Florida schools roundup: K-12 funding, security, DeSantis, sheriff and more

K-12 funding concerns: Chief state economist Amy Baker tells House Appropriations Committee members that the three-year financial outlook for the state won’t cover expected budget growth in education and other critical areas. She suggests that the Legislature’s decisions on state spending and setting local property tax rates for K-12 education are the key for balancing spending, and is urging lawmakers to be cautious about spending projected surpluses. Gradebook.

School security law: Members of the Senate Education Committee say they expect to tweak the school safety act passed last spring, both to clarify the law and make it more manageable. Several speakers say they oppose any changes that would allow willing teachers to carry guns into schools, as recommended by the state panel that investigated the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last Feb. 14. Politico FloridaGradebook. The director of the state’s Office of Safe Schools, Damien Kelly, urges more fencing and single points of entry and better security systems for schools during testimony before the committee. Florida Politics.

DeSantis on education: In his inaugural speech, Gov. Ron DeSantis calls for an expansion of school choice, vocational and technical training and computer science, and wants schools to “rediscover the value of civics education.” Orlando SentinelTampa Bay Times. GateHousePolitico Florida. Florida Phoenix. Naples Daily News.

Broward sheriff suspension? Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel is telling members of his staff that he expects to be suspended “as soon as this week” by Gov. DeSantis for the agency’s actions during the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School. DeSantis has strongly hinted that he was considering suspending Israel, but there was no official confirmation that he’s done so. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Broward HR chief resigns: The Broward County School District’s chief human resources officer resigns, the third top district official to resign in the past month. Craig Nichols, 60, has been criticized for his decision not to fire a Stoneman Douglas High security guard who was accused of making inappropriate comments to students. A few months later that guard, Andrew Medina, saw the accused school shooter walking onto the campus but took no action, and was later dismissed by Superintendent Robert Runcie. Sun Sentinel.

Cruz trial date: Prosecutors want the trial of accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz to start before the end of this year, even as early as September, but his attorneys say they need more time to prepare his defense. Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer did not set a trial date. Sun Sentinel. Broward County officials are discussing ways to honor the victims of Stoneman Douglas. Sun Sentinel.

Ethics violation: A Palm Beach County School Board member violated the board’s ethics code when she profanely threatened to punish a radio station that didn’t support her candidacy. The query, conducted by Pinellas County’s inspector general, recommends that Debra Robinson be ordered by the board to take an ethics class, issue an apology and recuse herself from “media-related discussions and/or votes” at board meetings. Palm Beach Post.

Superintendent search: The Hernando County School Board agrees to enter into contract negotiations with interim superintendent John Stratton to keep him as superintendent. Stratton took over in June after the board fired Lori Romano. Tampa Bay Times.

Superintendent’s defense: Interim Manatee County School District superintendent Cynthia Saunders denies that she coerced her staff to reclassify dropouts as home-schooled students in order to inflate graduation rates between 2014 and 2016. Her prepared statement, read at Tuesday’s school board meeting, was her first direct comment on the allegations by the Florida Department of Education. The board, which had been prepared to offer her the superintendent’s job before the allegations were made, voted to delay that decision until Feb. 12. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Sales tax revenues up: The extra half-cent on the sales tax St. Johns County voters approved three years ago is bringing in about $18 million a year, or about $5 million more than expected. But school construction costs are also up, says Jack Hardman, chairman of the Citizen Advisory Committee. St. Augustine Record.

Filtering the water: The Marion County School District will ask the state Department of Environmental Protection for permission to install a $31,000 filtration system to treat two wells that have shown water contamination at Reddick-Collier Elementary School. The district spends $21,000 a year for bottled water for the school. Ocala Star-Banner.

School reorganization: Pasco County school officials say they’ll continue with planning for a reorganization of schools on the west side of the county, including the closing of Hudson and Mittye P. Locke elementary schools, at least until a school board workshop Feb. 5. The board rejected an earlier recommendation to close Lacoochee Elementary School as part of the plan. Gradebook.

New schools: Collier County School Board members informally endorse the proposed site for a new high school that would help alleviate overcrowding at Gulf Coast High. The school, now referred to as GGG, would open in 2023 on a 60-acre site. Naples Daily News. Monroe County students at Gerald Adams Elementary School on Stock Island and the Plantation Key School returned from the winter break to new schools. Key West Citizen.

New board, new ideas: New Hillsborough County School Board members are pushing for a reconsideration of locations for International Baccalaureate high schools, more attention for Chamberlain High School, and strengthening relationships between school technology programs and workforce education and mental health services. Gradebook.

School name change: In a 3-1 vote, the Leon County School Board approves a name change for the Lively Technical Center. It’s now Lively Technical College. While the proposal ran into some opposition, center director Shelly Bell says the name change will boost enrollment. Tallahassee Democrat.

Helping the displaced: When Hurricane Michael roared through the Panhandle, knocking out power and Internet and damaging schools, the Bay County School District turned to virtual schooling to keep displaced students from falling too far behind. Panama City News Herald.

Graduation rates: More reports on 2018 high school graduation rates from school districts around the state. Florida’s rate hit a record high 86.1 percent, according to figures released in December by the state Department of Education. Flagler Live.

Too many subs? Forty-three Sarasota County School District classes are being taught by long-term substitute teachers, and the executive director of the teachers union says that’s too many. Barry Durbin says the district needs certified, fulltime teachers instead of long-term subs. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Parking problems: The Santa Rosa County Commission is considering a proposal that would restrict parking in a neighborhood across from Navarre High School during school events. People who live in the neighborhood said student parking on the street has become “disruptive” and “confrontational.” Pensacola News Journal.

Principal fights allegation: Eddie Hundley, principal at Lincoln Memorial Academy in Palmetto, is fighting charges by the Florida Department of Education that he helped a suspected sex offender get a teaching job with the Sarasota County School District. The hearing is today. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student hurt in hit and run: A Polk County student is hospitalized after being struck by a driver as she was walking to her bus stop. The driver then sped away. Elani Miller, 17, a student at New Beginnings High School in Lakeland, suffered a broken leg and wrist and other injuries. Lakeland Ledger.

House stolen from school: A $50,000 tiny home meant for a Bradenton family is stolen from property shared by a charter school and the Manatee Police Athletic League. The operator of the Team Success Charter School has more than 10 donated tiny homes stored on the property that will be used as affordable housing. WFTS.

Opinions on schools: Gov. DeSantis can set the tone for a new kind of politics, but to do so he’ll have to challenge conventional Republican wisdom on education and other issues. Orlando Sentinel. Improvements to Florida’s schools will require additional funding from the state. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Hats off to the vision to close the achievement gap between white and black students that’s being promoted by St. Petersburg NAACP president Maria Scruggs. Her recent statement – “The (school) district has shown they just can’t do it. … Now it’s time for the community to step in” – is a recognition that the black community has to accept part of the blame for the gap by not being involved enough in their children’s educations. Walter E. Williams. We must take standardized test security seriously and ensure the legitimacy of scores. But as the debate over the test scores of a Miami student shows, the current process of how scores are flagged and investigated needs to be more transparent. Charlotte West, Huffington Post. The achievements of Florida’s disabled students using state scholarships demonstrate the absurdity of the talk of a pending K-12 apocalypse triggered by school choice. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Preventing school massacres by teen video game addicts requires states and the national government to apply deceptive trade practice laws that are already on the books to sales of the games. Jack Thompson, Fort Myers News-Press. What is the proper role for a police officer in Sarasota County schools? Is it to intervene in everyday situations? Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: Valerie Diaz, a senior at Flagler Palm Coast High School, launches a project to help her fellow students handle stress and have a better self-image. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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BY NextSteps staff