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Arming teachers dispute, review, budget stretched, shooting liability and more

Arming teachers: Two Republican legislative leaders dispute a Democratic colleague’s assertion that they had agreed to “consider” removing the provision allowing the arming of teachers from this year’s safety in schools bill. Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said there was “nothing official” about what he characterized as “some back and forth in the committee room.” Agreeing is Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, who said no serious consideration is being given to remove the provision. The bill is ready for the final vote in the Senate. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida.

Legislative wrapup: Education bills that advanced in the Legislature last week include one that would require school districts to share money from voter-approved tax increases, one that expands a competency-based pilot program, one to create a list of teachers ineligible to be hired by all schools and more. redefinED. What’s left for legislators to do in the last three weeks of the session? Associated Press.

Education funding: About $2.5 billion is expected to be committed by the Legislature to help communities in north Florida recover from 2018’s Hurricane Michael and address environmental disasters. That means money will be tight for schools and hospitals, say legislators. The $350 per-student increase in spending for schools proposed by the Senate is about double what’s been proposed in the House, and is expected to be reduced during budget negotiations. GateHouse.

School shooting liability: The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that could determine how much the Broward County School Board has to pay the parents of students murdered during the Parkland school shooting in 2018 and survivors. If the shooting is declared a single incident, the state’s sovereign immunity law would cap total damages owed by the school board at $300,000. If it’s decided that each victim represents a separate incident, each person filing a claim against the board could receive up to $200,000. A circuit judge supported the board’s position in December, and the appeals court directed the case to the state Supreme Court because of its “great public importance.” The court will hear the oral arguments Aug. 28. Miami Herald. News Service of Florida.

Shooting drill issue: An active-shooter drill at an Orange County elementary school last week traumatized some students into thinking there was a gunman outside their lunchroom, say angry parents. “They’re under the table holding hands and crying because they think they’re about to die,” said one parent. Orlando Science Elementary School principal Michael Singleton said the drill had been announced but that “one employee made some bad decisions.” A parent said a teacher was “out of control” during the drill, shouting at students to “shut up” and saying “I”m not dying today” and “I’m not dying for you.” Orlando Sentinel.

Superintendent’s job: Indian River County school Superintendent Mark Rendell is offering to negotiate with the school board for his resignation. He’s offered to leave May 24 in return for $65,545, and his attorney says the offer is only good through April 17. The board will meet tomorrow in special session to consider it. In their last meeting, three of the five board members said they were against extending Rendell’s contract beyond its July 2020 end date after he notified them that he is looking for another job. TCPalm.

Early start times protested: At least two-dozen Palm Beach County parents are criticizing the school board and the district for their decision to start the 2020-2021 school year on Aug. 10. Many say the early start ruins their plans to send their children to camp, and puts their children in schools during the hottest time of the year. Palm Beach Post.

Vaccination exemptions: About 11,500 Florida students entered kindergarten in August without the required vaccinations because they got exemptions from the state. That’s almost 6 percent of all the students who started school last fall. In Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, it was closer to 7 percent, with more than 4,000 exemptions of the 54,000 enrolled. As more children go unvaccinated, experts worry about a measles outbreak. Sun Sentinel.

Educators honored: Miguel Veloso, principal of Miami Springs Adult Education Center, is named the Miami-Dade County School District’s principal of the year. Rhonda Gaines of Carol City Senior High is chosen as the assistant principal of the year. Miami Herald.

Charter school delayed: A Sarasota County dual-language charter school approved by the school board last November won’t open in the fall because it can’t find find a suitable building. Dreamers Academy officials say they will now point to an August 2020 opening. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School programs: The Lake County School District is collaborating with a credit union to open a laboratory branch at Lake Minneola High School in 2020. Five juniors per semester will be taken into the internship program with the Insight Credit Union. The branch would be open to students and staff. The initiative is a step toward the school’s goal of creating a finance academy. Daily Commercial.

An almost-all vegan school: A proposed vegan charter school in Pinellas County cannot get federal funds if it doesn’t have cow’s milk available. So it’s started a GoFundMe page to replace the money it will get from the government so it can go all vegan. “Ideally, we open the doors 100 percent vegan,” said school spokeswoman Maria Solanki. “Worst case scenario, we will have milk but the kids won’t have to take it.” Gradebook.

Candidate turns down job: John Franklin was supposed to start a new job as director of transportation for the Lee County School District at the end of the month. But after his hiring was questioned at a school board meeting last week, because of a lawsuit filed when he was in the same job in Hillsborough County in 2012, Franklin has decided to remain as executive director of transportation for Atlanta Public Schools. Fort Myers News-Press.

Test-taker pleads guilty: The former Manatee private school official accused of taking college entrance exams for students has pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges. Mark Riddell, 36, was the college entrance exam preparation at IMG Academy in Bradenton. He took tests or corrected the answers for students in a national college cheating scandal that has also implicated coaches at prominent schools, business executives and celebrities. Associated Press.

Students arrested: A 16-year-old is arrested on the campus of St. Paul’s Catholic School in Jacksonville Beach with two loaded handguns and a ski mask, according to police. He was spotted on campus, confronted and arrested. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. A 15-year-old student is arrested for cutting a classmate at Chamberlain High School in Tampa. The 17-year-old victim was only slightly injured. Gradebook. A 16-year-old Monroe County student is arrested and accused of bringing a handgun onto the campus of Key West High School, according to police. Miami Herald. Key West Citizen. A student is arrested after seriously injuring another student at a Fort Myers alternative school, Success Academy. Fort Myers News-Press.

Fire destroys portable: A fire has destroyed a portable classroom at Wilkinson Elementary School, in Middleburg in Clay County. No one was injured. The Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating. Florida Times-Union.

Opinions on schools: The Hillsborough County School District’s effort to strengthen preschool programs is both important and encouraging. Pre-k provides a critical path to school readiness, and more youngsters have to be prepared for kindergarten to achieve long-term success. Tampa Bay Times. State legislators have refused to invest in schools or raise taxes, so local voters are doing it themselves. Now Republicans want to change the rules. Their efforts to undermine traditional public schools and ignore the intent of the voters know no boundaries. Tampa Bay Times. Here’s why school choice transcends politics. Joy Smith-McCormick, redefinED. Florida has the worst education policies of any state in the nation, and it is about to get even more destructive, more ignorant, more backward. Diane Ravitch, Common Dreams. Instead of making it easier to become a teacher, why not make it more appealing to choose teaching? Increase common sense security measures, increase funding and increase wages. Jacob Asbell, Tallahassee Democrat. Chronic absenteeism disrupts a child’s learning. The Manatee County School District is actively working with students and parents to find workable solutions. Hedy N. Chang, Bradenton Herald. With proper funding and less pettiness by the Broward County School Board in 2013, there is the possibility that the horrendous loss of life at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 could have been averted. Eleanor Sobel, Sun Sentinel. If we are going to open the doors of opportunity to careers in fields like engineering, physical sciences, computing and architecture for more middle and high school students, we are going to have to convince the parents of those students about the importance of the advanced high school courses in math and science. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva is attempting to steer more locally generated tax dollars to charter schools, and the effort boggles the mind. Ernest Hooper, Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: An 11-year-old Manatee County student, Francesca Friedel, raises more than $10,000 for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital through a silent auction. Bradenton Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff