Democratic candidates talk education, preview of session and teacher pay, contract impasse and more

Candidates on education: Seven Democratic presidential candidates vowed during a six-hour weekend forum in Pittsburgh to increase public schools funding, boost teacher salaries and cut college debt. They also criticized high-stakes student testing and mandatory class requirements. Just two of the candidates, Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bennet, spoke about charter schools. Warren was critical, promising to crack down on them and push more money into public schools. Bennet said charter schools have been a “useful element,” but wants them to be held accountable in the ways that public schools are. Education has been a little-discussed topic at the seven debates held so far. The eighth is scheduled Thursday in Los Angeles. Associated Press. ABC News. NBC News. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The 74. Chalkbeat.

Legislative preview: Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, talks about education funding, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed increase in starting teacher pay, the state budget and more in this preview of the 2020 legislative session, which begins Jan. 14. Galvano says he wants to increase education funding, but adds, “where I see negotiation having to occur is where those dollars are applied to the budget.” He was specifically referring to DeSantis’ proposal to raise starting teacher pay to $47,500. “This is probably not a case where you can have one size fits all and make it work,” he said. Florida Politics.

Contract negotiations: The Broward County teachers union has declared an impasse in negotiations with the school district. District officials have offered a salary increase of 1.5 percent, a 7 percent referendum supplement, and a 0.44 percent referendum from additional money collected for the 2019-2020 school year. Union officials say teachers are already getting referendum money, and want raises of 3.5-5 percent. “We’re not negotiating what we’re already getting,” said union president Anna Fusco. “They gotta come back with a very healthy offer.” District officials say the offer would give teachers raises of nearly 9 percent. WLRN.

Community school: Dodgertown Elementary School in Vero Beach will become a community partnership school, where health and social services combine with academics and parent education programs to benefit students, their families and others in the area where the school is located. The Indian River County School District, Children’s Home Society of Florida, Treasure Coast Community Health and Indian River State College. are partners in the 25-year program. Dodgertown Elementary received an $80,000 grant to begin the transformation. The Community Partnership Schools model was started by CHS, the Orange County School District and the University of Central Florida. Vero News. More than 200 students at C.A. Weis Community School in Escambia County will receive free glasses, courtesy of Community Health of Northwest Florida. WEAR.

Support for superintendent: While one Polk County School Board member continued to criticize Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd for attending a school choice conference in San Diego with expenses paid by a local choice advocate and lobbyist, others have come to her defense. “I don’t think there is anyone who cares more about the humanity of our students than Superintendent Byrd,” said board member Sara Beth Reynolds at a meeting last week. High-ranking district officials followed Reynolds’ remarks with applause. Lakeland Ledger.

Superintendent search: More than 50 people have applied to replace Hillsborough County school Superintendent Jeff Eakins, who is retiring June 30. Among them are two current district administrators and a former assistant superintendent who now works in Hartford, Conn. The recruiting firm, Ray and Associates of Iowa, plans to cut the list to 10 or 12 finalists to present to the board next month. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher turnover: The Lee County School District’s efforts to cut down on teacher turnover, such as pairing them with onsite mentors and offering more training, haven’t worked. But district officials say they have at least kept the problem from getting worse. The current turnover rate is 26.2 percent, which is high than last year’s 24.9 percent but about the same rate as it was in 2015. “The good news is it isn’t getting any worse,” said Angela Pruitt, the district’s chief human resources officer. “We’re a little bit below what the national average is, so that’s a good thing, but in terms of making a breakthrough on it, we just haven’t done that yet.” Fort Myers News-Press.

Literacy initiative: A coalition of community leaders is working with the Alachua County School District and Gainesville city officials on an initiative that uses the phono-graphix method to improve literacy rates of the district’s early elementary students in after-school programs. Phono-graphix is defined as blending, segmenting, auditory processing and coding in the context of words. WUFT.

Education podcasts: The violent threats posed by some students, possible solutions and the state funding for mental health services in schools are topics of a roundtable discussion among state Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-Hollywood; Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood; school psychologist Donna Berghausere; and Sun Sentinel reporter Megan O’Matz. WLRN.

School buses recall: More than 100 Brevard County School District buses are included in a recall because the seats don’t have enough padding to protect students in a crash. District officials said 137 buses will need extra padding added. No timeline has been established for the repairs. Florida Today.

School lunch debt: More than $3,000 has been raised through a GoFundMe drive to pay the $11,000 that Monroe County students owe for unpaid lunches. Last year through mid-November, the unpaid balance was about $24,000, according to school officials. Key West Citizen.

Teachers get present: Each of the approximately 3,000 teachers in the Sarasota County School District is getting a $350 grant from local businessman Eric Baird, which can be used for personal or professional purposes. “I recently had the idea of rewarding hard-working people in professions that are underappreciated but provide tremendous value,” said Baird. “There was no better group to begin with than teachers. What they do for our children is priceless, and I have seen it first hand with my daughter. They need to know how much they are appreciated.”  SRQ magazine.

Unequal participation: Nine of 10 Volusia County high schools are out of compliance with federal Title IX standards for girls participation in sports, according to a district report. Only Mainlands High met the terms of the law for the 2018-2019 school year. District officials say if all sports were considered, other schools would also comply, but activities such as cheerleading and rowing may not be counted. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Teacher’s inaction questioned: The mother of a shooting victim in Sarasota is questioning why a Triad Sarasota alternative school teacher said nothing about another student threatening to shoot her son. Police say a teacher heard Darion Lee, 16, threaten classmate Le’Quavious Claridy, 21, in school a few days before he shot him on Nov. 10. Claridy died a few days later. School district spokeswoman Tracey Beeker confirmed that the teacher had heard the threats but hadn’t reported them. The district is investigating. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Query angers parents: Parents of students at Braden River Elementary School say they’re angry about a lack of thoroughness of an investigation into allegations that a teacher abused students. Child abuse investigators determined that Sheri Fink verbally and physically abused students, but Manatee County sheriff’s deputies said the allegations were unfounded and no charges were filed. The school district suspended Fink for two days, issued her a letter of reprimand, transferred her to another school and then let her retire in June.  Bradenton Herald.

Students and the law: A St. Lucie County teacher had to get stitches for a wound caused when a student threw a telephone at him. The 18-year-old from Fort Pierce was arrested and charged with aggravated battery on an employee of a school district. Officials did not disclose the school or teacher’s name. TCPalm. A Hamilton County parent says her son was attacked and beaten by five students on a school bus because he was wearing a Make America Great Again hat. School Superintendent Rex Mitchell said a district investigation found no evidence that any apparel supporting President Trump was being worn. He said the fight started between two students, and escalated as more students got involved. The five students have been disciplined, he said. WCTV. Miami Herald. A 17-year-old Flagler County student has been convicted of making written threats to kill and sending a terroristic threat to one of her teachers at Flagler Palm Coast High School a year ago. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live.

Opinions on schools: Safe schools will require more taxes than most legislators have the courage to raise. But consider the alternative. Sun Sentinel. High school graduates should know how government and the political process work. But so should members of the Florida Legislature. In that spirit, here are potential questions all state lawmakers should be required to answer before they can sponsor legislation. Tampa Bay Times. While school will always be a place of academics, rigor and student achievement, today’s schools, in Bay County at least, are becoming hubs of emotional support for students and their families after Hurricane Michael. Sharon Michalik, Panama City News Herald. This has been a tough year for the Sarasota County School District. But thousands of terrific teachers and their students carry on the business of teaching and learning, respectively, without a whole lot of thought at any given moment to the problems. Matthew Sauer, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Giving every student the opportunity to access careers in engineering and the physical, mathematical, health and life sciences is not an extra that is outside the mission of public education. It is central to the whole idea of collective education that every student be given the opportunity to fulfill her or his potential. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. A new Citrus County School District program will make students certified emergency medical technicians when they graduate from Crystal River High School. In a world of rising college tuition costs, giving students more options to have legitimate, money-making careers fresh out of high school is wildly important. Cortney Stewart, Citrus County Chronicle. The time has come to address an issue that’s particularly relevant in Florida. The smell of Axe body spray deodorant. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post.

Student enrichment: The Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute has donated fossils, including megalodon teeth and prehistoric whale vertebrae, to the Polk County School District for students to study. WTVT. Jackie Pappas, a sophomore at Gulf Coast High School in Collier County, is heading to London for a New Year’s Day performance as part of the National Cheerleaders Association’s All American team. Naples Daily News. Max LaForge, a 10th-grader at Pine View School in Sarasota County who has cystic fibrosis, got surprised from the Make-A-Wish Foundation with a surprise trip to meet the New Orleans Saints and watch them play tonight. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lyra Floore, a 5th-grader at Hutchison Beach Elementary School in Panama City Beach, has raised $1,000 to buy toys for Christmas for children in need. Panama City News Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff