State budget: The Florida Senate and House overwhelmingly approve an $88.7 billion state budget that increases per-student spending by an average of $101.50 statewide, but is lower in some of the state’s largest districts. “How can anyone justify per-student increases of $65.06 and $52.35 for Miami-Dade and Broward, respectively?” tweeted Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. Earlier Sunday, Gov. Rick Scott signed the higher education bill that permanently boosts spending for Bright Futures scholarships, and the K-12 bill that includes a new scholarship program for bullied victims. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Palm Beach Post. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. GateHouse. The Legislature also passed a $170 million tax cut bill that includes a three-day tax holiday on school supplies. News Service of Florida. Associated Press.
School safety bill: Gov. Scott signs the $400 million school safety bill, despite being lobbied by educators who don’t like the idea of arming school personnel and NRA officials who don’t like the new restrictions on gun sales. The NRA quickly files a suit in federal court against the law, calling it a violation of the Second Amendment. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Tampa Bay Times. redefinED. Palm Beach Post. GateHouse. Here’s what the new school safety bill does. Palm Beach Post. Stoneman Douglas students and parents had vowed that “this time would be different.” And it was. But school students say while it’s a start, it isn’t enough. Miami Herald. Some private schools are ahead of public schools on security issues. Palm Beach Post. President Trump backs away from his earlier proposals on gun restrictions and is now calling for the creation of a federal Commission on School Safety, led by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, to make long-range policy suggestions. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. Associated Press. No one really knows how many students bring guns to schools, because schools are lax in reporting those incidents and the information detailing it is inconsistently collected and outdated. Stateline.
Reaction to safety bill: Law enforcement and school officials say there isn’t enough money in the bill to put an armed resource officer in every school. They say $360 million is needed but the bill only provides $162 million, which means arming school personnel may be the only option for full coverage. Tallahassee Democrat. Why the state’s school superintendents opposed the bill. Washington Post. Miami-Dade school officials are working on a plan to put armed officers at every school. Miami Herald. Central Florida educators say they want police officers, not teachers or other school workers, to be armed on campuses. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. Manatee County school officials join other large districts around the state in saying they’re unlikely to arm any school personnel other than resource officers under the new law. Bradenton Herald. The Citrus County School Board will be asked to place school resource officers into more schools. Several elementary schools share a deputy. Citrus County Chronicle.
School board term limits: A proposal before the Constitution Revision Commission to limit school board terms is revised. Sponsor Erika Donalds now wants to limit board members to serving eight consecutive years, starting Nov. 6, 2018. The earlier version, which had been approved by a CRC committee, would have begun with service since 2015. Gradebook. Several education issues are among the proposals CRC members will consider in its final report to the secretary of state May 10. Florida Today.
Other bills: A bill that cuts down on the information a parent must provide local districts before home-schooling his or her child passes unanimously in the Legislature. redefinED. The state’s personalized learning pilot programs will not be open to every district around the state after the bill dies in the Senate. redefinED. Here’s a sampling of some other bills that got through the Legislature this year. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
School shooting developments: School shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz revealed his fantasy of killing people and being drenched in their blood to therapists almost four years before the shootings. Miami Herald. Some Stoneman Douglas students are petitioning to let seniors finish the year early. Sun-Sentinel. Coral Springs police officers describe the scene they encountered when they stormed into the school just after the shooting. Miami Herald. Police radios failed during the school shooting, according to reports, the same thing that happened in January 2017 during a shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport. Sun-Sentinel. The lawyer who filed a lawsuit for a student wounded in the shooting says he expects more families to file lawsuits soon. USA Today. The National School Walkout will be held Wednesday, and more than 2,000 events are scheduled. ABC News. Associated Press. CNN.
NRA grants to schools: The National Rifle Associated gave about 500 U.S. schools more than $7 million between 2010 and 2016 for programs such as the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, rifle teams, hunting safety courses and agriculture clubs, according to an analysis. After the shooting Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Broward County School District says it will accept no more money from the NRA. It’s believed to be the only district declining support. Associated Press.
Virtual school hacked: Hackers stole personal information of about 350,000 Florida Virtual School students, parents and teacher two years ago, the company revealed last week. Students’ names, birthdates, school account user names and passwords, parents’ names and email addresses were taken, and Social Security numbers and other information were stolen from about 1,800 Leon County teachers. Miami Herald. Politico Florida.
Employees honored: Six Lee County teachers win Golden Apple awards from the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools. They are: Matthew Bourbina, Spanish, Riverdale High; Samantha Hutchinson, algebra, Island Coach High; Maria Rose, 1st grade, Edison Park Elementary; Steve Jaramillo, JRTOC, Mariner High; Patrick Hanrahan, criminal justice, Ida Baker High; and Brooke Przespolewski, kindergarten, Gulf Elementary. Fort Myers News-Press. Tammy Skipper of South Sumter Middle School is named the Sumter County School District’s school-related employee of the year. Daily Commercial.
New superintendent: New Palm Beach County Superintendent Donald Fennoy is a protege of the departing one, Robert Avossa, who hired him as an assistant principal at an Orlando high school in 2004 and has served as his mentor since then. “It gives (me) an opportunity for the first time in 15 years not to be under the shadow of Dr. Avossa,” Fennoy told school board members after his appointment. Palm Beach Post.
Parents win claim: The parents of Jean Pierre Kamel, a 14-year-old boy who was shot to death by a classmate at a Palm Beach County school in 1997, finally win their claims bill filed with the Legislature. Ashraf Kamel and ex-wife Marguerite Dimitri received the legal maximum of $200,000 from the Palm Beach County School Board in 2004, but needed legislative approval to receive more. Last week, the Legislature approved a bill that allows the district to pay each of the parents $180,000. Palm Beach Post.
New school proposal: Santa Rosa school officials have made a $1.9 million bid for about 45 acres to build a new school in Gulf Breeze. School Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick says it could become an elementary or middle school or a combined K-8 school. Pensacola News Journal.
Teacher fired: A Miami Arts Charter School math teacher is fired after one of his 7th-grade students looked into his background and found a troubling allegation in his past. Scott Manas had been disciplined by the state in 2000 for inappropriate contact with students in the mid-1990s in Hillsborough County. Now parents are questioning school leaders for not properly checking Manas’ background when he was hired last year. Miami Herald. Gradebook.
Firing urged: The Jacksonville branch of the NAACP wants the Duval County School District to fire David Swinyar, who was suspended last week after using a racial slur in front of his students at Kernan Middle School and telling them not to date black people. Swinyar was suspended for 10 days without pay, and then will be reassigned to a district position where he has no contact with students. Florida Times-Union.
Students arrested: A 12-year-old student is arrested after allegedly making threats against Keystone Heights Junior/Senior High School. It was the second such threat in two days. Florida Times-Union. Five female students are arrested after attacking a 14-year-old girl in the Miami Killian Senior High School cafeteria. WSVN.
Sexual abuse investigation: Orangewood Christian School in Maitland launches an investigation of a former school coach who is accused of sexually abusing three students in the 1990s. That coach, Tim Manes, later pleaded no contest to a charge of molesting a boy in an unrelated incident and is now a registered sex offender. Orlando Sentinel.
School board sued: A classroom confrontation between two students a year ago at Safety Harbor Middle School leads to a lawsuit against a boy, his mother and the Pinellas County School Board. Tampa Bay Times.
Opinions on schools: Gov. Scott was right to sign the school safety bill, but he should use his line-item veto power to defund the program to arm school staff. Orlando Sentinel. The new school safety law is a placebo. It was meant to be “something” but will have little or no effect on the ability of twisted miscreants to kill and maim with staggering efficiency. Daily Commercial. It’s a tragedy that the new school safety law’s modest provisions signify significant change in Florida, but progress, any progress, is overdue and welcome. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Stoneman Douglas students have gotten a lesson on American politics, and politicians, in the past three weeks. Dave Hyde, Sun-Sentinel. The eloquence and poise of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas student-activists represent the absolute vindication of the extracurricular education they receive. Dahlia Lithwick, Slate. As new school safety measures roll out, anyone involved in the process needs to remember that cybersecurity measures and budgets are also needed to keep our students safe. Blake Dowling, Florida Politics. Two Pasco County schools are testing how students fare when held to higher expectations, and so far the experiment is working. This is what can happen when teachers are given some latitude and a little trust. Tampa Bay Times. Improving the proficiency of 3rd-grade reading is new Palm Beach County School Superintendent Donald Fennoy’s great challenge, and the standard upon which his performance should be judged. Palm Beach Post. Expanding educational options for disadvantaged kids isn’t some devious attempt to “pad private bottom lines.” Ron Matus, Ocala Star-Banner (Note: Ron Matus works for Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog). In Pinellas County schools, busing demands determine school start times. The priorities should be reversed. Tampa Bay Times. Our school administrators need to fully investigate the case of Crystal River Middle School social studies teacher Dayanna Volitich and her controversial podcast, and take the appropriate action. Citrus County Chronicle. Dayanna Volitich can’t be allowed to return to her classroom, even if she’s found not to have brought her views to school and shared them with her students. Nancy Smith, Sunshine State News. Winners and losers in this year’s legislative session. Tallahassee Democrat.
Student enrichment: Saachi Sharma, a 13-year-old 8th-grader at the Darnell Cookman School of Medical Arts, wins the Duval County Spelling Bee to advance to the national competition in May. Florida Times-Union. Five students from Indian Trails Middle School in Flagler Beach are working with sheriff’s deputies to fight juvenile delinquency. Daytona Beach News-Journal.