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DeSantis’ education spending proposal, sports betting bill, alternate test and more

DeSantis proposes budget: Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed a $91.4 billion budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, a slight increase over last year’s, which includes $22.9 billion for the Florida Education Finance Program. That’s an increase of more than $1 billion from last year, or about $302 per student, but most of that increase would go to previously announced initiatives to boost starting teacher pay to $47,500 (costing about $603 million) and rework the Best and Brightest educator bonuses program to put an emphasis on teachers and principals who work in disadvantaged schools (about $300 million). What’s left would provide districts about $50 more for each of the state’s nearly 2.9 million students, bringing the per-student spending to $7,979. Legislative leaders reacted with cautious optimism, praising DeSantis for taking a fiscally conservative approach, while educators and teachers union officials were more critical of the proposal. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. GateHouse. Office of the Governor. Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Tallahassee Democrat. Spectrum News 13. Spectrum Bay News 9. Florida Politics. Politico Florida. Florida Phoenix. Capitol News Service.

Betting for education: Betting on sports would become legal through the Florida Lottery under a bill proposed Monday by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. Setting it up through the lottery would get around Amendment 3, which requires casino gambling policy changes to be approved by voters. Players 21 and older could bet at specific locations or through special kiosks. The tax revenue generated could provide additional money for public schools, college scholarships and educational services in Florida, Brandes said. Florida Politics. Politico Florida.

Alternative test: An eighth alternative reading test has been approved by the Florida Department of Education as an option for 3rd-graders who face retention because they can’t read at or above grade level according to the Florida Standards Assessments and other alternative tests. The latest approved test is the Achieve3000 Level Set. Students must score in the 50th percentile or above to meet the state requirement to advance to the 4th grade. State officials also are reminding parents that a $500 reading scholarship for tutoring or reading materials is available from the state through Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog. Gradebook.

Vaping suit considered: Brevard County School Board members are considering joining a lawsuit against Juul Labs Inc., which makes the electronic cigarette product Juul. The suit would seek compensation to districts for money spent and resources drained as they fight the rapidly growing vaping epidemic. School board members say they have questions about what joining the suit will cost in money and staffing time. Florida Today.

Transfer limits proposed: Lee County School Board members are being asked to approve a policy change that would limit K-5 students to just one in-zone transfer during their elementary school years. That restriction is already in place for students in middle and high schools. “We have no problems with students getting in the school they want, but we have got to stop the disruption and we’ve got to ensure the academic success is there for the child,” said Soretta Ralph, executive director of student enrollment. “And if they are constantly moving, that can’t happen.” Fort Myers News-Press.

Kindergarten readiness: The number of Hillsborough County preschool students considered ready for kindergarten increased from 50 percent last year to 52 percent this year, and from 47 percent to 50.3 percent for children who spent the last year in a preschool program. District officials are pushing to increase the number of students attending preschool as a way to boost readiness percentages. Gradebook.

School properties: Sarasota County School Board members are expected to vote today on spending about $14 million on two properties for future schools. A 60-acre site in Lakewood Ranch would be home to a K-12 magnet school, while a combined elementary-middle school is planned for a 65-acre site off Clark Road near I-75. A construction timetable is 2 to 10 years, district officials say. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Santa Rosa County school officials are looking at 10 parcels of land as potential sites for future schools. Five of the properties are on the north side of the county and five are on the south end, and three are under contract. “We’re trying to purchase property now so that boards and superintendents in the next 10 years have a place to put new schools,” said Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick, who isn’t running for re-election next year. District officials say they need to build at least four schools in the next 10 years to handle enrollment growth. Pensacola News Journal.

Medical marijuana in schools: Lake County School Board members unanimously approved a policy to allow students with prescriptions to receive medical marijuana treatment in schools. A parent or caregiver will have to bring the drug to the school, administer it in a designated area, then take it off school property. WKMG.

Flu hits district: Five outbreaks of the flu have struck the Palm Beach County School District since October, say health and school district officials. Schools identified as a source for an outbreak are immediately sanitized to slow the spread of germs. WPEC.

Sub shortage: Pasco County school officials have had difficulty finding substitute teachers, and increasingly have been turning to the district’s online education program for help. It’s part of the Pasco eSchool’s growing Classroom on Demand program. Aides monitor the classroom, and teachers work from home and are available through a phone call, text, email and the occasional instructional less cia webinar. Gradebook.

Meeting disruptions: The attorney for Marion County school Superintendent Heidi Maier has been formally warned to stop disrupting school board meetings or face a misdemeanor charge. Twice recently, Henry Ferro has interrupted board meetings as members talked about their increasingly contentious relationship with Maier. The warning was made in a letter from district Safe Schools Director Dennis McFatten. Ocala Star-Banner.

School reopening: Wright Elementary School in Okaloosa County is expected to reopen today after being closed most of Monday while a water line was being repaired. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Principal honored: Anna Crawford, principal at Wadsworth Elementary School in Flagler County, is one of three finalists for the state innovative principal of the year award sponsored by the Florida Council of Instructional Technology Leaders. The winner will be announced in January. Flagler Live.

School board elections: Shaun Lehoe, who describes himself as a full-time father and activist, has filed to run in 2020 for the District 3 seat on the Manatee County School Board. It’s currently held by board chair Dave Miner, who has not yet filed but is expected to run for re-election. Bradenton Herald. Ice cream store owner Luisa Santos is running for the District 9 seat on the Miami-Dade County School Board next year. She joins Nancy Lawther and Gloria Angel Williams in the race. The current board member of the district, Lawrence Feldman, has announced he isn’t running for re-election. Florida Politics.

School board attorney candidates: Brevard County School Board members have three finalists to choose from for the job of school board attorney. They are: Wesley Bridges, the board attorney for Polk schools; Paul Gibbs, the Marion board attorney; and Heather J. Wallace, an assistant board attorney in Pinellas County. Space Coast Daily.

Students hurt in bus stop crash: Four students from the Seminole Heights Charter School in Tampa were hurt when a van that was hit by another car veered into them as they waited for a city bus. None of the injuries was believed to be serious. WTVT. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher arrested: A Sarasota County teacher has been arrested and accused of inappropriately touching teenage students. Maxwell Guss, 34, teaches business at Brookside Middle School, and he’s also taught at Harllee Middle and Bayshore High in Manatee County. The Brookside victims, and the school’s resource officer at the time, say school officials disregarded the complaints about the alleged abuse. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton Herald. WFLA. WTSP.

Opinions on schools: Studies show that performing musical notes helps students  improve math skills. So let’s restore our music programs and witness a resurgence in the intelligence of our children. Duwayne Escobedo, Northwest Florida Daily News. Just okay is not okay any longer for Indian River County schools, says new Superintendent David Moore. His vow to have all A schools by 2025 is one of the reasons why why Moore is the most promising superintendent candidate offered a job in my 35 years here. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm. The Volusia County School Board’s choice of Ronald Fritz for superintendent is inspiring hope that things will improve for the district. Krys Fluker, Daytona Beach News-Journal. Instead of smugly debunking overstatements and lofty predictions about the future of work, education reformers’ time would be better spent asking how well our children are being prepared for gainful work in the future. Chris Stewart, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Two new digital scoreboards have been installed at a Niceville soccer complex, thanks to a community service project by Hailey Moriarty, a junior at Niceville High School. The soccer player started an online fund drive that raised more than $12,000. Northwest Florida Daily News.

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BY NextSteps staff