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Gun debate delayed as protesters arrive, scholarship, budget, K-12 bills and more

Arming teachers: A scheduled legislative debate on the armed guardian program was delayed Wednesday just as 150 March For Our Lives student activists converged on the capital to protest against arming teachers. H.B. 7093 was scheduled for debate on the House floor but was “temporarily postponed” by Republicans who insisted the delay had nothing to do with the protest, but was prompted by a technical disagreement with the Senate over whether policy issues should be attached to the bill. “I think the amount of students that were coming up really kind of spooked them,” said Alyssa Ackbar, an 18-year-old senior at Robinson High School in Tampa. “That shows a lot about our movement.” Tallahassee Democrat. Tampa Bay Times. Sun Sentinel. GateHouse. WWSB. The Giffords Law Center has issued a report detailing more than 60 incidents of guns being mishandled in U.S. K-12 schools in the past five years. Politico. About 200 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students walked out of school Wednesday to protest the lack of funding on mental health services. Miami Herald.

Scholarship pricetag: If the new state-funded Family Empowerment Scholarship is approved and 15,000 students take advantage of it, the cost to the state would be about $110.8 million, according to numbers released to Senate Democrats on Wednesday. The new scholarship was proposed to eliminate the list of students waiting to receive Florida Tax Credit (FTC) scholarships to attend private schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the FTC program, which is funded through donations by corporations that then receive tax credits. Florida Phoenix.

State budget: The Florida Senate unanimously approves its version of the state budget, calling for spending $90.3 billion in the next fiscal year. The House votes today on its version, which is about $400 million less. Among the significant differences are overall spending in K-12 education and funds for mental health services in schools. Both budgets fall below the $91.3 billion requested by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. Local school officials say it’s difficult to make sense of the budget process for funding education, and all the rules that limit how that money can be spent in each district. Lakeland Ledger. States are spending far too little on K-12 schools, concludes a new research paper from the Albert Shanker Institute. Florida ranks 41st among states in education spending by percentage of gross state product spending on K-12 education in 2016, at 2.9 percent. The U.S. average was 3.5 percent. Education Week.

Education bills update: Three education bills continue to advance in the Legislature: H.B. 7061 would ease the testing requirements for aspiring teachers, H.B. 7071 would expand career-technical education and allow an alternate path for students in those programs to meet graduation requirements, and H.B. 1197 would permit state universities and colleges to sponsor K-12 public charter schools. Gradebook. WJCT. A House vote could come as early as next week on the proposal to limit local school board members to eight consecutive years in office. The Senate’s version still has to clear two committees. Orlando Sentinel.

Early education funding: Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, wants Florida lawmakers to consider the creation of a funding formula to use when it distributes more than $700 million in School Readiness funding for low-income children. Auditors say the current process is “outdated and unexplained,” but no legislation has been filed and both the Senate and House budgets rely on that process. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

District’s financial update: The Hillsborough County School has saved about $70 million since discovering in 2015 that the district had a spending deficit of about $200 million, Superintendent Jeff Eakins tells school board members. Most of the savings have come from reducing the teaching staff by 815. Gradebook. Custodians for the Hillsborough County School District are criticizing the district’s proposal to outsource their work. School officials say the concern is premature since no decision has been made. WTSP.

Charter school problems: After further review, the Hillsborough County Commission is suspending an agreement that would have allowed a Miami charter school company to issue low-interest bonds in order to buy the properties it currently leases for three schools. The proposal goes back to the Industrial Development Authority (IDA), which issues the bonds, for a closer look. Gradebook. The King Charter School in Pinellas County wants to become the first vegan charter school in the country. But to be eligible for federal meal reimbursements, the school would have to allow the sale of fluid milk. Reason.

Charter school’s growth: The oldest charter school in Pasco County, Dayspring Academy, has gotten permission from the school board to add 75 students in the fall and has received a donation of an 8,000-square-foot building and 3 acres of land it plans to use to expand its early college program. Gradebook.

New water fountains: The Leon County School District will start replacing water fountains in every school next week even as a bill is moving through the Legislature that would require filters for those fountains. Each of the new fountains will have filters, says Superintendent Rocky Hanna. The work is expected to take about a year and cost $300,000. WCTV.

Outside operator: The Marion County School Board is expected to vote next week on a committee’s recommendation to hire local educator Jayne Ellspermann to take over the operations of Oakcrest Elementary School if it doesn’t raise its grade from the state to a C. The school has gotten five straight D’s. Ocala Star-Banner.

Education podcasts: State Rep. Vance Aloupis, R-Miami, talks about early education training, course standards and school choice. redefinED. ExcelinEd CEO Patricia Levesque talks about the expansion of vouchers in Florida and the general state of education in the state. Education Post.

Dual enrollment: The Flagler County School Board is considering an agreement with the University of North Florida to provide free dual-enrollment classes for students in the Future Educators of Flagler flagship program. The partnership would begin in the fall and offer college-level algebra and English courses to students at Flagler Palm Coast and Matanzas high schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Notable deaths: Billy Quinn Jr., a member of the Gulf County School Board for 19 years and the first African-American to be named as chair, has died. Port St. Joe Star.

Tainted meat in schools: Some of the 20,000-plus pounds of beef patties that were recalled because they contain bits of plastic may have been shipped to Florida schools. The company says it does not know which school districts might have bought the meat from its distributors. Miami Herald.

Heart tests for athletes: The Osceola County School District will start requiring 2,500 student-athletes to have electrocardiograms before they can participate in school sports next fall. The district will pay the $20 fee for students who can’t afford it. WFTV.

Traffic jam solution: Manatee County Commissioner Misty Servia says much of the congestion in morning traffic is caused by parents taking their children to schools. Her solution is to suggest a consolidated bus system for Manatee students that could possibly be mandatory. She pitched the idea at a Council of Governments meeting that including school officials. Bradenton Herald.

More crossing guards: The Hillsborough County Commission approves Sheriff Chad Chronister’s plan to hire 141 crossing guards to cover all the county’s middle schools. WFLA. WTVT.

Student struck, killed: A 13-year-old girl who was riding her bike to school Wednesday in Polk County was killed when she was hit by a minivan. Police say Mariana Perez Borroto was riding to Lake Marion Creek Middle School when she was hit by the van driven by a 25-year-old woman who didn’t have a valid driver’s license. Micaela Coronel has been charged with operating a motor vehicle without a license, causing death. WTSP. Spectrum Bay News 9. Orlando Sentinel.

Bullet pierces school window: A stray bullet pierced a window at the Saint Clair Evans Academy in northwest Jacksonville on Wednesday as students were taking the Florida Standards Assessments tests. No one was injured, and two people were detained by police. WJXT. Florida Times-Union.

Teacher arrested: An Duval County teacher is arrested and charged with unlawful sexual activity with someone 16 or 17. Jacksonville police say Loren Bernard Neely, 29, who taught at Orange Park Junior High, impregnated the girl and gave her money for an abortion. WJAX. Florida Times-Union.

Opinions on schools: The proposal to make the certification process easier for aspiring teachers is a band-aid on a gushing wound. The number of people willing to accept the baloney that goes with being a teacher is plummeting annually. That is a bigger problem than the test. Joe Henderson, Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: Ruslan Hancer, an 8th-grader at Montford Middle School in Leon County, wins a gold medal in the 2019 Scholastic Art and Writing Contest for his novel, A Monster Among Men. Tallahassee Democrat. The Sarasota County School District and Sprint agree on a plan to provide free Internet service to about 850 students so they can complete their homework assignments. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff