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Florida schools roundup: Bright Futures, board term limits, DeVos visit and more

Bright Futures: State Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, files a bill that would make the expansion of Bright Futures passed in this year’s legislative session permanent. Under it, more than 46,000 qualifying Florida students would have state university tuition and fees fully covered. Senate leaders say they also want to expand the payments to Medallion Scholars, the next scholarship tier down, to cover 75 percent of tuition and fees. Sun-SentinelGradebook. Bradenton Herald. Politico Florida. Associated Press. Sunshine State News.

Board term limits: State Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, files a bill that would limit school board members to two four-year terms. If the measure is approved in the Legislature, it also would need to be approved by 60 percent or more of voters since it would amend the state’s constitution. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WUSF. Monroe County School Board members are divided over the term limits proposal. Keynoter.

DeVos visit: On the second day of her visit to Florida, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos meets privately with education, business and advocacy group leaders to urge them to reshape the state’s education system so it provides more choice for students and better prepares them for jobs. She also says the K-12 and higher education systems need to work better together. News Service of Florida. Miami Herald.

The sleep-in effect: A RAND Corp. study concludes that Florida would get a $9 billion economic boost over the next 15 years if schools adjusted their schedules to allow later starting times for students in middle and high schools. Later times would cut fatal car crashes and boost student performance, the theory goes, which in turn would boost the likelihood of students graduating and going to college. Miami Herald.

Surveys questioned: Palm Beach County school officials say a survey showing higher teacher satisfaction incorrectly tabulated the scores. Superintendent Robert Avossa now says overall teacher satisfaction rose slightly over last year, not by 5 percentage points as previously reported. He blamed a programming error. “It’s embarrassing when data come out that aren’t right,” Avossa says, “but we own it and we apologize and move forward.” Palm Beach Post. Hernando County school leaders are questioning the validity of a survey evaluating Superintendent Lori Romano. She scored just 2.86 on a scale of 5 in the districtwide survey, which was conducted by USF professor George MacDonald and cost $11,000. Tampa Bay Times.

Guns at private schools: A bill is filed in the Florida House that would allow people with concealed-carry licenses to possess guns at private schools located on the property of religious institutions. State Rep. Neil Combee, R-Auburndale, filed the bill. A similar proposal died in the 2017 legislative session. News Service of Florida.

School expansion denied: The Coral Gables City Commission denies a Miami-Dade School District request to expand Henry S. West Laboratory School. The decision is not binding on the school district, which has traditionally sought courtesy approval for its projects but unilaterally decides whether to proceed. The commission says it would like greater input on school construction projects. Miami Herald.

Support for dreamers: School leaders from around the country are lobbying President Donald Trump to extend protections for children of undocumented immigrants, often called “dreamers.” Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie, himself an immigrant from Jamaica, spoke on behalf of Chiefs for Change, an organization of superintendents. “We believe they’ve done nothing wrong, that they should have an opportunity go get a high quality education,” Runcie says. “This country and our heritage and our history, it’s built on immigrants.” Trump is expected to decide by Sept. 5 whether to roll back the protections the Obama administration gave, or possibly be sued by 10 states. Tampa Bay Times.

Union audit: The union that represents the lowest-paid Miami-Dade County School District employees faces a budget deficit of $210,000, according to an audit. The total budget for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1184 has been in the $200,000 to $250,000 range in the past few years. The audit shows union president Vicki Hall received $50,915 in salary and $10,276 in reimbursements in addition to the $43,443 in salary and $11,938 for fringe benefits she collected in her job as a school bus driver. Florida Bulldog.

Mold problems: Teachers in Broward County want independent companies to inspect their classrooms for mold. More than 750 county teachers say they have mold in their rooms and have had for more than a year, but the district hasn’t taken care of it. The teachers union says it will pay for the testing. Sun-Sentinel.

Lightning hits budget: Lightning strikes in recent weeks have caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to Clay County schools. The strikes have cme while the district struggles with shrinking funds for infrastructure repairs. Clay Today.

School property: A 64-acre property in Zephyrhills isn’t suitable for a new school, Pasco County school officials decide, and they’re recommending the school board reverse an earlier decision to buy the property for $5 million. Gradebook.

Notable deaths: Steve Ferrise, a former special education teacher at Stanley Switlik Elementary School in Marathon, dies of cancer at age 62. Ferrise taught at the school for 13 years before retiring earlier this year. Keynoter.

School fined: Orlando’s Jones High School is fined $450 by the Florida High School Athletic Association because its former principal altered grades for two student-athletes. WKMG.

Stadium renovations: More than $7 million in renovations to the Citrus Bowl, home for the Vero Beach High School athletic teams, are just about complete. TCPalm. The Largo High School football team is about to begin its season, but renovations to its field are still a month from completion. The work is  part of a $65 million upgrade to the school. Principal Bradley Finkbiner says he “forgot” about two September home games when he recommended the work be completed by October. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: Florida’s alternative plan for school accountability just might be the most equitable for everyone. Lane Wright, Tampa Bay Times. The list of attendees at Betsy DeVos’ private meeting about public education included not a single teacher or student. Why include them in a roundtable about important education issues? Valerie Strauss, Washington Post. The Duval County School Board took the right step in joining a suit challenging a bad bill from the Legislature. Florida Times-Union. The investment in early childhood education provides big dividends. Ernest Hooper, Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: The Miami-Dade County School District gets $50,000 from Publix to help feed students as part of Hunger Action Month. Public also gave $45,000 to the Hillsborough County School District for school food pantries. WSVN. Gradebook.

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BY NextSteps staff