Next steps logo

Budget approved for now with teacher raises, boost for Gardiner scholarships, online learning and more

Budget, teacher raises approved: Legislators unanimously approved a $93.2 billion budget on Thursday that they acknowledge will likely have to be reworked when the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic on state revenues becomes clear. Eight of the 40 senators and 16 of the 120 House members did not travel back to the capital for the vote because of concerns about the virus, and those who did were screened before voting. The budget includes $22.7 billion for education, a $776 million increase from this year’s, and a per-student spending level of $7,839, an increase of about $184, plus $500 million for teacher raises, $42 million to harden schools against intruders, a three-day back-to-school tax holiday Aug. 7-9, and an additional $42 million for the Gardiner Scholarship for students with special needs. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the Gardiner program. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. USA Today Network. Florida Phoenix. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. redefinED. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. One of the ideas that didn’t make it through the session was one that would have merged New College and Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida. But supporters say it’s likely to be resurrected in the 2021 session. Inside Higher Ed. Other bills that passed and failed. Associated Press. The 2021 legislative session is scheduled to begin March 2 and end April 30. News Service of Florida. School districts should start preparing now for a drop in state K-12 aid next year, say education experts. Education Week.

Online instruction: The process of building an online learning system is underway in Florida school districts, with many expected to switch to remote instruction on March 30 and continue until schools are reopened. The Miami-Dade County School District is perhaps further along than most districts, and is already uncovering some of the issues students are having, such as login errors, slow system responses and integrating the variety of computing platforms being used. Other districts are handing out laptops, training teachers and creating online lessons or paper worksheets. Politico Florida. Miami HeraldSun Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Palm Beach Post. WPTV. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. Villages Daily Sun. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WPEC. WTXL. WJAX. WJXT. WINK. Town-Crier. Palm Coast Observer. WFSU. WKMG. Fort Myers News-Press. Pensacola News-Journal. Key West Citizen. WFTV. WESH. Education experts fear that the learning loss from schools closing will result in a decline in students’ skills and test scores. Politico. Longtime online teachers have tips on structuring the day to be effective. Education Week. WOFL. A New York City charter school network shares how it’s restructuring to provide online instruction. The 74. One of the challenges of online learning is teachers making sure students are on the other side of the laptop. Education Dive. Many school districts are handing out Chromebooks to students to use for remote learning. Google is offering advice on setting up those laptops for that job. T.H.E. Journal. Research is mixed on the effectiveness of online learning. The Mandarin. Teachers from around the country share their thoughts on how the coronavirus may change education. PBS Newshour. Here are all the states where schools are closed. T.H.E. Journal.

More on coronavirus: A 6-year-old girl who tested positive for the coronavirus this week is a student at Del Prado Elementary School in Boca Raton, according to Palm Beach County School District officials. The school has been deep-cleaned and parents of other students have been notified. She’s the youngest person in the state to test positive. Palm Beach Post. Florida Politics. WPTV. Head Start programs in Florida have been shut down at least through April 15 because of the coronavirus, according to program officials. Florida Times-Union. Tampa Bay Times. Gov. Ron DeSantis declined to close day-care centers, but many are choosing to shut down anyway. Fort Myers News-Press. Palm Beach Post. When DeSantis extended school closings to April 15, he also canceled college commencements and said K-12 graduation requirements would be re-evaluated. But he did not address whether high school graduations would be canceled, and some students are getting anxious. WTLV. Patch. The Cape Coral Charter School System says it expects to extend the school year to June 30. WINK. The Florida Department of Education has issued further guidance on the change in graduation requirements, saying that current high school seniors who have never passed the state’s 10th-grade English language arts or algebra 1 end-of-course exams can graduate. But the requirements will be back in place for the class of 2021. Gradebook. School superintendent groups are urging Congress to waive federal testing and accountability requirements. Politico. More districts and other organizations announce plans to continue feeding low-income students while schools are closed. Florida Department of Agriculture. Florida Department of Education. WCJB. WUSF. Gradebook. Daily Commercial. WFTV. Space Coast Daily. Questions and answers about the coronavirus, and a glossaryFlorida Department of HealthFlorida Department of Education.

Teacher certification: A state law passed in 2019 that gives teachers extra time to pass their certification exams appears to be working. The Florida Department of Education says about 200 teachers who would have been terminated in the past because they couldn’t pass the tests have taken advantage of the law to keep their jobs. WPTV.

Family wins settlement: The family of a 7-year-old autistic student who was left alone on a Palm Beach County school bus for more than five hours in 2015 will receive $200,000 from the school board. The boy, who was then a 2nd-grader at J.C. Mitchell Elementary in Boca Raton, was picked up on his way to school but never dropped off, then left when the driver parked at the Boynton Beach bus compound. The driver and an aide, who were supposed to check for students, were charged with child neglect. The family sued in 2017 and was awarded $424,000, but the school board appealed, leading to the settlement. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: In ordinary times, there would be great celebration for a state budget that includes hundreds of millions to significantly raise teacher salaries, invest in affordable housing and protect the environment. But these are not ordinary times, and it is a safe bet the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will require lawmakers to revisit the budget before the end of the year and make some tough decisions. Tampa Bay Times. Once we overcome this pandemic, let our resilience and knowledge show that we reimagined how the social safety net of education could more equitably impact the lives of students, their families and communities. Xavier J. Monroe, Gainesville Sun. States are begging the federal government to cancel spring testing. What happens if they get their wish? Kevin Mahnken, The 74.

Student enrichment: Deborah Kozdras, who works at the University of South Florida’s Gus A. Stavros Center, conducts workshops in Tampa Bay area schools that are aimed at teaching students how to be good citizens. WUSF.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff