Florida schools roundup: Education spending, teacher pay, sub ban and more

florida-roundup-logoEducation spending: The chairman of the Florida House Appropriations Committee is anticipating cuts in education spending this year and next. Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, says with revenues expected to be flat, his committee is looking into two levels of spending based on expected revenues. The “easy” one would trim $164.8 million from recurring PreK-12 spending and $68 million in nonrecurring expenses. The aggressive one would more than double those cuts. Gradebook. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida.

Scott on education: Gov. Rick Scott made a pitch Tuesday for affordable college degrees and a quicker path to graduation. Part of the plan includes broadening the allowable use of Bright Futures scholarships, and capping college fees. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. News Service of Florida. Sunshine State News.

Teacher pay: Several Duval County School Board members say paying teachers and principals extra to work in struggling schools is producing mixed results, and they question Superintendent Nikolai Vitti’s plan to expand the program. Twenty-one of the schools in the program have shown improvement in school grades, while 11 have stayed at the same level and three have declined. Vitti’s plan lowers the incentive pay in order to expand the program. Florida Times-Union. Some Lee County teachers will get a pay raise at the end of the month after the school board approves a plan to spend $9.73 million for performance pay and as a market adjustment for veteran teachers. Fort Myers News-Press.

Substitute banned: A New York writing professor working as a substitute teacher at Venice High School has been banned because she assigned her senior Advanced Placement students to read a short story with sexual situations, explicit language and discussions of race and relationships. Lisa del Rosso had students read Alma, a short story written by Pulitzer-prize winning writer Junot Diaz that appeared in The New Yorker. A parent called the school office to complain, and del Rosso was banned from the district. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

District growth: Growth in enrollment in the Manatee County School District over the next five years will require spending $180 million on new buildings or expanding existing ones, district officials say. The district wants to issue $150 million in bonds and use millage, sales tax revenue and impact fees for the other $30 million. Bradenton Herald.

Teacher evaluations: The Florida Department of Education and the Manatee County School District are squabbling over teacher evaluations. The state says Manatee is one of 11 districts in the state that has not evaluated 25 percent or more of its teachers during the 2015-2016 school year. Manatee school officials dispute that, saying the state is using faulty data, including counting some non-teachers and teachers who have left the district. Other districts that received state notifications are Bradford, Desoto, Gadsden, Hendry, Jefferson, Madison, Polk, St. Lucie, Florida School for the Deaf and Blind and the FAU Lab School. Bradenton Herald.

Teachers honored: Three finalists are named for the Lake County teacher of the year award. They are: Tammy Jerkins, Leesburg High; Anthony Ritter, Eustis Heights Elementary; and Jessica Simmons, Cecil E. Gray Middle. The winner will be announced Feb. 11. Daily CommercialOrlando Sentinel.

Courtesy busing: Hillsborough County commissioners say they had nothing to do with the school board’s decision to end courtesy school busing for students who live within 2 miles of their schools, and there is little they can do about it. They say they have been hit with a barrage of calls asking them to save the busing program or provide alternatives. Tampa Bay Times.

District fund-raising: The Lee County School District has raised about $443,000 so far this school year and is almost halfway to its goal for the year. The campaign is part of Superintendent Greg Adkins’ plan to raise $10 million by 2020. Fort Myers News-Press.

Lawsuit settled: The Palm Beach County School District agrees to pay $350,000 to a former assistant principal who sued the district, claiming she was demoted after she became pregnant. Anne Williams Dorsey was moved to a lower-paying job at a West Palm Beach alternative school. The district admits no wrongdoing, but is paying Dorsey $67,000 in back pay and $283,000 in damages. Dorsey also will resign her job in the adult education department. Sun-Sentinel.

School rezoning: Parents in the Longleaf subdivision in Pasco County are threatening to file a lawsuit if their children are reassigned to different school zones. Tampa Bay Times. Pasco County School Board member Steve Luikart is recommending the district phase in rezoning plans to temper the opposition. The board will talk about rezoning Jan. 17. Gradebook.

New school: Ground is broken for the Plantation Key School K-8 school. It’s expected to be open sometime during the 2017-2018 school year. It will hold up to 658 students and cost about $35 million. Keynoter.

Union elections: The president and vice president-instructional of the Pasco County teachers union are drawing opposition in the upcoming election. Two others officers are running unopposed. The unions and the school district are at an impasse in contract negotiations. Gradebook.

Preventing head injuries: A Fort Lauderdale high school football team, St. Thomas Aquinas, has had no concussions in games for the past two seasons. The coaching staff credits the use of new helmets, advanced testing for concussions, a ban of tackling at practice and the introduction of padded robots to cushion contact during practices. The New Yorker.

Principals disciplined: Two Bay County School District principals will have letters from critical audits of financial operations at their schools placed in their personnel files. Panama City News Herald.

Teacher arrested: A third-grade teacher at the Renaissance Charter School in Port St. Lucie is arrested after heroin capsules and syringes are found in his possession at school. Patrick John McLaughlin, 27, faces two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia. Palm Beach Post. TCPalm. WPTV.

Guns at schools: Two Lakewood High School students are arrested after they allegedly brought a handgun to school, posed for photos with it and then posted the photos on social media. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP.

School bus crash: One student suffered minor injuries when two school buses and two other vehicles are involved in an accident in Jacksonville. Florida Times-Union.

Opinions on schools: Every time policy-makers have a public discussion about education and neglect to mention Florida’s crisis-level middle school math situation, they have missed one more crucial opportunity to right the state’s educational ship. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Thiago Alexander Esslinger, a student at Riviera Preparatory School in Miami, is chosen to play the viola in the 2017 High School Honor Performance Series at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. Miami Herald. Seventy-one Brevard County schools are named five-star schools by the Florida Department of Education. Florida Today. Sixteen Polk County schools are also selected as five-star schools. Lakeland Ledger. Fourteen Escambia County schools and six Santa Rosa County schools are also selected as five-star schools. NorthEscambia.com.

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BY NextSteps staff