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Florida schools roundup: School budgets and tax rates, security and more

Budgets and tax rates: At its meeting this week to discuss its budget request to the Legislature, the Florida Board of Education will consider supporting local school districts’ requests to maintain their tax rates but collect extra tax revenue from rising property values, rather than adjusting those rates downward to keep tax revenue at the same level. The Senate and Gov. Rick Scott supported such a move during this year’s legislative session, but the House disagreed, and its position held. Gradebook.

District budgets: Hillsborough County School Board members approve a $3 billion budget with a lower tax rate than last year’s. The district also was able to add $5 million to its reserves. Gradebook. The Pinellas County School Board also approves a budget, for $1.5 billion, with a lower tax rate than it had last year. Still, higher property values mean slightly higher tax bills for many residents. Gradebook. Collier County School Board members approve a $1.1 billion budget, up from $1.05 billion last year, that includes a slight increase in taxes for most residents. Naples Daily News. A budget of $874 million is approved by Sarasota County School Board members, which is about $24 million higher than last year’s. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Leon County School Board approves a $545.8 million budget that includes $14 million more in revenue. Tallahassee Democrat.

School security: Duval County School Board members join those pushing the Legislature to release money from the armed school guardian program so districts can hire police officers and make security improvements. Florida Times-Union. One of the key components of newly improved security for Florida schools is single point of entry. But some experts say that strategy can be cumbersome for students and parents, extremely expensive and impractical for many schools. And it’s not guaranteed to be effective. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had a single point of entry when a shooter killed 17 on Feb. 14. The 74. Some St. Johns County parents criticize the school district for not allowing them to preview videos showing students what to do in an active-shooter situation before they’re shown to their children. St. Augustine Record. A group of central Florida high school students talk about what it was like to return to schools and their stricter security measures. WKMG.

Auditors rap district: Auditors who were monitoring the implementation of a new business software system for the Manatee County School District say they got little cooperation from school officials and their requests for more staff to oversee the project were ignored, according to a report compiled by the district’s internal auditor. The $10 million project ballooned in price to $20 million, was delivered late and is still causing problems. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Contract negotiations: The Lake County School Board approves a contract with teachers that provides them with raises of at least $1,200 a year as long as they are judged as “effective.” Daily Commercial. Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning is surveying teachers to gauge their interest in a deal that would raise their pay in return for a longer school day. School board members have expressed skepticism about the idea, and teachers union officials say the feedback they’re getting has been negative. Gradebook.

Charter teacher shortages: Charter schools around the state, like traditional public school districts, are struggling to find qualified teachers and retain them, say officials from those schools. Low pay, fewer people entering the profession and difficulty passing certification tests are thinning an already diminished pool of candidates. redefinED.

Education and politics: Florida Senate candidates release campaign ads that focus on education. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson’s hits Republican Gov. Rick Scott for spending cuts: “Less money for teachers, less money for students. When it comes to public education, Rick Scott failed our kids.” Scott’s touts “how Florida’s incredible economic turnaround under Gov. Scott has led to unprecedented achievement and funding for education in Florida.” Orlando Sentinel. Capitolist.

Dual enrollment: First semester freshman English is the college course most taken by dual-enrollment Florida high school students, according to the state Department of Education. About an eighth of the 180,000 or so dual-enrollment students take that course. Bridge to Tomorrow.

Smoking in schools: The use of e-cigarettes by high school students has grown 900 percent in the past few years, according to the U.S. surgeon general, with students smoking them on campus, in bathrooms and even in classes. Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber is proposing the city crack down on sales to minors, and increase penalties for those who violate the law. Miami Herald.

Board sued: The family of a Seabreeze High School student is suing the Volusia County School Board, alleging the district was negligent when another boy bullied and beat their son last December in the school courtyard, then humiliated him when a video of the incident was posted to social media. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Ex-AD, board settle: The former athletic director at Chiles High School will receive almost $32,000 after settling with the Leon County School Board on compensation for days he worked but was not paid. Paul Lambert, now the principal at Canopy Oaks Elementary School, was paid for time worked between the 1999-2000 and 2009-2010 school years. Three other ADs will also get back pay ranging from $10,000 to $12,000. Tallahassee Democrat.

Teacher gives up license: Randell Gene Owens, a Palatka High School teacher, football coach and dean, has given up his teaching license for head-butting a student-athlete and urging another to commit suicide during the 2017-2018 school year. He resigned last December, and his teaching license was revoked in June by the Florida Department of Education. WTLV.

Students arrested: A 14-year-old Lake County student is arrested for allegedly threatening to bring a gun to Eustis Middle School to shoot students. Sheriff’s deputies also arrested a 17-year-old South Lake High School student who had 15 rounds of ammunition in his backpack at school. Orlando Sentinel.

School bus accidents: A motorcyclist dies after being in a crash with a Pinellas County school bus in St. Petersburg. No children were injured. The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating. Tampa Bay Times. WFTS. Two East Lee High School students are injured when they’re hit by a school bus’ side view mirror in Lehigh Acres. The FHP says charges are pending. Fort Myers News-Press.

Opinions on schools: Here are six reasons why conservatives should be happy that Amendment 8 has been removed from the November ballot. Karen R. Effrem, Sunshine State News. The Florida Supreme Court was emphatically correct in keeping Amendment 8, a battering ram for charter schools, off the ballot. Sun-Sentinel. Voters should know what they’re voting on, which is why the Florida Supreme Court was entirely correct to strike the deviously worded Amendment 8 from the Nov. 6 ballot. Tampa Bay Times. Judges are whacking away at the proposed constitutional amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot. And for that, we should all be thankful. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. If Florida’s lawmakers truly value the future of our children and our state, they must value our teachers by listening to them and acting now. Otherwise, the growing teacher shortage will become a crisis to the detriment of all. Citrus County Chronicle. Palm Beach County school officials come up with a creative way to follow the state law requiring the posting of the state motto, “In God We Trust,” in all schools. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. As a student at Oasis High School, I support the no cell phone policy because it forces students to engage in their classes, helps teachers maintain control and reduces cyberbullying. Alejandra Baptista, Fort Myers News-Press.

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BY NextSteps staff