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Florida schools roundup: School grades improving, unions lose case and more

School grades improve: The number of Florida schools getting a grade of A or B from the state this year is up 2 percentage points, from 56 to 58 percent, according to the Florida Department of Education’s annual report. The state also says the number of schools receiving a D or F dropped a percentage point, from 8 to 7 percent, and 96 percent of the schools that got an F last year moved up at least one grade. More than 3,200 schools were graded, and 1,027 received an A. Districts were also graded, and 53 of the 67 got an A or B, up from 48 last year. The grades are calculated with an 11-category formula that includes student achievement, learning gains on state tests and high school graduation rates. Florida Department of EducationOrlando Sentinel. Gradebook. Here are reports from individual school districts: Miami-DadeOrange, Osceola, SeminolePalm Beach, Broward, DuvalHillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, PolkBrevard, LeonSarasota, Manatee, HighlandsLee, CollierLakeAlachua, Marion, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian RiverSt. Johns, Clay, Nassau, BakerHernando, Volusia, Flagler, Bay, EscambiaCitrus, Jefferson, Gadsden. No Florida charter school will be closed, since none received back-to-back F grades from the state. redefinED.

Ruling hits unions: The U.S. Supreme Court rules 5-4 that public labor unions, such as teachers unions, cannot compel workers who do not wish to join to pay dues to support for collective bargaining. Forcing dissenting employees to pay dues to a union is a violation of First Amendment protections, wrote Justice Samuel A. Alito for the majority. The case, Janus v. AFSCME, overturned a precedent set in the 1970s that allowed unions to collect dues for contract negotiations and other labor activities from workers who didn’t join. You can read Wednesday’s decision here. The 74. New York TimesAssociated Press. Tallahassee Democrat. Chalkbeat. Education WeekPolitico. More on the decision and the possible ramifications. The 74.

School safety: The Volusia County School District is asking cities to pitch in to help pay for armed guardians at schools. The district is asking each of the county’s nine cities to pay for 30 percent of the costs to put guardians in elementary schools in their jurisdictions. That’s about $11,500 per guardian. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Sarasota County School Board members are expected to vote tonight on the latest school safety plan. Earlier in the week, Sheriff Tom Knight agreed to pay 20 percent of the costs for school resource officers. WUSF. Two parents of slain students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School push their plans to improve school security, and both focus on hardening schools. Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow died in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, presented his plan at a news conference while Max Schachter, who lost his son Alex, laid out his vision to a gathering of national and local law enforcement officials in Washington, D.C. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press.

Mental heath services: The Monroe County School Board approves an expansion of mental heath services for students. The district will hire two social workers to add to the two it has now, and increase the number of certified mental health counselors from five to eight. The Keys Area Health Education Council will donate at least $100,000 to the project, and the district will get $290,000 from the state. Key West Citizen.

Plans for tax increases: If Lee County voters approve an increase of a half-cent in the sales tax for schools, the district will spend $57.4 million of the $754.8 million it would raise for school security, almost $365 million on school maintenance, $286 million on new schools and about $46.5 million on updated technology. The school board approved the spending plan this week. Fort Myers News-Press. Martin County teachers would get about $8.2 million of the $11.2 million raised in each of the next four years if voters approve an increase in property taxes for schools in August. TCPalm.

Pay raises approved: Most Orange County teachers will get a pay raise of more than $2,000 this year and a $500 bonus under an agreement approved by the school board this week. Other employees will get 4 percent raises. Orlando Sentinel.

State improves ranking: Florida ranks 34th among the states in quality of life for children, up six spots from 2017, and 24th among the states for education in the annual Kids Count survey produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Education was the only category of the four ranked in which Florida finished in the top half of all states. The state was 34th for health, 34th for family and 42nd for economics. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Times-Union.

Homeless students: Almost 9,700 Orange County students are considered homeless, an increase of 3,500 over last year, according senior school district administrator Christina Savino. She attributed some of the increase to Hurricane Maria, which forced many students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to central Florida. The district says 7,415 homeless students were sharing housing, 1,852 were living in hotels, 289 were in shelters and 134 were sleeping in cars or parks. Orlando Sentinel.

Medical pot in schools: The Suwannee County School Board votes unanimously to allow students to use medical marijuana on campus this fall. Families will have to show a prescription, and smokeable medical marijuana is not permitted. A parent or guardian will have to bring it on campus, administer it to the student in a designated place at school, then immediately remove the drug from school grounds. WTXL.

Lawsuit threatened: Parents of students living about a mile from Liberty Pines Academy are threatening to sue the St. Johns County School District over its decision to end busing to the St. Johns Forest neighborhood. District officials say because the neighborhood is less than 2 miles from the school, it is not entitled  to busing unless there are dangerous conditions between the housing and the school. The parents say it is dangerous, and that a newly installed sidewalk is just 4  feet from a busy road with cars traveling at speeds up to 60 mph. St. Augustine Record.

School named for educator: Manatee County School Board members unanimously vote to put longtime educator Barbara Harvey’s name on a new elementary school in Parrish. Harvey was a teacher, principal, district administrator and school board member in the county for more than five decades. Bradenton Herald.

Board member appointed: Kristy Branch Banks is appointed to the District 3 seat on the Franklin County School Board by Gov. Rick Scott. She replaces Teresa Ann Martin, who resigned. Banks will only be on the board until Nov. 13, when Martin’s term expires. Florida Politics.

Opinions on schools: Collier County leaders set the right tone in the discussions over school resource officers. Naples Daily News. As choice in public education expands and evolves, we will continue to have robust debates. But the best path forward is the one that aligns with human nature, embraces freedom and pluralism, and works. Doug Tuthill, Orlando Sentinel (Note: Tuthill is president of Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog).

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BY NextSteps staff