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Florida schools roundup: Tax hikes, security for schools, budgets and more

Sales tax hikes: The Martin County School Board is asking residents to approve two tax hikes. In August, voters will be asked to approve a half-mill property tax increase to boost teacher pay and development and pay for school security and extra mental-health services. The tax would raise about $11.2 million a year for four years. In November, voters will consider a seven-year, half-cent sales tax increase that would generate about $112 million for school construction and upgrades. TCPalm. Okaloosa County School Board member Dewey Destin wants to district to reconsider a ballot initiative to increase the sales tax by a half-cent to raise money for schools. If approved, the tax hike would raise about $17 million a year for the district, which could spend it only for capital projects such as construction and upgrades. Northwest Florida Daily News.

School security forces: Brevard County School Board members brush off a protest against arming school employees, and the advice of the superintendent and county sheriff, and say they will proceed with gathering information on the state’s marshal program. Board members say they’d prefer to have school resource officers, but the district doesn’t have the money and they aren’t interested in tapping reserves or raising taxes. Three town hall meetings are scheduled to discuss the best way to protect schools, and the board will decide next month whether to approve the marshals program. Florida Today. Switching to an internal police department will save the Sarasota County School District up to $1.5 million in the 2018-2019 school year, officials say. There is some question whether the district can put together a department of two administrators, a detective, two sergeants and 24 deputies before the next school year begins Aug. 13. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Town halls, walkout: Hundreds of parents and students angrily complain at a town meeting about the Broward County School District’s response to the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Sun-Sentinel. Parents of students killed during the school shooting in Parkland urge the nation to adopt uniform standards to prevent future attacks. Suggestions made at a forum in Washington include bulletproof glass and use of better technology for emergency communications. Associated Press. Students in Florida and across the nation will walk out of school Friday to remember the Columbine school shootings 19 years ago, and to protest how little has changed since then in the ways districts protect students. Sun-Sentinel. Tallahassee Democrat.

Budget cuts: The next round of budget cuts in the Hillsborough County School District is targeting teacher aides who help students learn English. School officials have announced that there will be 164 fewer positions for bilingual aides in the 2018-2019 school year. Superintendent Jeff Eakins says the cutbacks reflect a more modern approach to teaching English language learners. Tampa Bay Times.

Charter schools: The Martin County School Board approves the application of the Treasure Coast Classical Academy charter school. It’s the fourth school in Florida established by the Hillsdale College Barney Charter School Initiative. Hillsdale is a private liberal arts college in Michigan. Collier County School Board member Erika Donalds helped lead the push to get the school approved. TCPalm. Naples Daily News. The Leon County School Board is expected to decide Tuesday whether to approve the applications of two charter schools. Superintendent Rocky Hanna has recommended the applications be denied, saying the schools aren’t needed and that they take money from public schools. Tallahassee Democrat. The Manatee Charter School was nearly closed in early 2017 for low grades, poor record-keeping and a “chaotic” environment, and its enrollment dropped from 700 to about 420 students. After agreeing to a plan for improvement, the school’s charter was renewed for a year, and now officials are hoping to hear about being renewed for two years. Bradenton Herald.

Elected or appointed? The Escambia County School Board is considering asking voters if they want an elected or appointed school superintendent. The county elects superintendents now, but the current one, Malcolm Thomas, says he’s retiring in 2020 and thinks now is a good time to see how voters want to proceed. Board members say they will only support the vote if it can be placed on the November ballot. Pensacola News Journal.

Rescue at school: A Pensacola 7th-grader saves the life of a choking classmate by performing the Heimlich maneuver in the Bailey Middle School cafeteria. Logan Perez, 12, reacted quickly when his best friend Thomas Kellenberger, also 12, began to choke on a bite of chicken parmesan. Perez says he learned the technique from his teacher and parents. Pensacola News Journal.

Student activists: After the Feb. 14 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, these Tampa Bay area students were moved to become activists. Now the question becomes, can they keep it going? Tampa Bay Times. A majority of U.S. students between the ages of 13 and 17 now say they are at least somewhat worried about a shooting happening at their school, according to a Pew Research Center survey taken between March 7 and April 12. Newsweek.

Gubernatorial debate: Education issues are front and center at a debate of the Democratic candidates for governor. All vowed a greater investment in public education than the state has provided the past eight years, and all called for further restrictions on guns. The debate included Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, Andrew Gillum and Chris King. News Service of Florida. Associated PressOrlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Tallahassee DemocratFlorida Politics. Politico Florida.

School board elections: Bobby Agagnina, an English teacher at Lake Howell High School in Winter Park, announces his candidacy for the District 4 seat on the  Seminole County School Board. Orlando Political Observer.

Rebuilding a school: The Hillsborough County school District is asking several contractors to evaluate whether Lee Elementary School can be rebuilt, and for how much. The historic school was heavily damaged in a fire Sept. 12. The district is considering three options: restoring the school, rebuilding it and using as many of the original materials as possible, or just rebuilding the facade for an as-yet undetermined use but relocating the school. Gradebook.

Service animals issue: A Pasco County teacher is asking the school district to reconsider its refusal to allow her to keep the service dog she is training in her classroom to get it acclimated to being around people. No one objected to Wesley Chapel High School science teacher Susan Cullum’s dog, but the district’s policy doesn’t allow it. Gradebook.

Florida lawyer confirmed: The U.S. Senate confirms Florida lawyer Carlos Muñiz as the general counsel for the U.S. Education Department. The vote was 55-43. Politico Florida.

Social media watchdog: The Flagler County School Board hires a Vermont company to monitor social media posts for threats against students or schools. The three-year contract with Social Sentinel will cost the district $18,500 a year. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live.

Notable deaths: Larry Ray Lancaster, a teacher and vice principal in the Clay County School District for 39 years, has died at the age of 70. Clay Today.

Students arrested: A Park Vista Community High School student is arrested after bringing an unloaded gun to the Lake Worth school. School officials reported that the boy was acting oddly, and the gun was found when school police searched his backpack. Palm Beach PostWPEC. Sun-Sentinel. An 11-year-old student from Silver Sands Middle School in Port Orange is arrested and accused of threatening to bomb the school. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School bus crashes: One student was taken to a hospital with neck pain after a Hernando County school bus with 18 students aboard was hit by a truck and knocked on its side. Five other students were treated at the scene for minor injuries. Tampa Bay Times. A woman is killed when she drives into the path of a school bus in Lee County. A passenger and the school bus driver are also hospitalized. Fort Myers News-Press.

Opinions on schools: The National Assessment of Educational Progress results show that a growing number of charter schools, in Florida and elsewhere, are leading the way at boosting student achievement. It’s time to stop attacking them and start learning from their success. Ben DeGrow, The Hill. Florida’s rising NAEP scores show education reforms are working for all students in the state. Jeb Bush, The 74. Lake County school and law enforcement officials discuss how to get a police officer in every school. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. The Collier County School Board made the right call last week when it turned down a request for $8.1 million for a new charter high school building on Marco Island. Naples Daily News. The grouping of three education ideas into a single proposed constitutional amendment is logical, and it is in keeping with the work of previous Constitution Revision Commissions. Erika Donalds, Miami Herald.

Student enrichment: Noelia Voigt, an 18-year-old Florida Virtual School student from Nokomis, wins the Miss Teen Florida United States competition and will compete in the Miss Teen United States pageant July 2-7 in Orlando. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Three Alachua County students are among 242 across the nation competing for a spot on the U.S. Junior Math Olympiad team. Gainesville Sun. Royce Thompson, a senior at Taylor Middle-High School in Pierson, is among three-dozen Floridians to win a National Merit Scholarship. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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BY NextSteps staff