Florida schools roundup: Budgets, testing, pre-K, tornado days and more

florida-roundup-logoK-12 budget: The Senate and House make no progress on resolving their differences on education spending. Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, presented a final version of the bill to the House, but the cochair of the education budget conference committee, Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, apparently wanted to continue negotiating. So Gaetz ended the talks, and work on resolving the issues will continue in appropriations committees. “Most of the issues, although the entire budget’s getting bumped, are closer than what it would seem,” Fresen says. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Naples Daily News. Here’s a status update on the major education bills in the Legislature. Politico Florida. The Senate’s next president, Joe Negron, R-Palm City, expresses satisfaction at increasing school spending without relying on property taxes. Politico Florida.

No test glitches: No glitches are reported on Monday, the first day of statewide Florida Standards Assessments testing. Testing continues through May. Sun-Sentinel. Gulf Breeze students talk about the pressures of testing. Pensacola News Journal.

Opting out: Opt-out movement leaders predict more students will skip the Florida Standards Assessments tests that began Monday. In 2014, about 5,500 didn’t take the exams. In 2015 that number was more than 20,000 – but that’s just a tiny fraction of the 3 million-plus exams taken. Orlando Sentinel.

Pre-K questions: The man who helped create the state’s  free, voluntary prekindergarten system now questions how the state is calculating readiness. David Lawrence Jr., chairman of the board of the Children’s Movement of Florida, says any assessments have to include early literacy skills. Pensacola News Journal.

Tornado days: As weather forecasting skills continue to improve, school “tornado days” are joining “snow days” in the education vocabulary. Forbes.

Registering lobbyists: The Palm Beach County School Board will consider requiring lobbyists to register, disclose their employers and professional or personal ties to school district employees, and list their lobbying activities and expenses. Palm Beach Post.

Computer coding: Three Florida civil rights group are urging legislators reject a plan to allow students to take computer coding classes to satisfy foreign language requirements. The groups say students need to learn foreign languages to compete in a global economy. Orlando Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Bus safety law: Supporters of a bill aimed at improving school bus safety by increasing the penalties on illegal passing are unhappy with a change in the bill. Taken out was a provision authorizing the use of cameras to record illegal passing. WFSU.

Superintendent search: The Polk County School Board is asking for community input as it begins the search for a new superintendent. Lakeland Ledger.

School growth: Another 1,438 students are expected in Lake County schools by 2021, a consultant tells the school board. The growth could strain capacity at several schools in the south part of the county. Daily Commercial.

Consultant resigns: An education consultant hired by the Alachua County School District resigns after he was accused of inappropriate conduct. Mark Rolewski, who was being paid $3,000 a day to help principals in instructional leadership, was fired by Leon County last week. Gainesville Sun.

Retired teachers: Some Orange County teachers who retired but returned to the classroom are pushing the district to grant them professional service contracts, which offer more job security and potentially more pay. The Legislature is considering bills preventing that. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher mentoring: The Hillsborough County School District’s deal with the Gates Foundation is winding down, and the peer evaluation program that went with the Gates money is too. The school board is expected to vote today on Superintendent Jeff Eakin’s plan to name a general manager of performance evaluation. Instructional mentors and teacher talent developers reporting to that person will spend half their time teaching and the other half helping other teachers. Gradebook.

Employee honored: Juanita Payne-Galbreath, an ESE paraprofessional at Crestview High School, is the Okaloosa County education support professional of the year. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Notable deaths: Longtime Plant City teacher Emma Thomas dies at 89. She graduated from college at age 52 and taught kindergarten for 24 years at Lincoln Elementary School. Tampa Tribune.

Students charged: Felony charges are filed against two Dunbar High School students after a fight at a bus stop in Lehigh Acres. Fort Myers News-Press.

Weapon at school: A 15-year-old student is arrested for having a throwing knife at South Lake High School in Groveland. It was the second arrest for weapons in three school days in Lake County. Daily Commercial.

Opinions on schools: While nobody likes testing, it holds adults accountable for student progress and guards against achievement gaps. Eileen Castle, Lakeland Ledger. The mother of a developmentally disabled student has a theory why the state won’t exempt her daughter from testing: It wants public schools to fail. Tom Lyons, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: Fourth- and fifth-graders at the Pembroke Pines Charter School’s Central Campus get environmental lessons from the WaterVentures Learning Lab on wheels. Sun-Sentinel. Joseph Sitwell Military Academy of Leadership receives $20,000 from the Verizon Foundation for its fledgling robotics program. Florida Times-Union. An old Boeing 727-200 donated by FedEx is the newest classroom for high school aviation students on the grounds of Sun ′n Fun Festival in Lakeland. Lakeland Ledger. An after-school cooking club at Sugg Middle School in Bradenton gives students a chance to express their creativity. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Junior League of the Emerald Coast is expanding its Child Clothing Project to two more schools. The organization has helped clothe more than 300 students in Okaloosa and Walton counties. Northwest Florida Daily News. Polk State College is encouraging high school students to fill out the application for federal student aid by holding raffles. WUSF.

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BY NextSteps staff