House’s education budget boosts teacher pay but cuts bonuses, term limits, heat stroke bill and more

House on teacher pay: The Florida House’s $22.8 billion education budget plan released Wednesday includes $650 million for improving teacher salaries. That’s $150 million more than the Senate proposed Tuesday, and almost $50 million more than Gov. Ron DeSantis requested. House PreK-12 Appropriations chairman Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, said the proposal would bump starting teacher pay to $47,000, slightly less than DeSantis wanted but enough to rank Florida second in the nation. Like the Senate’s budget, the House’s includes no money for educator bonuses, while DeSantis had asked for $300 million to replace the Best and Brightest bonuses program. Other items in the House budget include spending $217.79 more per student, and adding $20 million to the Gardiner scholarships for students with special needs and $25 million for mental health programs. Both the Senate and House budgets would cut $40 million from the Schools of Hope program to open charter schools in neighborhoods with persistently low-performing schools. News Service of Florida. Gradebook. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. Florida Phoenix. WFSU.

School board term limits: A bill that would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment to limit school board members to two four-year terms has been approved by the House Oversight, Transparency, and Public Management Committee. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, now goes to the House Education Committee. Similar bills in the Senate have yet to be heard in committee. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

Fighting heat stroke: A bill that would require school districts to add equipment and train employees to deal with student-athletes who suffer from heat stroke was approved by the full Florida House on Wednesday, and now moves to the Senate. H.B. 7011, sponsored by Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, would require schools to have a cooling area and container or tub at practices and games for athletes to treat potential heat stroke, and an automated external defibrillator that coaches and volunteers would be trained to use. Associated Press.

Expanding courses: A bill expanding opportunities for Florida high school students to take dual-enrollment courses has won the approval of the House Appropriations Committee. H.B. 187 would allocate $550,000 to cover instructional materials for students at private and charter schools and prohibits colleges and universities from passing on costs associated with tuition and fees, including laboratory and registration fees as well as instructional materials, to a private school. It would also allow high school juniors to take courses over two years to earn an associate’s degree. redefinED. A bill expanding civics education in the state was approved Wednesday by the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. WJXT.

State scholarship support: Two banks have announced that they will no longer donate money to a state scholarship program after the Orlando Sentinel alleged that some of the private schools receiving funds from the program discriminate against LGBTQ students (Note: Neither the Florida Department of Education nor Step Up For Students has any evidence supporting the Sentinel’s allegations.). Officials from Fifth Third Bank said this week the company won’t be contributing again “… until more inclusive policies have been adopted by all participating schools to protect the sexual orientation of all our students,” and it was joined late Wednesday by Wells Fargo. (Note: Wells Fargo has not contributed funding since 2014.) Allegiant Air and Rosen Resorts had already withdrawn support for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which allows corporations to direct money that would have paid in taxes to the scholarship program instead. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarships. Florida Politics. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times.

Educators honored: David Martinez-Cooley, a music and math teacher at Leila Davis Elementary in Clearwater, has been named the Pinellas County School District’s teacher of the year. Tampa Bay Times. Kathy Hamilton-Brown, who teaches pre-K through 6th grade at Endeavour Elementary School in Cocoa, has been selected as the Brevard County School District’s teacher of the year. Maria Morales, an office clerk at Palm Bay Elementary, was named the school employee of the year. Florida Today. Elizabeth Mann, an exceptional student education inclusion teacher at Oriole Beach Elementary School in Gulf Breeze, has been named the Santa Rosa County School District’s teacher of the year. Pensacola News Journal. Navarre Press. Matt Hutchins, a regional director for Wells Fargo and volunteer leader for the Clay Education Foundation, has won the “Excellence in Volunteerism” award given by the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations and Volunteer Florida. Clay Today.

Behind graduation rates: The Leon County School District’s high school graduation rate was 92.4 percent in 2019, fifth highest in the state. But a review of the data shows that the percentage of students graduating by taking alternative tests instead of the regular classroom tests has grown from 6.4 percent in 2016 to 21.8 percent in 2019, and that about 33 percent of the 2,346 home-schooled students should have been classified as withdrawn because they didn’t comply with annual evaluation requirements, according to a district audit. Tallahassee Reports.

Charter school lawsuits: The Renaissance Charter School at St. Lucie is suing the St. Lucie County School District over its 1,290-student enrollment cap, calling it a violation of state law and restrictive. District officials say the enrollment limit is part of the charter contract, which district officials say the school did not try to negotiate when it was signed in 2018. TCPalm. A Manatee County charter school and several of its officials are being sued by three women for sexual harassment and discrimination. Named in the suit are Manatee School of Arts and Sciences’ former principal Richard Ramsay, school registrar Linda Brand and the president of its governing board, Jim Brand. The three women, all former employees, say Ramsey abused his power with sexually suggestive comments and text messages, and that the school and its officials took no action against him. Bradenton Herald.

Charter school contract: A Hernando County science and technology charter school with dwindling enrollment should get a two-year contract renewal instead of the five-year deal it wanted, school board members said Wednesday. The Brooksville Engineering Science & Technology Academy improved its state school grade from C to a B last year, but its financial position, student performance scores and discrepancies on the application argue against the longer contract, said board chair Susan Duval. Tampa Bay Times.

Board denies investigation: The Manatee County School Board has declined to authorize an investigation into claims by former Palmetto charter school Lincoln Memorial Academy officials that the school district colluded with Palmetto city officials to create a fraudulent shutoff notice as a justification for  the district to take over the school. The notice the school got was in error, but the same faulty information was given to about 100 other customers on the same cycle. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Trafficking instruction: The “Safer, Smarter Schools” curriculum developed by a state senator’s foundation is being used by the Miami-Dade County School District to teach students about the signs and dangers of human trafficking and sexual abuse. The foundation, Lauren’s Kids, was started by state Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, a former kindergarten teacher who was sexually abused as a child. WLRN.

Health officials faulted: A state audit has concluded that the Florida Department of Health in Bay County was not acting in the best interests of students when it abruptly ended student health plans without warning. In 2018, just after an agreement between the health department and school district was signed, it was discovered that nurses had improperly removed student records from the school, and an investigation was requested. Doug Kent, who was the health department director, resigned later that year. WMBB. Panama City News Herald. WJHG.

Medical marijuana in schools: Leon County School Board members have approved a policy that would allow students with prescriptions to receive medical marijuana treatment at schools. A parent or caregiver would have to bring the drug in oil form to school, administer it, and then take it off campus. WTXL.

School calendar: The Miami-Dade County School District’s calendar for the 2020-2021 school year was supposed to be approved in November. But it got pulled from the agenda and has yet to resurface. Most Florida school districts approved their calendars before the end of 2019. Deputy superintendent Valtena Brown said the district is still working on it. Miami Herald.

Still out of school: A delay in testing for the coronavirus will keep 30 Palm Beach County students and three teachers away from the Benjamin School for the rest of the week. The students and teachers were exposed while attending a conference at Yale University last weekend, and have been quarantined until the test results are finished. Palm Beach Post.

Spelling bee winner: Julius Graham, an 8th-grader from DuPont Middle School in Jacksonville, has won the Duval County Spelling Bee and will advance to the regional competition in February. WJXT.

Kindergarten readiness: Bay County school officials say up to 70 percent of the children starting at Lucille Moore, Cherry Street and Northside elementary schools are not prepared for kindergarten. Parents are being given tips to accelerate preparation when they sign up for school. School choice is Feb. 10 through March 9. Panama City News Herald.

Water issue closes school: Tyndall Elementary School in Bay County closed Wednesday when it lost running water. Engineers were repairing a water main when the water flow to the school was disrupted. Panama City News Herald. WMBB.

District salaries become an issue: The Pasco County School District now has 15 employees earning more than $100,000, up from two during the 2013-2014 school year, and it’s becoming an issue in the elections for superintendent and school board seats. Tampa Bay Times.

Dress code incident: An Orange County high school student was ordered to remove a “Global not Local” sweatshirt by a West Orange High School official because it was thought to be “gang-related.” The student denied any affiliation with a gang, and the manufacturer of the sweatshirt said there are no gang-related ties to the clothing line. School officials said based on information from law enforcement officials, they believed the brand was affiliated with a gang. WKMG.

School security lapse: A man has been arrested after making his way past security measures and into Lely High School in Naples on Wednesday. Once Byron Picado got inside the school, he demanded to see a student in Lely’s adult education programs before he was taken into custody. Collier County school officials think the man was let in by another student. WINK.

Suspended teacher gets pay: A Marion County teacher who was suspended without pay after testing positive for his prescribed medical marijuana will be paid after all. School board members, who approved the suspension Jan. 14, on Wednesday said they thought the suspension was with pay. So they voted to put Belleview High School dean Mike Hickman on paid leave pending a hearing, and pay him retroactively. Ocala Star-Banner.

Teacher fired: Martin County school officials have fired the Martin County High School choral director after allegations that she berated and belittled students. Kylie Lowe, who directs the school’s advanced touring vocal ensemble OPUS (“Outstanding People United to Sing”), had been under investigation for her behavior. TCPalm.

Student hit, critically injured: A 14-year-old Palm Beach County student was critically injured Wednesday morning when he was hit by an SUV at a Riviera Beach intersection. Police said the student, who attends William T. Dwyer High School, was walking to his bus stop. Palm Beach Post. WPTV.

Opinions on schools: The National Parents Union is a new, female-driven organization that is sick to death of negotiating with the status quo while their children suffer in substandard schools. So it’s building a coalition. You know, like the good old days. When cooperation among different groups made us all stronger. Catherine Durkin Robinson, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Hip-hop artist Ludacris and ticket-broker StubHub have collaborated to donate about $75,000 worth of musical instruments to students at Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School. WTVJ. WSVN. Marbella Deininger Zayas, a sophomore at Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, will sing with the High School Women’s Choir at New York City’s Carnegie Hall on Sunday. Sun Sentinel. Ten Sarasota County students recently attended the sixth PINC Experience designed to inspire creativity and innovation. PINC, which stands for People, Ideas, Nature, Creativity, is an all-day conference sponsored by the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. English, Spanish and Mandarin are used for class lessons at the Panama City Trilingual School. The school began last year with four students, and is now up to 40. Panama City News Herald. Hillsborough County students who can’t afford a prom dress can now borrow one from the Gowns for Girls program in Valrico. WFTS.

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BY NextSteps staff