, arrested, or charged with a violation of law or a delinquent act on the basis of acts occurring before he or she reaches 7 years of age,” unless that child commits a forcible felony. The bill also adopts security recommendations from the state commission that investigated the 2018 Parkland school shooting, including a reform of the training process for armed school guardians, adding three members to the commission, broadening the ability to prosecute for false threats, and requiring schools to establish a protocol for uniting students with family members quickly after an emergency. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics.
Early learning: A bill that would reform early education in Florida is in jeopardy after the final Senate committee it needed to pass through didn’t bring it up in its final meeting. “If we have bills stuck in committees … there’s very little chance we’ll get back to them,” said Senate President Galvano. “I’m sure there are some good ideas in that bill but everything can’t get done in one year.” H.B. 1013 calls for new standards and assessments for pre-K providers. Gov. DeSantis’ advocated improvements last year after a state report disclosed that 42 percent of the children who attended the state’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program were not ready for kindergarten. Politico Florida. Tampa Bay Times.
Scholarship expansion: The bill that would expand two K-12 state scholarship programs has been temporarily postponed in the Senate after state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, objected to a provision that requires districts to share money for capital projects proportionately with charter schools. “I’m just not interested in continuing one punitive measure after another to create unequal competition, where the charter schools operate with a statute that’s a quarter of an inch thick and the public education system operates with a set of statutes that are 1,000 pages and somehow we expect them to compete with one another,” he said. The House has overwhelmingly approved changes that expand and align eligibility requirements for the Family Empowerment Scholarship and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer both scholarship programs. Florida Politics.
Bright Futures: A higher education bill that makes changes in the Bright Futures scholarships program has been approved by the House and now moves to the Senate for its consideration. The bill eliminates the $300 stipend for textbooks for students who earn the top Academic scholarship, but increases the percentage of tuition students in the next-level Medallion category could receive at universities if they first get an associate’s degree at a state college if they meet certain GPA standards. Florida Politics.
Holocaust education: The Senate has approved a bill requiring the Florida Department of Education to establish curriculum standards for Holocaust instruction in K-12 schools. But the addition of a late amendment that would charge the DOE’s African American History Task Force with recommending ways to teach about the 1921 Ocoee Massacre will require the House to vote on the bill again. The bill was initiated after a Palm Beach County principal told a parent in 2018 that he couldn’t say that the Holocaust was a factual event. H.B. 1213 also requires schools to teach students about the state’s policy banning anti-Semitism, and have districts show proof to the state that they have complied with the law. Florida Politics.
Contract negotiations: Broward County School Board members decided Wednesday to back the district’s 2 percent raise offer to teachers, retroactive to the beginning of the school year. The teachers union had been asking for 5 percent, which had led to a contract impasse and put the matter before the board. Now that 2 percent offer goes back to the union for a vote. Sun Sentinel. WLRN.
Superintendent’s deal: The Monroe County School Board has approved a two-year contract for incoming superintendent Theresa Axford that will pay her $165,000 a year. Axford, who is the director of teaching and learning, will take over for the retiring Mark Porter. Key West Citizen.
Longer school days: Lee County school officials want to lengthen school days by at least 15 minutes for middle school students and 30 minutes for high school students. They began talking about the initiative after data collected showed that Lee students have the least amount of instruction time than any of the largest school systems in the state. Students are unhappy and have started petitions to have the proposed changes scrapped. Fort Myers News-Press. WFTX.
Zero-energy school: The Manatee County School Board has approved a plan to turn W.D. Sugg Middle School into a net-zero energy school. Construction on the school is supposed to begin in June, and guarantees on air quality and energy usage will have to be part of every construction contract. The district had already planned to spend $57 million to rebuild the school at its existing location, and this week’s decision on a 3-2 vote is expected to increase that cost. Bradenton Herald.
New school: The historic Wolf House is now the home to the Ambleside School of Ocala’s high school. The 3,400-square-foot house was once home to the Ocala/Marion County Transportation Planning Organization. A year ago the house was moved 700 feet to a portion of a city parking lot that the private school purchased. Ocala Star-Banner.
Charter school extension: Lake County School Board members have approved a five-year contract extension for the Altoona School. A year ago the charter school was given just a one-year renewal because of financial difficulties. But the contract was extended once the school reached the 3 percent threshold for financial reserves. Daily Commercial.
Superintendent elections: Bay County School District Superintendent Bill Husfelt has announced he is running for re-election to a fourth term. He has one announced opponent, Judy Vandergrift. WMBB.
School verdict reinstated: An appeals court has reinstated a $125,000 judgment against the Polk County School Board for a former Kathleen High School football player who said he was physically and emotionally abused by a coach. The player was awarded the money by a jury in 2018 but the judge granted a school board motion for a new trial, prompting the player’s appeal. News Service of Florida.
Parent arrested: A man was arrested Wednesday when he pulled his daughter out of the lunch line at Horizon Elementary School in Port Orange and hoisted her over his shoulder because she didn’t want to have lunch with him. Police said the man is in the middle of a custody battle. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Students and the law: A 19-year-old student was arrested after accidentally shooting himself in the parking lot of Glades Central High School in Belle Glade. Palm Beach County School District police said the student was showing friends a gun in his car when his finger accidentally hit the trigger and he shot himself in the thigh. Palm Beach Post. A 12-year-old Lee County student was arrested after giving a teacher a high-five hand slap with a tack hidden in his hand. The Three Oaks Middle School teacher suffered a minor puncture wound. Fort Myers News-Press.
Opinions on schools: Society has become conditioned to accept lower standards of behavior from coaches, and coaches have become conditioned to oblige. What we need is a timeout to rethink our expectations. Orlando Sentinel.
Student enrichment: A youth science program funded by the Department of Defense has begun near Patrick Air Force Base in Satellite Beach. STARBASE offers STEM instruction to students at Title I schools. Florida Today.