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Florida schools roundup: Amendment 8 appeal, use of security funds and more

Amendment 8 appeal: The state’s Office of the Attorney General announces it plans to appeal a Leon County judge’s decision to remove proposed constitutional Amendment 8 from the November ballot. Judge John Cooper ruled that the amendment, which would allow the Legislature to create an organization to authorize charter schools, set term limits for school board members and require civics education in schools, is “misleading” because it doesn’t inform voters of its true purpose. News Service of FloridaOrlando Sentinel. WFSU. Four former Florida legislators start a group, Save My Constitution, that’s calling on voters to reject all eight of the constitutional amendments proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission. They say the proposals are “confusing” and “misleading.” Tallahassee Democrat. News Service of Florida.

Redirecting funds: Gov. Rick Scott wants legislators to allow school districts to use money that was set aside to arm school employees for other school security measures. Lawmakers allocated $67 million to arm school employees but only 24 of the 67 districts were interested, so only about $9.4 million has been used. Scott wants the remaining funds to be distributed among districts, prorated by enrollment, for any school security expenses. News Service of FloridaWLRNFlorida Politics.

School security: The Orange County Commission approves $11.2 million for the sheriff to hire 75 more school resource officers so all schools will be covered. Until they’re hired and trained, deputies will provide coverage on an overtime basis. WKMG. Orlando Sentinel. Jacksonville sheriff’s deputies are being used on overtime to protect more than half of Duval County’s schools until enough school guardians are hired, but who will pay for the coverage is still unclear. City officials say they’ll bill the school district, but the district isn’t sure how it’s going to pay. WOKV. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office releases a new phone app, named SaferWatch, for students and others to report threats or suspicious behavior. Sun-Sentinel. More than 50 percent of all school violence in the 2017-2018 school year took place in Florida and nine other states, according to the Educator’s School Safety Network. USA Today. Was the shooting at a Palm Beach County high school football game a school shooting? Local law enforcement officials say no, but some who track shootings on school properties disagree. Palm Beach Post. The Jefferson County School District has a new team to deal with emergencies, and also places surveillance cameras and emergency call buttons in all rooms. ECB Publishing. Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie ended an internal investigation into the role of school staff in the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School only after being asked to by the state safety commission appointed to review the tragedy. Sun-Sentinel.

Teacher pay proposal: Pasco County school officials are considering a proposal to give $3,300 pay raises to teachers if they agree to work an extra 30 minutes a day. The proposal would allow the district to reduce the teaching staff by about 300, saving about $17 million, which would more than cover the cost of the raises. School board members rejected a similar proposal in 2012, but seem receptive to the idea this time. Gradebook.

District, NAACP agreement: The Lee County School District and local NAACP officials settle a 2017 complaint filed by the civil rights organization over the achievement gap, discipline and the school-to-prison pipeline for minority students. The district agreed to hold quarterly community forums, and to conduct ongoing training related to racism, implicit bias and disparity as well as the appropriate use of school resource officers. Fort Myers News-Press.

Talking tax hikes: Hillsborough County school officials schedule a special meeting for Friday to talk about asking the voters to approve an increase in the sales tax to help the district build new schools and repair existing ones. District spokeswoman Tanya Arja says if the school board gives the go-ahead for a ballot initiative, it’s more likely to appears before voters in March or later. The board is also considering asking for a property tax increase to cover operational costs, including higher pay for teachers. Gradebook. Washington County voters are being asked Aug. 28 to approve a half-cent sales tax increase to upgrade technology and improve school facilities. WTVY.

Lead in school’s water: Unsafe lead levels have been found in the water at Azalea Elementary School in St. Petersburg, according to Pinellas County school officials. The test was done recently, and will be repeated this week. The school will use bottled water until the water is safe for use. Gradebook.

Capital funds for charters: Sarasota County School Board members vote to make an additional $1.6 million in capital projects funds available to charter schools. The district targeted $25 million for specific safety improvements, and those projected costs are now $21-$23 million, leaving money available for charters. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School name debate: Manatee County School Board members decide to delay six months in making a decision on a name for the new high school in Parrish. Residents of the area want it named Parrish High. Others are pushing for the name North River High School, saying they don’t want to honor the original settler Crawford Parrish because he was a slave owner. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Dual-enrollment growth: About 70,000 Florida high school students are now dual-enrolled in one of the state’s 28 public colleges, according to data released by the Florida College System. That’s an increase of about 30 percent since the 2014-2015 school year. “The continued increase in dual-enrolled students is a win-win formula for Florida” says Madeline Pumariega, chancellor of the Florida College System. “Florida families win by saving tuition dollars and book costs. The Florida College System data shows that dual-enrolled high school students are more likely to complete college.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Picking principals: Duval County School Superintendent Diana Greene says she wants students, teachers and parents to help screen applicants for principal jobs. Three finalists would be chosen for each job, and the finalists would be interviewed by each of the groups. The groups will provide feedback, which Greene says she’ll use to help make a decision. “That principal comes in with a lot of strong buy-in, because these people were allowed to share their voices about who was selected for that school,” Greene says. Florida Times-Union.

Exiting teachers: More than 1,000 teachers in the south Florida counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach have left the profession since 2015 after just one year on the job. For many of them, pay was the deciding factor. WTVJ.

Universal school vouchers: Public support for universal school vouchers and charter schools has grown in the past year, according to the 2018 Education Next survey. The survey of more than 4,600 people indicates that 54 percent now support universal vouchers while just 31 percent are opposed. Support for charter schools is at 44 percent, while 35 percent are opposed. “What stands out to me is a variety of proposals for expanding parental choice in education that draw more support than opposition from the American public,” says Martin West, professor of education at Harvard University and Education Next editor in chief. redefinED.

District medical services: The Bay County School District is contracting with PanCare of Florida to replace health services formerly provided by the Florida Health Department. Services to students can now be billed by PanCare to their insurance companies or Medicaid. WJHG. WMBB. Q&A on the new school health services plan. WJHG.

Reviving an old school: A proposal by Polk County school officials to renovate and reopen the old Davenport Elementary School and add a 16-room building has some members of the Davenport City Commission worried about parking and the proposed closing of a street. School officials say if commissioners don’t approve the plan, they’ll build elsewhere. Lakeland Ledger.

Social media watchdog: The Lake County School Board is considering contracting with a company to scan social media for threats at a cost of $70,000 a year. Social Sentinel is a Burlington, Vt., company that says it scans for “threats of harm” without violating the privacy of users. Daily Commercial.

Board member criticized: Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend is criticized by several of his colleagues for wasting staff and school board time by pushing for an investigation of an attempt by a vendor to collect $1.8 million from the district for services that were never approved. Townsend defended his actions. Lakeland Ledger.

School board elections: Previewing the races for two open Franklin County School Board seats, in districts 2 and 3. Apalachicola Times.

Sex assault on bus: A high school girl was sexually assaulted on a school bus Aug. 14 in Palm Beach County, according to school police. Video from the bus corroborates the girl’s story. Police are considering charges of sexual battery and kidnapping against the male student for holding the girl against her will. Palm Beach Post.

Gun brings discipline: A Mandarin High School student will be disciplined after an airsoft gun is found in his car. WJXT.

Opinions on schools: One of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission’s worst flim-flams got what it deserved when a judge struck Amendment 8 from the Nov. 6 ballot. Let’s hope it’s gone for good, and that a batch of similarly misleading amendments also get the boot. Sun-Sentinel. Amendments proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission or by lawmakers should meet the “single-subject” requirement. Unfortunately, it appears that will take a constitutional amendment. Lakeland Ledger. A judge’s decision to remove Amendment 8 from the ballot means, at least for now, that Florida’s forces of plunder got a civics lesson of their own. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. The Broward County School District’s poor performance with the public’s money collected from a bond referendum four years ago could undercut support for the tax increase it’s asking for this year. Randy Schultz, Sun-Sentinel. Duval County Superintendent Diana Greene says there’s a “disconnect” between the school district and the community — and that it’s vital to get everyone “on the same page.” One of those problems is what to do about half-empty schools. Florida Times-Union.

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BY NextSteps staff