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Florida schools roundup: Charter schools, Pledge, funding and more

florida-roundup-logoCharter school bills: A bill requiring school districts to share capital funding with charter schools is heading to the House floor. The bill also would penalize schools that spend more on construction than is allowed under state law. Politico Florida. Miami Herald. Sun-Sentinel. WFSU. The Florida League of Women Voters says the bill that sets up a state-appointed board controlling charter schools is “an egregious attack on public schools.” Miami Herald. News Service of Florida.

Other education bills: Votes on several other education bills are expected today in the House. Among them: making the teacher bonuses program permanent and giving principals more autonomy over struggling schools. Also up for a vote is a bill requiring mandatory recess in elementary schools, but it appears to be dead in the Senate. Politico Florida.

Pledge of Allegiance: Students would be notified in a school handbook about their right to opt out of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, under a bill approved by a House committee. Excused students would not be forced to stand or place their hand over their hearts. AP, via Palm Beach Post.

School funding formula: A bill that would change the state’s formula for funding school districts is not expected to pass, according to the sponsor. Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalah, says he will try again in the next session. Daily Commercial.

Suspensions questioned: Officials from the Flagler branch of the NAACP want access to school records so they can check complaints about the district’s out-of-school suspensions for black students. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Staff restructuring: Palm Beach County School Superintendent Robert Avossa is cutting 58 jobs from the school’s district offices and redirecting the $4.5 million savings to the district’s poorest 66 schools. Palm Beach Post.

Scrutiny continues: The superintendent resigned after accusations of sexual harassment and favoritism. Now the associate superintendent who filed those complaints is under scrutiny from the Polk County School Board. Greg Rivers is being criticized by several board members, though they cannot fire him. Rivers is on an annual contract that ends in June. Lakeland Ledger.

School’s political mess: An investigation shows that three Suncoast High School officials signed off to allow the band to play at a Hillary Clinton rally. School participation in political activities is forbidden by Palm Beach County School District policy. Palm Beach PostSun-Sentinel.

Expense challenged: Volusia County teachers are questioning the district hiring a consultant for nearly $300,000 to update computer technology. The teachers union and the district are at an impasse in contract negotiations. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Testing options: With the Florida Standards Assessments tests beginning Feb. 29, districts are still trying to clarify what students can do in the testing room if they are not taking the test. Gradebook.

Teachers honored: Johanna Lopez is named Orange County’s teacher of the year. Lopez, 44, teaches Spanish at Colonial High School. She’s the first Hispanic to win the award. Orlando Sentinel. Kolesia Brown, a special education teacher and basketball coach at Fort Walton Beach High School, is one of three teachers in the state to receive a Black History Month Excellence in Education Award. Northwest Florida Daily News.

New union president: Karla Hernandez-Mats is elected president of the United Teachers of Dade. Hernandez-Mats is the first Hispanic to lead the union. Miami Herald.

Charter school questions: Questions about the mixing of religion in school may lead to a shorter renewal contract for the Seacoast Charter Academy in Duval County. The school, which was once a Christian school, asked for a five-year renewal. But after reports of religious activity at the school, the school staff’s recommendation is a three-year contract. Florida Times-Union.

School reopening?: Pinellas County school officials are considering another life for Clearwater’s North Ward Elementary School, which closed in 2009. At that time it was a partnership school, catering to the children of Clearwater and Pinellas County government employees. A recent survey of those employees showed overwhelming support for resuming that partnership. Tampa Bay Times.

Superintendent race: Bay County School District Superintendent Bill Husfelt is running for re-election. Husfelt, a Republican, is being challenged by Republican Mackie Owens and Democrats Kimberly Smith and James McCalister. Panama City News Herald.

Online education: A recent survey of high school students shows that about 85 percent want to take most of their courses in person rather than online. Inside Higher Ed.

Teacher arrested: A West Gadsden High School teacher is arrested on child abuse, kidnapping or false imprisonment and obstructing justice charges in connection with a fight involving his girlfriend’s 11-year-old son. Gregory Johnson will be fired, Gadsden County school officials say. Tallahassee Democrat.

Teacher put on leave: A Pasco County teacher with a history of inappropriate remarks is placed on administrative leave. River Ridge High School language arts teacher Michael Maynard has insulted students’ religions, gemder and race, mocked their academic abilities and made profane and sexually suggestive comments. Tampa Bay Times.

Guns at school: A gun is found outside Rock Crusher Elementary School by a parent. She turns it over to a school custodian, who accidentally fires a bullet while trying to unload it. No one was injured, and the owner was tracked down through security camera footage and the gun’s serial number. It fell out of his pants as he was walking his child to school. Citrus County ChronicleTampa Tribune.

Opinions on schools: State Rep. Erik Fresen’s bill to provide more money for charter school construction is an egregious intrusion on local control. Sun-Sentinel. There is no connection between being transgender and causing problems in school bathrooms. Tom Lyons, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. It’s going to take a few years with the new grading system to tell if schools are actually making progress. That is, if the legislators don’t change the formula again. Daytona Beach News-Journal. By giving public funds to private, for-profit schools, the Legislature weakens the public schools. St. Augustine Record.

Student enrichment: A 14-year-old Special Olympics athlete develops his own talk show. Rufus Smith-Jones, an eighth-grader at Pine View Middle School in Land O’Lakes, does interviews with others at the school. Tampa Bay Times. Students from Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts get a close-up lesson in neurology on a human brain at Medtronic Surgical Technologies. Florida Times-Union. Kayla Abramowitz is one of two Florida youth volunteers honored with a Prudential Spirit of Community Award. Abramowitz, an eighth-grader at Watson B. Duncan Middle School in North Palm Beach, collects CDs, books and other things for hospitalized children. Palm Beach Post. The A Cappella Group from Cypress Lake High School is raising money for the national and international a cappella competitions in Memphis and New York City, respectively. Fort Myers News-Press. Students from Venice High School get an up-close look at local governing and politics by shadowing city officials for a day. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A federal grant will help the Alachua County School District provide more local, fresh food in school lunches. Gainesville Sun.

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BY NextSteps staff