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Florida schools roundup: Schools of hope, bonuses, funding and more

Budget deal: Leaders of the Florida Senate and House reach an agreement on an $83 billion budget, and the Legislature will vote on it Monday. Gov. Rick Scott didn’t rule out a veto, saying the budget was done in secrecy and doesn’t have enough tax cuts or money for education. Details of the bill are sketchy, but it does include a $200 million fund to help struggling schools and to recruit charter school companies into the state – the so-called “schools of hope” plan – and $213 million for educator bonuses. Tampa Bay Times. Associated PressNews Service of Florida. Naples Daily News. Lakeland LedgerPolitico Florida. Also included in the budget is $500 million for the Public Education Capital Outlay program, with $50 million each going to public schools and charter schools for maintenance projects, and $57 million for specific school projects in smaller counties. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida.

Title I funding: School district leaders from around the state continue to lobby the Legislature about the proposal to change the way federal Title I funding will be distributed. Legislators are proposing bills (S.B. 1362 and H.B. 7101) that would spread out the funds among more schools, including charter schools. Critics say doing so will starve the very schools that need the money the most. Neither bill has a scheduled hearing in the Senate. Gradebook. The Polk County School District could lose $15 million if the proposed split of federal Title I funds between traditional public schools and charter schools is approved, says district budget director Jason Pitts. Lakeland Ledger.

Testing changes: Work continues on the bill to reform school testing in the state. Support for the Senate bill chosen to move forward is tepid, with many senators complaining the bill does little to reduce the number of tests students take. Negotiations continue to consider details that could broaden support. Also in the bill is the proposal to require daily recess for elementary school students. Miami Herald.

Payouts approved: A bill authorizing payments to two former Palm Beach County students injured in accidents at school has passed the House and is now before Gov. Rick Scott. The bill directs the county school board to pay $4.7 million to Dustin Reinhardt for a 2013 explosion in auto shop class that caused severe brain damage, and $790,000 to Altavious Carter, whose neck was broken in a 2005 traffic accident caused by a school bus driver. Palm Beach Post.

School bus bill: A bill that would stiffen penalties for drivers who pass a stopped school bus and injure or kill someone clears the Legislature and now heads to Gov. Rick Scott. WFSU.

School impact fees: The Pasco County Commission is discussing a proposed school impact fee on newly built single-family home, but won’t tie the size of the fee to the school board holding a referendum on increasing the sales tax. The commission also rejected a flat fee proposal, opting for a tiered approach that depends on the size of the home. Even if the fee is approved, the school district still faces a shortfall between what the fee raises over 10 years and what the projected needs are. Tampa Bay Times.

NAACP complaints: NAACP St. Petersburg branch officials criticize Pinellas County School Superintendent Michael Grego for hiring a principal at a troubled elementary school without consulting them or other community leaders. They did praise the hiring of Kathleen Young-Parker, who is from the area and lives close to Campbell Park Elementary. Gradebook.

School update backed: The Martin County School Board directs school officials to prepare plans to update or replace the athletic facilities building at South Fork High School, and to find a temporary solution for female athletes. Parents have complained for years that the facility is too small and doesn’t provide enough privacy or accessibility. TCPalm.

School closing: Palm Beach County School Board members are agreeable to a district plan to close half-filled Odyssey Middle School in Boynton Beach by the fall of 2018. The board would redraw school boundaries to place the remaining Odyssey students, then lease the property and buildings to South Tech Academy and Prep charter schools. Palm Beach Post.

School’s progress: Midtown Academy, which was formed three weeks before school started when a charter school in St. Petersburg collapsed, has struggled to find a focus and keep its students. Enrollment is down to 285 from 321 in October, and a plan to turn it into a magnet school for parental involvement and family engagement has failed to attract students. “Any time you do a school of choice or a choice program, it always builds over time,” says deputy superintendent Bill Corbett. He says school officials are now searching for another theme. Tampa Bay Times.

Employees honored: Maria Eunice, director of Food and Nutrition Services for the Alachua County School District, is named Florida director of the year by the Florida School Nutrition Association. The group also chose Connie Irby of Lawton Chiles Elementary School as the cafeteria manager of the year. WCJB.

School board seat: Misty Servia, who lost a Manatee County School Board race in 2016, is asking Gov. Rick Scott to consider appointing her to finish out of the term of board member Karen Carpenter. Carpenter is resigning at the end of the month and moving out of state. Bradenton Herald.

Student beaten at school: A Mainland High School sophomore is severely beaten by four students in the school’s performing arts center in front of 100 students. Two of the attackers have been arrested and charged with felony battery. Two others were suspended. The victim suffered several broken facial bones and will need surgery. Police say the fight was drug-related. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on schools: For-profit organizations can be more proficient and more efficient managers than either traditional or charter schools. When they are, they become very valuable assets. But when they are neither, their very profitability uses up scarce educational resources and harms the schools they claimed to help. Martin Levine, Nonprofit Quarterly. Florida’s teacher education programs will never meet the demand for chemistry and physics teachers in the state’s high schools. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Bartow High School International Baccalaureate seniors Vicki Beleri and Nandan Patel are National Merit Scholarship Program finalists. Lakeland Ledger. Vernon High School’s Future Farmers of America help protect sand dunes at Panama City Beach by planting 1,400 sea oat plants. Panama City News Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff