Florida schools roundup: Bonus boost, Common Core, budgets, security and more

Educator bonuses: Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing to almost double the amount of money the state spends on the Best and Brightest program to reward teachers and principals. The nearly $423 million would provide bonuses of at least $9,000 to about 45,000 teachers who are rated as “highly effective,” though 120,000 teachers who got bonuses last year wouldn’t under this plan, and up to $6,500 for principals who create “classroom environments to help students thrive.” And college entrance exam scores will no longer be considered when determining eligibility. DeSantis also wants to spent $10 million a year to pay the college tuition and forgive loans for prospective teachers who make a commitment to teach in Florida for five years, and create a “bad actors” list of failed charter schools so they can’t reopen somewhere in Florida. Reaction to the proposal is mixed. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. WBBH. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. WFOR. Lakeland Ledger. St. Augustine Record. WUSF. WCTV.

Common Core: Gov. DeSantis is calling for an end to the state’s use of Common Core standards, but they will remain in place at least through Jan. 1, 2020, Florida Department of Education officials announced. That’s when the department is expected to propose a new set of standards, which will then be presented to the Legislature for consideration. DOE officials say school districts should continue to follow state law and board rules regarding Common Core until further notice. WPTV. WTXL. WTSP.

Budgetary concerns: Florida House Democrats raise objections to Gov. DeSantis’ budget proposal that lowers local property tax rates to keep collections stable, except for the rate charged on new construction. They say the proposal won’t raise enough money for schools, and urge the governor to at least leave the required local effort alone. Gradebook. Lake County school officials say they will lose funding from the state under the budgets proposed by both DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education. Both delete the $57 million adjustment fund that provides money to districts with below average revenue. Lake received $3 million from the fund last year. Daily Commercial.

School security: The Clay County School Board approves a plan to create a district police force by this fall. Costs for the 47-member force are projected at $6.1 million the first year and $4.2 million the second year. WJAX. WJXT. WTLV. Manatee School for the Arts principal Bill Jones has a message for anyone who tries to come on campus with a gun. “If someone walks onto this campus, they’re going to be shot and killed,” Jones says. “We’re not going to talk with them. We’re not going to negotiate. We are going to put them down, as quickly as possible.” The school’s armed guardian program includes only military veterans with combat experience, and they’re equipped with Glock handguns and Kel-Tec RDB 17-inch semi-automatic long-guns. Bradenton Herald. A Manatee County charter school may be reported to the state for a possible violation of the law requiring an armed guard on every campus. The Rowlett Middle Academy in Bradenton rotates one guard between its middle and elementary campuses, which are a mile apart. Bradenton Herald. In the year since the Parkland school shooting, the Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Bay school districts have increased security in schools in a variety of ways. TCPalm. WJHG. More guns are being found in Palm Beach County schools since the Parkland shooting. Palm Beach Post.

Reading improvements: Preliminary testing results indicate that the 541 students who attended a Sarasota County Summer Learning Academy for at least half of last summer improved their reading test scores by an average of 7.6 points when they returned to school in the fall. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School cyber attacks: A U.S. school district is a victim of a cyberattack about every three days, according to a report from the consulting firm EdTech Strategies, Last year, K-12 schools reported 122 attacks. The author of the study, Doug Levin, says that’s an undercount because many districts choose not to disclose attacks. Florida Virtual School was among the victims. EdSurge.

Plan reconsidered: Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning says he’ll move ahead with planning for improvements in schools along the U.S. 19 corridor, even though the school board rejected his proposal to close two west county schools to help fund the enhancements. Tampa Bay Times.

Student drops SAT fight: A Florida student who fought back when the College Board invalidated her improved SAT score is now dropping her complaint and is considering retaking the test. Kamilah Campbell, a Miami Gardens High School senior, says intense preparations boosted her score from 900 last March to 1230 in October. The College Board flagged the test because her answers were too closely aligned with others’. CNN.

School being evicted: Nation Christian Academy, a private school in Port St. Lucie, is being evicted from its space in a shopping center because of unpaid rent. The academy, which is also being investigated by the Florida Department of Education over its operations, owes more than $40,000. TCPalm. A former football coach at Nation Christian Academy is suing the school, saying it didn’t pay him for the nine months he worked. TCPalm.

Ex-monitor confronted: Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow died in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last February, this week heckled the former school monitor who didn’t stop the school shooter, according to a complaint filed in Broward Circuit Court. Andrew Medina said Pollack “harassed and threatened” him as he was helping coach a baseball team in Parkland. Medina says he is trying to get a restraining order. Sun Sentinel.

Student death investigated: Osceola County deputies are looking into the death of J.J. Benjamin, an 18-year-old student at Tohopekaliga High School in Kissimmee who was found unconscious shortly after exiting a school bus Tuesday. Benjamin had cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair. The death does not appear to be suspicious, deputies say. WKMG. Orlando Sentinel.

Ex-chief’s complaint: Former Sarasota County School District police chief Paul Grohowski has filed a complaint against the district, alleging that school officials mishandled parts of his reassignment, pay and housing costs and that the reassignment is making it hard for him to find another job. Grohowski was hired last June, but six months later was reassigned to a job outside the district’s police department. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Spelling bee winner: Jetro Tenerife, a 4th-grader at George Marks Elementary in DeLand, wins the Volusia County Spelling Bee to advance to the regional competition March 20 in Orlando. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Physics enrollment declines: Physics enrollment in Florida public high schools dropped again last year, and has now fallen 12.2 percent in the past four years, according to the Florida Department of Education. Bridge to Tomorrow.

Coach arrested: An assistant girls basketball coach at Santaluces High School in Lantana is arrested and accused of sending inappropriate texts, pictures and videos to a 16-year-old player in 2017. School police say Michael Herbert Cohen, 26, a behavioral and special needs assistant, admitted kissing the girl and sending nude photos and videos of himself to her. Palm Beach Post.

Student arrested: A 13-year-old student is arrested after bringing a loaded handgun to the St. Luke Catholic Church school in Palm Springs, according to police. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: There is no single remedy to school shootings, and programs have been set up to better identify potential shooters and harden schools. But arming a teacher who is proficient in using a firearm should be part of the answer. As uncomfortable as that thought is, I’ll take it over the pain 17 families will be feeling this Valentine’s Day. David Whitley, Orlando Sentinel. You just can’t use bad statistics to throw Florida’s entire K-12 system, including school choice, under the bus to make your case anymore. Patrick Gibbons, redefinED. Good news out of Florida. Parents choose and more kids finish college. Erika Sanzi, Good School Hunting.

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BY NextSteps staff