Budget negotiations: The Florida House passes its $89.9 billion budget for the next fiscal year, which is $400 million below the Senate’s and $1.4 billion less than what Gov. Ron DeSantis requested. Senate and House representatives will now begin negotiations to come to an agreement before the scheduled end of the session May 3. “Our toughest time is still ahead of us,” said House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes. Some of the most significant differences are in education funding and security and mental health services for schools. The Senate budget would boost K-12 education spending by $1.1 billion, while the House is proposing an increase of $579.3 million. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics.
Education podcast: The legislative session is more than halfway over, with a scheduled adjournment date about a month away. What’s the status of the major education legislation? Gradebook.
Shooting aftermath: Parkland residents and the attorney representing alleged school shooter Nikolas Cruz are again questioning why the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building where 17 died in 2018 is still standing. Prosecutors say it’s evidence needed in the death penalty case, and suggest it be covered in camouflage to address concerns that its ongoing existence is traumatizing to students. Sun Sentinel. A Broward County circuit judge rules that Gov. Ron DeSantis had the legal authority to remove Sheriff Scott Israel from office for what DeSantis calls “neglect of duty and incompetence” before, during and after the shooting deaths at Stoneman Douglas. Israel says he will appeal. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald.
Sales tax holiday: A Senate committee passes a bill for the state’s annual back-to-school sales tax holiday. Its version calls for a 10-day suspension of sales taxes in early August for clothes, school supplies and electronics. The House bill calls for just a three-day sales tax break. There are also differences in the amounts that could be included. News Service of Florida.
Student dress code: An advisory committee is recommending that the Indian River County School District relax its dress code for students in high schools. Hoodies, leggings and shirts with writing, logos and pictures would be allowed, as long as they aren’t vulgar, depict violence in any way or promote alcohol, tobacco or drugs. A public hearing on the changes will be held May 14. If approved by the school board, the new policy would take effect in August. TCPalm.
Investigation requested: A former employee at the Florida Virtual School is asking Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to investigate the way the school’s former CEO and interim CEO were hired. Bob Porter had been a consultant for FLVS when he was hired as CEO in December after FLVS spent $100,000 looking for a replacement for Jodi Marshall, who resigned last summer. Porter died in March and Dhyana Ziegler, who has been on the Florida Virtual School board of trustees for nearly 19 years, was named the interim chief executive. A spokesman for Corcoran would only say the commissioner has seen the letter. WFTV.
Teacher pay: While the Pasco County School District and its teachers union have reached a tentative contract agreement, teachers continue to question why comparably sized districts pay their teachers up to $4,000 a year more. Superintendent Kurt Browning says several factors contribute to the differences, including lack of funding from the state, the sizes of schools and Pasco’s lower teacher-to-student ratio. Gradebook. St. Johns County has an A-rated school district, according to the state, but in starting teacher pay the district is at the bottom of the list of larger A-rated districts and one of the lowest in northeast Florida. New teachers make $38,000, and that’s expected to be an issue when salary negotiations begin next month. St. Augustine Record.
Improvement plan slowed: Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning now says the district will use the 2019-2020 school year to consider ways to improve the academic opportunities for schools in the west side of the county. Browning’s previous plan, which would have closed two schools and redirected resources into upgraded academic programs at the rest, was rejected by the school board after complaints from parents. Gradebook.
School start times Q&A: Volusia County school officials answer questions about the new daily schedule for schools that was approved last week by the school board. Starting in August, elementary schools will be in session from 7:50 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., high schools from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and middle schools from 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Complaint against district: A Leon County parent is asking a federal court to award her $150,000 from the school board because the district allegedly misdiagnosed her son’s learning disabilities and then retaliated against her for complaining about it. She had filed an administrative complaint against the board last July, saying her son wasn’t progressing. That was dismissed, which led to the complaint to the federal court. Tallahassee Democrat.
Girls wrestling: Girls wrestling could soon be a state-sanctioned sport in Florida high schools. A group of coaches got a preliminary okay from the Florida High School Athletic Association’s athletic directors advisory committee to continue planning. A formal presentation will be made before the committee next year. If it’s approved, it will go before the FHSAA board of directors for a vote. The coaches hope to start competition in 2020. Orlando Sentinel.
Coach suspended: The head football coach at Sarasota Booker High School has been suspended for allegedly giving students credit for work they didn’t do in a remedial math course he taught. Dumaka Atkins taught at Booker until February, when he transferred to Suncoast School of Innovative Studies, but continued coaching at Booker. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WFLA.
School bus aide arrested: A 300-pound Palm Beach County school bus aide is arrested and accused of choking a 10-year-old 80-pound Rolling Green Elementary School student with disabilities. Michael Tolliver, 54, faces four child-abuse charges. Palm Beach Post.
Employees investigated: Hendry County School District officials are investigating allegations that two teachers and a school secretary engaged in inappropriate behavior with students. A Clewiston High School teacher has resigned and a secretary has been removed for allegedly sending inappropriate photos to students. And a substitute at Clewiston Middle School has been deleted from the substitute list after she was reportedly seen kissing a student. WINK.
Student arrested: A Lee County student is arrested for having a vape pen filled with THC oil in the parking lot at Lehigh Senior High School. Vaping is prohibited in schools, and possessing THC oil without a medical card is illegal. WINK.
Weapons at schools: A 12-year-old Flagler County student faces disciplinary action after she allegedly pulled a knife on a boy who was sitting in her assigned seat at Buddy Taylor Middle School. No one was injured. Flagler Live. A Clay County student will be disciplined after bringing a weapon onto the campus of Thunderbolt Elementary School in Fleming Island on Thursday, school officials say. WJXT.
School bus accident: Troopers say an Okaloosa school bus driver ran a stop sign in Crestview and slammed into a car Thursday, slightly injuring a student. The bus driver, 55-year-old Allen Beaman, was cited for careless driving, violation of a traffic light and going too fast for conditions. Northwest Florida Daily News.
Opinions on schools: Florida must hold individual private schools accountable for money they receive from tax credit donations and scholarship programs. And the schools should prove their potential worth before they get state money, not after it has disappeared. TCPalm. Teachers should not be responsible for carrying weapons and patrolling the campuses of students they are tasked with educating. We already ask so much of our teachers and give them so little in return. State Rep. Shevrin Jones, Florida Politics. Messages put forth by beer distributors insinuating that “help for craft brewers could hurt scholarship students” was a new low. My first thought, however, was how scared of change some distributors must be to bring scholarships for low-income children into a conversation about craft beer laws. Josh Aubuchon, Florida Politics.
Student enrichment: Panama City officials and members of the business community pitch in to help the Bay High School Student Government Association stage a prom. The previous plans were swept away when Hurricane Michael hit in October, damaging the venue and leaving students scrambling. Panama City News Herald. The Friends of Gables High are raising money to build space for performance arts and replace the band room at Coral Gables High School in Miami-Dade County. Miami Herald. Raymond Wilson, the principal at the Laurel Nokomis School in Sarasota County, greets students with his version of Don’t Worry, Be Happy to calm their nerves as they arrive at school on a state testing day. WFLA. Lockheed Martin engineers make a surprise visit to Lake Nona High School to help students with their STEM projects. Orlando Sentinel.