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Florida schools roundup: Education bill, gun politics, school safety and more

Education bill: The Senate Education Committee unanimously approves a major rewrite of the House’s omnibus education bill, H.B. 7055. The Senate version would put armed law enforcement officers at every school in the state, make state scholarships available to bullied students with substantiated claims, boost oversight of private school choice programs, require charter schools to return facilities to districts if they close, and create a comprehensive mental health program for schools, among other things. It also removes the provision that would decertify teachers unions if membership falls below half of the members represented. The revised bill now moves on to the Senate Appropriations Committee. redefinED. Associated Press. Gradebook. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida.

Parkland and politics: The Florida House overwhelmingly rejects a proposal to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines as about 100 students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School look on. The vote was 71-36 against H.B. 219, Students say the shootings have changed them, and vow to continue fighting for school safety. Miami Herald. Sun-SentinelPalm Beach Post. Politico Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. After meetings with superintendents and law enforcement officials, Gov. Rick Scott says he will have a plan of action in response to the shootings in Parkland to take to legislators by Friday. “We have two weeks left in session at that point, and my goal is to get something accomplished,” says Scott. Politico Florida. WKMG. News Service of FloridaFlorida Politics. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A Senate hearing on a bill that would allow designated people to carry concealed weapons at schools is postponed Tuesday. Miami Herald. President Donald Trump calls on the Justice Department to ban all devices like bump stocks, an attachment that can turn a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic one. Associated Press. New York Times. The Broward County Charter Review Commission says it will consider giving voters the chance to decide what guns should be permitted in the county. Sun-Sentinel. Pinellas County School Board member Linda Lerner wants the board to officially support a ban on assault weapons. Gradebook. Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna is criticized by the chairman of the county’s Republican Party for giving excused absences to students who wanted to join a rally at the Capitol. Tallahassee Democrat.

School safety: Miami-Dade County school officials are asking for $30 million from the state to protect against mass shootings. Miami Herald. Manatee County School Superintendent Diana Greene says the district is reviewing all safety procedures, and providing extra law enforcement presence and counseling for students. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton Herald. Pasco County School Board members say they want to put more resource officers into schools, and are asking U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis for federal help to make it happen. Gradebook. The Hernando County Commission gives tentative approval to add 10 resource officers into county schools, including one for every elementary school. Tampa Bay Times. Largo Police Department officers give active shooter preparedness training to parents, students and school in staff in Pinellas County. The program A.L.I.C.E. – which stands for for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate – emphasizes taking action over simply hiding. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

Other developments: Some of the more outspoken Parkland students are being attacked on social media by people who think the students are being used by anti-gun and anti-Trump groups. One Florida legislative aide is fired after calling the students “crisis actors.” Miami HeraldTampa Bay Times. Sun-Sentinel. Politico Florida. Broward County teachers grapple with the reality that they have become human shields for their students. New York Times. Hundreds of people visit a makeshift memorial at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Palm Beach Post. Students across south Florida walk out of schools to show their solidarity with Stoneman Douglas students. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. A number of student arrests have been made over threats to Florida schools. Here are some of them. Sun-SentinelTampa Bay Times. WFLAFlorida Times-Union. Bradenton Herald. Naples Daily News. Tallahassee Democrat. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Orlando Sentinel. Naples Daily NewsPensacola News Journal.

Floridians for N.Y. post? Orange County School Superintendent Barbara Jenkins is being considered for the job of running the New York City public school system. But according to reports, Jenkins might not be interested because it would require a significant cut in pay and her pension. Another possible candidate with a Florida background is former Hillsborough County Superintendent MaryEllen Elia, who was fired from that job in 2015 but later became New York State education commissioner. Chalkbeat. New York Times.

School board member resigns: A Seminole County School Board member who hasn’t attended a meeting in almost a year is quitting. Jeffrey Bauer, 49, had a stroke in 2015, a more serious stroke in 2016 and then a brain hemorrhage and blood clot in 2017, according to the resignation letter he sent to Gov. Rick Scott. While Bauer hasn’t attended a board meeting since Feb. 28, 2017, he has continued to collect his $41,040-a-year salary and receive school district health insurance. Orlando Sentinel.

Outside operator: Hillsborough County school officials tentatively choose Phalen Leadership Academies to operate seven struggling schools if they don’t get at least a C grade from the state this year. Phalen, an Indiana nonprofit that operates charter schools, would assume control of Foster, Mort, Oak Park, Potter, Sheehy and Booker T. Washington elementary schools, and Memorial Middle School. Gradebook.

School transformations: Pinellas County school officials are suggesting the district close the struggling K-8 Midtown Academy in St. Petersburg and turn it into a center for gifted students in grades 1-5. The middle school students now at Midtown would be dispersed to other St. Petersburg schools. Gradebook.

School being studied: Specialists are collecting data at Wharton High School in Hillsborough County and meeting with faculty, students and parents to determine if there are ways to change the culture at the school. Wharton has had a reported 67 fights this school year, most in the county, and area superintendent Anna Brown acknowledged in a meeting with parents that “it is clear that that (the school culture) is broken in many places.” Gradebook.

Displaced students: For many students who fled Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and landed in central Florida, music education has helped them find normalcy. Orlando Sentinel.

New schools costs: The Sarasota County School District is considering buying a 41-acre property in Nokomis and building a K-8 school. The property near I-75 in the south part of the county is for sale for $3.4 million, while the school board approved spending $2.5 million. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Meanwhile, a surprised school board approves a nearly $400,000 hike to an architect’s fee for the new Suncoast Technical College North Port campus, which is about 50 percent higher than the board expected. District chief operating officer Scott Lempe took responsibility for not communicating the increase to board members in a timely fashion. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School programs: Matanzas High School students are proposing a new law and justice academy to help prepare students for a career in law enforcement or in law. It would be modeled on Flagler Palm Coast High’s Fire Leadership Academy, a popular program that opened a year ago. Flagler Live.

Bethune statue: The Florida House approves a bill that would place a statue of educator Mary McLeod Bethune in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall Collection, and Gov. Rick Scott says he will sign the legislation. Her statue will replace the one of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. Gatehouse Media. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

School board elections: Retired pediatrician Sue Woltanski is running for the District 5 seat on the Monroe County School Board. Ron Martin holds the seat, but is retiring. And James Doran, a retired educator, is running for the District 4 seat currently held by John Dick, who says he will run for re-election. Keys Weekly.

Dean put on leave: John Bourn, dean of students at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, is put on administrative leave while he’s under investigation. School officials would not elaborate on the nature of the investigation. Gainesville Sun.

Opinions on schools: Well done, Florida legislators. You just turned those students against The Establishment. What a mistake. Miami Herald. We share the outrage over years of indefensible inaction from lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and Tallahassee. Orlando Sentinel. Don’t ask me to take the life of another human. Don’t I do enough as a teacher? Mella Baxter, Orlando Sentinel. Use your voice and your vote to enact sensible gun legislation. Anna Fusco, Sun-Sentinel. I’m a Florida teacher in the era of school shootings. This is the terrifying reality of my classroom during a lockdown drill. K.T. Katzman, Chalkbeat. Legislators ignored school officials’ pleas for more school safety funds – until the Parkland shootings. John Romano, Tampa Bay Times. Politicians can start making children safer at school by simply adding money for trained school resource officers — now. Palm Beach Post. Florida has all the ingredients for a mass shooting: the worst funding for mental illness in the country, and the weakest gun control laws in the country. Florida Times-Union. What if 17 children were gunned down in Jacksonville? You don’t have to imagine it: 17 children have been killed with guns since Jan. 1, 2016. Mark Woods, Florida Times-Union. We should consider any and all ideas to protect students. Lakeland Ledger. Keep pressure on lawmakers to include gun control measures at the forefront of any solution to help prevent school shootings. Gainesville Sun. In the past week, “Perennials,” those social media-savvy 12- to 17-year-olds, have become the teachers and we their students. Adam Goodman, Tampa Bay Times. I quit being a substitute teacher in Brevard County because of lousy compensation and a lack of respect. Fred D. Bartleson III, Florida Today. While institutional constraints have fortunately kept U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from shredding the fabrics of public education, she has been notably successful in merging her zealot, theocratic worldview with the department she oversees. Henry Miller, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: The Pasco County School District builds a sensory room at Pine View Elementary so autistic students will have a comfortable, safe place for a social-behavioral communication program. Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff