Florida schools roundup: Tax bill, Hope Scholarship, tech schools and more

Tax bill and school choice: The Republican tax bill contains a mixture of good and bad news for school choice advocates. On the plus side, the bill would allow families to tap up to $10,000 from 529 college savings plans for K-12 expenses, including private school tuition. But the bill does not include a tax credit for donations for private school scholarships. The bill would also cut the deduction for local income and sales taxes, which some advocates believe could have a negative impact on local taxes collected for schools, and the $250 deduction teachers use to cover classroom supplies. Education Week.

Hope Scholarship: A bill that creates a scholarship for bullied students that can be used to change schools will get a hearing before a Florida House subcommittee next week. The Hope Scholarship program would allow victims of bullying or harassment in public schools to transfer to another public school or qualify for a state tax credit scholarship, and also be eligible for transportation scholarships. Students would be eligible for the scholarship within 15 days of reporting “battery; harassment; hazing; bullying; kidnapping; physical attack; robbery; sexual offenses, harassment, assault, or battery; threat or intimidation; or fighting at school.” The bill was filed this week by State Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples. redefinED. News Service of Florida.

Technical school boom: These are boom times for career academies and technical education, with more high schools opening that emphasize career choices over a college education. For the past 10 years, state lawmakers have pushed career academies that offer industry certifications, and continue to consider alternative paths to a diploma. “The workforce is not demanding four-year-college-degreed people,” says Jim Stone, director of the National Research Center for Career & Technical Education. “The workforce is demanding people who can do something.” Tampa Bay Times.

Charter repayment: A Pasco County charter school has paid $177,194 back to the district after its enrollment didn’t meet projections that determined the initial payment. The Pasco MyCroSchool projected enrollment of 250, and the state gave the school $252,152 based on that expectation. When school started in August, the school’s enrollment was 14. The district requested a repayment of the state funds by Oct. 31, and received it Wednesday. Gradebook.

Charter-district model: Charter school officials point to the Hillsborough County School District as a model for positive charter-traditional public school relationships. Superintendent Jeff Eakins has stressed that the goal is serving students, and has promoted a collaborative relationship that has included inviting charter schools to districtwide principals’ meetings. “That is so refreshing in Hillsborough County, because I know it’s not like that everywhere,” says Kristine Bennett, principal at Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School. redefinED.

Contract negotiations: Hillsborough County school officials are pushing back against teachers who have been protesting because they won’t get a raise they were scheduled to receive. “Our district has given our employees more than $200 million in pay and benefits increases over the past four years, despite a district financial picture that was not promising,” according to a statement released by district officials. Gradebook. The union representing Pasco County teachers is asking for an 0.875 percent cost-of-living increase for every teacher, a similar amount for performance-based and grandfathered salary schedule plans, and $142 per employee to help cover a health insurance cost increase. The district is expected to respond next week. Gradebook.

Superintendent evaluations: The Broward County School Board is considering giving Superintendent Robert Runcie a $28,000 a year raise and a four-year contract extension. Board members gave Runcie a glowing evaluation in September. If the contract is approved Tuesday, Runcie would become the second-highest paid superintendent in the state at $335,000, behind only Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s $345,000. Sun-Sentinel. The Hernando County School District releases school board members’ forms evaluating Superintendent Lori Romano. Reviews were mixed. Gus Guadagnino gave Romano her highest scores, 3s, in each of the nine categories, while chairwoman Beth Narverud graded Romano as a 1 in six of the categories. Gradebook.

Educators honored: Fifty-five Collier County teachers are nominated as finalists for Golden Apple awards. In February, five will be selected to receive Golden Apples, plus $500 and a classroom grant worth up to $5,000. Naples Daily News.

District wish list: Pasco County School Board members ask their legislative delegation to push for greater board control of local tax dollars. Board member Debra Robinson also asked legislators to extend preschool to a full day and to pay for social workers at schools. Sun-Sentinel.

Sexual harassment: More than 620 cases of sexual harassment were reported in central Florida schools during the 2015-2016 school year, according to the Florida Department of Education. More than 400 were reported in Orange County, and others were spread among the Brevard, Flagler, Lake, Marion, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia school districts. WKMG.

Students arrested: Fifteen people are arrested after a fight broke out in the cafeteria at Somerset Jefferson High School. Thirteen students and two adults were detained. Jefferson County schools are now operated by the charter company Somerset Academy Inc. WCTV. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL.

Teacher arrested: A 20-year-old teacher at two small Christian schools in Osceola County is arrested and charged with sexual battery on a student. Domynik Falon Lewis was teaching at the Esther School and the Grace Excellence School despite not having a state certification. WKMG. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: Florida already has school vouchers. So why would they need to be put into the state constitution? TCPalm. A proposal to end salaries for Florida school board members deserves a thorough discussion. TCPalm.

Student enrichment: Sarasota County 4th-graders will tour the historically black Sarasota neighborhood of Newtown and see a play in February as part of the celebration of Black History Month. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Students and staff members from three Sarasota County schools will clean up the Gulfport gravesite of local education icon Emma E. Booker. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Madeline Stuart, a 20-year-old Australian supermodel with Down syndrome, visits the North Florida School of Special Education in Jacksonville to promote a message of inclusion. WJAX.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff