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State sales tax collections plunge in March, teaching jobs may be in jeopardy and more

Sales tax collections plummet: Florida sales tax collections from March are about 25 percent lower than projected, according to some preliminary revenue reports. That’s a shortfall of as much as $770 million because of the economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and the April numbers are expected to be even worse. Sales tax revenues make up almost 80 percent of the state’s general revenue, which is mostly spent on education and health care. Jimmy Patronis, the state’s chief financial officer, called the news “a catastrophic hit to our state’s revenues.” State Rep. Travis Cummings, R-Fleming Island, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said, “I don’t know that anything in there surprised us. Whether it’s $600 million or $800 million or $900 million, not to say that’s insignificant but we feel our current fiscal situation, as well as some help we think will come down from the feds, will continue to assist us.” Florida has about $4 billion in reserves to help get through the fiscal year that ends June 30. Orlando Sentinel. WFOR. Lee County school Superintendent Greg Adkins said Monday that $30 million to $50 million may have to be cut from the district’s budget because of the expected downturn in tax collections. WINK.

Teaching jobs at risk: Up to 319,000 U.S. teachers could lose their jobs due to the economic slowdown expected from the coronavirus outbreak, according to an analysis by the Learning Policy Institute. Data from the 2008 recession was used to draw the conclusion, along with assumptions of a 15 percent cut in education funding, and no financial aid coming from the federal government. Under that scenario, Florida would be less affected than most states, but would still lose about 4.1 percent of its teachers. Nationally, 8.4 percent of teachers would be out of work, the analysis indicates. “If these projections are correct,” said Michael Griffith, a policy analyst and senior researcher at institute, “the resulting hit to education spending would be two and a half times worse than the lowest point of the last recession.” Florida Phoenix.

Graduation plans: The Charlotte County School District has announced it will have in-person high school graduation ceremonies July 14-16 that follow social distancing guidelines. If the state hasn’t relaxed restrictions on large gatherings, the ceremonies will be held online. In either case, graduations will be streamed. Charlotte Sun. Virtual graduation ceremonies will be held this month for seniors graduating from Florida SouthWestern State College collegiate high schools in both Lee and Charlotte counties. The ceremony for Lee County students is Saturday, and it’s May 15 for Charlotte County students. WBBH. Drive-in graduations are set for Leon County high schools in June, but Superintendent Rocky Hanna said the district intends to hold a second, in-person graduation ceremony with seniors walking across a stage if current restrictions are relaxed. WTXL.

More on the coronavirus: About 1.3 percent of Orange County students have not been participating in online instruction. Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said district officials will be trying to visit those students this week. WKMG. The life of a school principal these days is marked by loneliness while supporting and checking on staff and students who are somewhere else. “We’re just working through whatever we can work through, virtually, until we are able to get back to campus and physically start some of those changes that need to occur,” said Kelly Bergey, principal at Golden Gate Elementary in Collier County. Naples Daily News. The principal at Godby High School in Tallahassee, Desmond Cole, said he might be forced to close the school track to the community because a few people aren’t practicing social distancing. WCTV. Students in the Tampa Bay area talk about how they feel about the coronavirus disrupting their school year. Tampa Bay Times. Students from Lantana Community Middle School get a virtual lesson in anatomy from sports medicine chiropractor David Rudnick. Sun Sentinel.

New superintendent: Diane Gullett, who was chosen by the Marion County School Board last month to be the new school superintendent, has been in the county looking for a home and talking to board members about their expectations when she finally takes over the top job from Heidi Maier, whose term ends in November. Until then, Gullett will be the board’s auditor general, and will spend time getting to know board members, administrators, teachers and other district employees. She called herself “very transparent, very approachable, very genuine and very committed. My focus is education. Supporting schools and supporting education are priorities. They will soon recognize that I lead by a team approach.” Ocala Star-Banner. May 29 is the application deadline for the Sarasota County School District’s superintendent job. Bill Vogel, a consultant with the Florida School Board Association, who is helping coordinate the search, said several applicants have expressed an interest. “I am expecting a strong field,” Vogel told the school board on Monday. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Charter rankings: IDEA Public Schools, a charter school company that has plans to expand into Florida in the next two years, had 15 of its schools ranked among the top 1 percent of the country’s most challenging high schools by the Jay Mathews Challenge Index. The index ranks public and private high schools by the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests given in a school year, divided by the number of seniors who graduated that year. IDEA wants to open four schools in Tampa in 2021 and four in Jacksonville in 2022, and a total of 32 over the next six years. redefinED.

Personnel moves: Two Pasco County schools are looking for principals. Keri Allen, the principal at Richey Elementary in New Port Richey, is leaving because her husband is retiring and they’re moving out of state. And Sarah Judd, principal at New River Elementary in Wesley Chapel, is resigning because her husband got a new job and they’re relocating. Both positions will be filled internally, district officials said. Gradebook.

Uh, about those raises: Florida high school sports referees recently won their first pay raise in six years, which begins in the fall. But that was before the coronavirus pandemic. Now, some athletic directors are asking their local officials associations to defer the raises because of budget concerns. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Educators and the law: A 3rd-grade teacher in Pasco County has been arrested and accused of possession of child pornography. Deputies said Spencer A. Brush, 47, who works at Watergrass Elementary, had photos on his cell phone of children under 18 engaging in sex acts. School officials said it does not appear that any of the children are from Watergrass. Brush has resigned, they said. Tampa Bay Times. WTVT.

Opinions on schools: Florida kids aren’t learning through online classes, and summer school and a longer 2020-2021 school year are needed to get them caught up. Diane Rado, Florida Phoenix. Just because Florida’s day-care centers are reopening doesn’t mean we’re ready to drop off our 3-year-old. It still doesn’t feel right. Not yet. Matt Baker, Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff