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State revenues plunged again in May, should schools open or close, the reality of the raises and more

State revenues down again: Sales tax revenues were $779.6 million below projections in May, state economists announced Friday. That’s a drop of 31 percent, and added to April’s loss of $878.1 million because of the coronavirus pandemic, brings the total 2020 revenue under projections by about $1.45 billion. Revenues had been up $202.4 million through the first three months of the year. Sales tax collections make up about 90 percent of the state’s revenue and provide most of the money for education. Gov. Ron DeSantis has to sign the state budget today or tomorrow, and is expect to trim it significantly from the $93.2 billion the Legislature approved. Legislators said those cuts, plus the state’s $4 billion in reserves, will prop up the 2020-2021 budget. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. WFSU.

Open or closed? Should schools reopen in August or stay closed and continue online classes? It depends who’s asked. In Palm Beach County, the teachers union is urging the district to continue remote learning until it’s safer to return to classrooms, and a survey shows more hesitation by parents of black and Hispanic students to send their children back to schools. In Broward County, some parents are lobbying hard for their children to go to school five days a week because they consider remote learning to have been a failure. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. WPEC. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. WUSF. The Indian River County School District is offering students three options for learning when schools reopen Aug. 10: traditional in-person, virtual or learning from home with livestreamed classes. Students have until July 10 to choose. WPTV. TCPalm. WPEC. The Miami-Dade County School District was expected to announce its reopening plan Wednesday, but is delaying a decision until it has one more meeting with parents and medical professionals. Miami Herald. WFOR. The Volusia County School District’s decision to return all students to classrooms in the fall is drawing a mixed reaction. While some are relieved to return to normal, others think the decision was made too soon. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Bay Virtual School will be an option when the Bay County School District announces its reopening plans. WMBB. Northwest Florida school districts are expecting an increase in the number of students who decide to attend school remotely. WEAR.

About those teacher raises: The bill Gov. DeSantis signed last week committing $500 million to teacher raises does not mean every new teacher starting a job in Florida will be making $47,500 a year this year or even next year. The reality is that school districts will have to negotiate starting salaries with teacher unions. Some districts are closer to that starting figure than others, and the amount of money a district receives hinges on the number of students it has. Miami-Dade County schools, for instance, will get $60 million; the Franklin County School District $200,000. “Some districts have much lower salaries, currently, than others,” said Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association. “So those districts that are closer to the goal, obviously, will get all their teachers to the goal, and those districts that aren’t as close to the goal may have more of a challenge.” The state’s largest teachers union, the Florida Education Association, called the $47,500 figure “an aspirational goal set by the governor and the Legislature over a period of years.” Florida Phoenix. Citrus County officials said it would cost the district $4.2 million to get 860 teachers’ salaries up to $47,500. Citrus County Chronicle. Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna said raises for his district’s teachers aren’t likely to live up to expectations. “When you start giving raises, you want to make them fair and equitable for everyone, not just single out any one group,” he said. WTXL.

More on the coronavirus: The president of Belen Jesuit Preparatory School asked his congregation to remove their masks to sing during graduation ceremonies June 15. The school then edited out the request in the video that was uploaded to YouTube. A few days later a graduate and a sibling tested positive for the coronavirus. Miami Herald. Martin County school employees and visitors are now being required to wear masks at schools when social distancing isn’t possible. TCPalm. Hugging and handshaking “should not occur” during graduation ceremonies for Volusia County high school seniors, the district has announced. Masks are recommended, but not required. Daytona Beach News-Journal. At least 74 college marching band organizations are funding two scientific studies to help develop protocols so they can stay on the field for the football season. Tampa Bay Times. A Tulane University researcher plans to detail how every K-12 school in the United States responded to the coronavirus pandemic, with the first results due early in July. The 74.

Renaming schools: The Broward County School is being asked to consider changing the names of at least five schools that might be considered racist because they include the word Plantation. They are Plantation High, South Plantation High, Plantation Middle, Plantation Elementary and Plantation Park Elementary, but board member Rosalind Osgood said she’s open to reviewing any school names that have “any racial undertones or any type of connotation that causes hurt for a group of people.” The board will discuss the proposal Tuesday. A separate drive to rename the city of Plantation is also underway. Sun Sentinel.

Sensitivity training urged: All five of the Marion County School Board members agree with board chair Eric Cummings’ suggestion that district employees receive specialized racial sensitivity and cultural diversity training. He’s asked the district’s equity department to begin researching how it would be done, and estimates the cost would be between $20,000 and $50,000. “I want someone to come in from the outside to challenge us on how we are thinking and how we are doing things,” said Cummings, who is also a minister. “Have we been insensitive to some of the needs of our students and our community?” Ocala Star-Banner.

More bills signed: A bill that allows school districts to use Mobile Response Units and Crisis Stabilization Services for an initial call to help children exhibiting mental health care problems was one of 15 signed signed over the weekend by Gov. DeSantis. Florida Politics.

New Florida laws: Teacher raises, an expansion of school choice programs, compensation for college student-athletes and a requirement that students be taught about the Holocaust and the 1920 Ocoee Massacre in Florida are among the bills that go into effect Wednesday. But students won’t be learning about the election day massacre in Ocoee anytime soon. The state Department of Education’s African American History Task Force has to come up with recommendations on what to include in the lessons. Its report is due March 1, 2021. WFTS. Florida Phoenix.

Education podcasts: Educators and community leaders and activists discuss what educational equity would look like if it were even achievable, how communities can move toward solutions for systemic issues and more on The Soul Purpose Show, a podcast that deals with a variety of topics. redefinED.

Notable deaths: Ryan Smith, an assistant football coach at Florida High, which is part of the Florida State University Schools system, has died at the age of 32. His death reportedly was not related to the coronavirus. WCTV.

Punishment questioned: A Miami-Dade County high school head basketball coach who was reassigned after allowing a celebrity to teach a “twerking” class in February to 300 women in the Miami Beach Senior High School gym said his principal and assistant principal both knew about the event, but he was the only one punished. Jacob Shaw said he was just trying to raise money for his team to go to a tournament in Las Vegas. Miami Herald.

Opinions on schools: Changing the name of a school is a symbolic gesture that’s important in showing support for racial equity, but it needs to be followed by systemic changes that help eliminate long-standing disparities in our community and country. Gainesville Sun. Instead of sitting idly or waiting for magical solutions, schools and students should take advantage of the online learning tool offered by the nonprofit Khan Academy. It’s already there, it has helped millions of student and it’s free. Andres Oppenheimer, Miami Herald. As new college graduates face a “horrendous” job market, Florida has raised starting teacher salaries. Will talented young people solve the state’s teacher shortage? Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

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BY NextSteps staff