Arming teachers, funding formula, financial literacy and more

Arming teachers: The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee approves an expansion of the state’s school guardian program that would allow willing and trained teachers to carry guns in schools. An effort by Democrats to allow parents to withdraw their children from schools with armed teachers was rejected. The bill needs approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee before going to the full floor. A companion bill is being considered today by the House Appropriations Committee, the last stop before it can go before the full House. News Service of Florida. Associated PressSun SentinelTampa Bay Times. Florida Politics. GateHouse. The Senate Judiciary Committee approves a bill that would allow people with concealed-weapons permits to carry guns at churches with schools. News Service of Florida.

Cost differential formula: The Florida Senate is considering a bill that could alter K-12 funding by basing the formula for the school district cost differential on wages instead of prices. The bill, proposed by Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, would calculate the cost differential between districts on a wage level index developed by the Department of Education instead of the Florida Price Level Index. The potential impact of the bill is a mystery. “I usually don’t try to bring forward bills that have that many unanswered questions,” says Diaz, “but the only way for us to find out is to put it into posture or [appropriations] to be able to run those numbers.” Politico Florida.

Education spending: State Rep. Travis Cummings, R-Fleming Island, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, says the $520 million difference in K-12 education spending proposals between the House and Senate could lead to contentious negotiations when the chambers try to reconcile their bills later in this legislative session. The Senate is proposing a $1.1 billion increase to the Florida Education Finance Program, while the House is suggesting a bump of around $580 million. The sides are aligned on the educator bonuses plan, with both proposing about $234 million. Florida Politics.

Financial literacy bill: The House PreK-12 Quality committee amends and approves a bill that would require high school students to complete a half-credit course on financial literacy before graduation. The House version of the bill gives students a way to test out of the requirement, something that’s not in the Senate version. The subcommittee’s work is done, leaving 20 bills unheard and most likely dead. Among them: banning corporal punishment in schools, allowing English language learners to be tested in their native language, and allowing school boards to increase their capital projects tax rate. Gradebook.

Red flag law: Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw tell the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that if a “red flag” had been in place in Florida at the time, the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School might have been prevented. The committee is considering legislation that would allow courts to order the removal of guns from people who are considered a threat to themselves or others. Palm Beach PostSun Sentinel. A parent who brought a loaded assault rifle to his child’s Palm Beach County middle school will be barred from owning weapons for a year, a judge rules. Palm Beach Post.

School security: The Sarasota County School District has saved $442,042 in the year since it established its own police force instead of using officers from local law enforcement agencies, according to a report from Mitsi Corcoran, the district’s chief financial officer. That figure doesn’t include $1.16 million for vehicles, officer equipment and technology. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Lake County School Board approves spending $600,000 to buy 1,526 security cameras to place in the district’s middle schools and high schools. Daily Commercial.

Superintendent on move? Indian River County school Superintendent Mark Rendell has been asked to resign by school board chair Laura Zorc or face termination. Zorc says she’s worried Rendell has plans to leave the district, and his departure won’t give the board enough time to find a replacement before the next school year begins. Rendell’s contract ends in July 2020, but he’s told the board he is looking for a job. He’s obligated by contract to give 30 days’ notice. TCPalm.

Repairing, replacing schools: Members of the Duval County School Board and Jacksonville City Council meet to discuss the district’s infrastructure needs and its draft plan to spend nearly $2 billion over 10 years to replace and repair schools. Duval is the only county in the state to collect no impact fees on new construction or have a sales surtax, so one option discussed is raising property taxes. “We need to find a way to work together for the betterment of Jacksonville and Duval County Public Schools,” says Superintendent Diana Greene said. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT.

State seal covers districts: The Palm Beach County School Board is expected to approve a plan to display the state seal prominently in all schools as a way to satisfy the state law requiring schools to have the motto “In God We Trust” visible in all schools. That motto is on the state seal. Sun Sentinel.

Mental health town hall: The second survivor of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student who committed suicide is identified as 16-year-old Calvin Desir. While there’s no specific link that ties Desir’s actions to survivor’s guilt, as the first victim’s family confirmed, it’s raised concerns and has prompted a town hall meeting tonight in Cape Coral to discuss mental health and suicide prevention. Miami Herald.

Rally for public schools: A newly formed group of ministers, called Pastors for Florida Children, hold a rally in Tallahassee to urge legislators to adequately fund public schools and end voucher programs that allow students to attend private schools. WTXL.

Lobbying against vaping: High school students from Brevard County are traveling to Tallahassee next week to lobby legislators to put stricter regulations on companies that sell vaping products. The school district has seen a surge in vaping-related disciplinary actions, and students want vaping companies to be required to disclose the ingredients in e-liquid they sell and to provide money for anti-vaping education. Florida Today. The Florida Department of Health holds a town meeting on the dangers of vaping in Charlotte County, where 14 percent of students say they vape. That’s double the number since 2014. Charlotte Sun.

Pay raises: Leon County school administrators, secretaries and other employees who are exempt from the bargaining process are getting a raise of $1 an hour. Last month, teachers received a boost of $1,500 in their base pay and an average $150 increase in performance pay. Tallahassee Democrat.

Old school, new name: Pinellas County school officials say the old Palm Harbor Middle School, closed in 1981, will reopen this fall as an elementary magnet school with programs focused on gifted studies and literacy. It will bear the name Elisa Nelson Elementary School, after a 10-year-old 5th-grader who was murdered near the school in 1980. Tampa Bay Times.

School properties: Brevard County schools are recommending that the school board allow them to put three unused properties up for sale. The three properties total about 100 acres, and school officials hope they’ll bring about $800,000 when sold. Florida Today. The Martin County School Board approves the purchase of the Stuart News building and property. The cost is $7.5 million for the 10-acre property, and will allow all administrative staff to be in one location. School officials aim to move in before school starts in the fall. TCPalm.

Superintendent search: The Escambia County School Board is considering hiring the Florida School Boards Association for $25,000 to help it search for a new superintendent. Malcolm Thomas is retiring from the position in November 2020, and the county is moving to an appointed superintendent, rather than an elected one. Pensacola News Journal.

Notable deaths: Sister Helen Lange, a longtime teacher at St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota, has died in Pasco County at the age of 105. Tampa Bay Times.

Personnel moves: Marc Gaillard has been named the principal at Sulphur Springs K-8 in Hillsborough County after 16 years as principal at Edison Elementary in east Tampa. Also moving are: Latonya Anderson, formerly an assistant principal at McLane Middle, to Jennings Middle; and Anthony Montoto from Frost Elementary to Thonotosassa Elementary to replace Lisa Varnum, who moves to Yates Elementary. Gradebook. Rene Johnson, the Citrus County School District’s Title 1 coordinator, is assigned to also be the principal at Central Ridge Elementary. She replaces Deirdre LaBelle, who is taking on administrative duties at the CREST School for students with disabilities. Citrus County Chronicle.

School rezoning: Santa Rosa County school officials are working on redrawing school  boundaries to ease overcrowding. About 200 students would be affected. Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick wants the plan approved and put into place by fall. WEAR.

Year-round schedule: The Royal Palm Charter School in Brevard County is changing to a year-round schedule. School will start July 16 and conclude June 4, 2020. “The year-round schedule offers more frequent breaks while providing the same number of school days as the traditional school schedule,” says principal Shannon Shupe. Space Coast Daily.

Magnet school openings: The Pasco County School District will reopen the application period for admission into magnet programs from Thursday until April 5. Eight schools still have openings in their specialty programs. Gradebook.

Charter files for bankruptcy: A Palm Beach County K-8 charter school that was forced to close in August has filed for bankruptcy. Eagle Arts Academy was closed by the school district for ongoing financial problems and concerns about leadership. It’s been fighting that decision in court, as well as defending itself in lawsuits brought by teachers and a landlord who haven’t been paid. In its bankruptcy filing, the school says it has $1.8 million in debt and no assets beyond anything it could collect if it wins its suit against the school district. Palm Beach Post.

Teacher arrested: A Flagler County teacher has been arrested for the fourth time since 2009. This time, Rymfire Elementary School physical education teacher Travis Holloway, 39, was arrested and accused of DUI. Previous charges include drug possession, aggravated assault, battery and child abuse. In 2018 he received a written reprimand from the Education Practices Commission and was placed on a year’s probation. Flagler Live.

Bus aide suspended: The Martin County school bus aide who yanked a “Make America Great Again” hat off a 14-year-old student earlier this month has been suspended for four days. TCPalm.

Opinions on schools: The Florida Legislature would rather give teachers guns than raises. Sun Sentinel. Teachers are already the first line of defense in schools. That’s why I’m not opposed to arming teachers. Gil Smart, TCPalm. A Florida newspaper editorial board that recently editorialized that Florida “could not afford” vouchers may require some remedial math; Florida has a great deal of enrollment growth on the way and can more easily afford to choose charter and private schools than districts, although all three will remain options. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Approving a referendum would enable the St. Lucie County School District to keep the momentum of rising to a B-rated district with no failing schools. Superintendent Wayne Gent, TCPalm. The decision to put eight-year school board term limits on the ballot is now in state lawmakers’ hands. Each and every one of them needs to ask whether it shall be the will of lobbyists or the will of the people that prevails here. Nick Tomboulides, Orlando Sentinel. Here’s a question about school bullying that no lawmaker can answer: How many of these types of attacks are being perpetrated in the private schools to which the public school victims are heading? No one knows that. They’re not held accountable like public schools. St. Augustine Record. Legislators should understand the demographics of the students being educated in districts and schools before passing legislation that will cripple those schools. Shandale Terrell, Lakeland Ledger.

Student enrichment: Students at the North Florida School of Special Education are learning job skills by making dog treats by hand and selling them at stores around Jacksonville. WJAX. David Wank, a junior at Nease High School in St. Johns County, is helping refurbish donated computers to give to homeless students through the nonprofit Hugs Across the County program. St. Augustine Record.

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BY NextSteps staff