ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of March 18, 2019

A collection of news and views from the past week.
Sen. Tom Lee chairs the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee, which postponed its March 20, 2019, hearing on a bill that would allow teachers to participate in the state school guardian program. [The Florida Channel]
Sen. Tom Lee chairs the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee, which postponed its March 20, 2019, hearing on a bill that would allow teachers to participate in the state school guardian program. [The Florida Channel]
Published March 23

Debate over the possibility of allowing teachers to carry guns in their classrooms again grabbed Florida’s attention in a busy week that also saw lawmakers move ahead with bills to expand charter schools, vouchers and other school choice options. Differing versions of education budgets also came out, with the House and Senate more than a half-billion dollars apart, as teachers clamored for raises instead of undependable annual bonuses. Read on for that and other top Florida education stories of the week. • Don’t miss our weekly highlights of the news, views, reports and more. You can keep up daily with our conversation on Facebook, hear our podcast, and follow our blog to get all the latest Florida education news. All tips, comments and ideas welcome. Know anyone who’d like to get this weekly roundup or other email updates? Have them send a note to jsolochek@tampabay.com.

Top of the Times

Florida House advances school security bill that would allow armed teachers, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“In introducing her 36-page school safety bill Thursday, Florida House Education Committee chairwoman Rep. Jennifer Sullivan wanted to be clear: ‘This bill does not require a teacher to be armed.’ It would, however, allow school districts to let teachers voluntarily participate in the state’s armed guardian program, if they survive a rigorous background check and complete required training. And it passed the committee along party lines, after nearly two hours of comments and debate.”

READ IT: House bill on school safety

RELATED: Florida Senate delays bill to let teachers carry guns in school

How to get thrown out of a Hillsborough County School Board meeting, Marlene Sokol

“The Tampa Police Department confirms it issued a trespassing notice to Ben Greene, 29, based on comments he made previously. According to the police report, district officers accused Greene of ‘causing disruptions at School Board meetings.’ They told him to stay away for 365 days, and he accepted the notice ‘without incident.’ The district’s chief of security, former Tampa Police captain John Newman, said later that Greene was making board members uncomfortable with remarks that became overly personal at the Feb. 19 meeting, including calling the board members ‘blondes.’ Newman said that if Greene tones down the attacks, he will be allowed to return. And he said his officers acted in the interest of maintaining safety.”

House, Senate education budgets differ by $600 million, Jeffrey S. Solochek

“As anticipated, the Florida House unveiled a PreK-12 spending plan Wednesday that’s more than a half-billion dollars leaner than the version released Tuesday by the Senate. Both differ from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request. After introducing his $21.6 billion proposal, House PreK-12 Appropriations chairman Rep. Chris Latvala made clear he anticipated changes as the session progresses.”

Vaping by Hernando County students more than doubled last year. Can school leaders find a fix?, Jack Evans

“Over the past year, schools across the country — along with parents, top government officials and law enforcement — have looked for ways to curb the growing popularity of e-cigarette vaping among teens. That fight is taking root in Hernando County, too, where vaping rates have skyrocketed. Local officials fear the habit will get more students in trouble at school — and, at times, with the law.”

Will Florida legislators make it easier to ban books in schools? We’ll soon find out., Jeffrey S. Solochek

“Members of the conservative Florida Citizens Alliance have been appalled with what they’ve seen in the books being handed to students in the public schools. ‘Pornographic’ scenes in novels. Religious ‘indoctrination’ boosting Islam over others in the social studies books. ‘Unbalanced propaganda’ promoting climate change in science texts. The group wants to ban much of what it finds objectionable, eliminating titles like Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange and Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes to textbooks, including Harcourt Publishing’s Modern World History 9th Grade and Pearson’s Essentials of Oceanography.”

READ IT: SB 1454

Visit tampabay.com for more education news from the Times staff.

Around the State

A suspended school superintendent vs. the new governor in a FL Supreme Court case. Who will win?, Florida Phoenix, Diane Rado

“A suspended Panhandle school superintendent is facing off with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a legal clash that involves Constitutional questions, different branches of government and the governor’s authority to suspend an elected public officer. It’s the kind of case that DeSantis – a Harvard-trained lawyer who references the U.S. Constitution, Founding Fathers, and civics instruction – would likely enjoy, especially if he wins. But his challenger isn’t giving up, and the case is ongoing in the Florida Supreme Court, with new documents filed earlier this week.”

READ IT: Governor’s response in opposition to emergency petition

With the Governor Issuing Orders and State Lawmakers Filing Bills, Ed Reform Is Firmly on the Florida Legislature’s 2019 Agenda, The 74, Bekah McNeel

“With Florida’s 60-day legislative session underway, Gov. Ron DeSantis is well positioned to make this year a landmark for school choice. After nearly two decades at the forefront of the movement, the Sunshine State has bucked the most recent national trend of tighter regulation on charters and strong pushback to voucher programs. In fact, it is charging full speed ahead in the opposite direction, much as DeSantis promised in his hard-fought gubernatorial bid last fall.”

Lottery bill could slash education payouts by up to $235 million, Florida Politics, Drew Wilson

“A bill aimed at prohibiting online lottery ticket sales could have an unintended side effect. According to the Revenue Estimating Conference, a provision in Bradenton Rep. Will Robinson’s HB 629 could reduce the Florida Lottery’s annual deposits into the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund by up to $235 million a year.”

READ IT: Revenue Estimating Conference report

From pricey simulators to staples, Florida sheriffs spend millions on school guardians, Florida Today, Caroline Glenn and Dan Berman

“In the months after the Parkland shooting that left 17 dead, state legislators allocated $67 million for the guardian program, and 24 counties, including Brevard, received about $9.3 million, including $2 million statewide for guns, ammunition and other equipment. An investigation by FLORIDA TODAY into how counties spent money on the state’s new school protection plan shows that it’s unclear how deeply — if at all — the Florida Department of Education, which manages the program, vetted what sheriffs put in their shopping carts.”

For the latest roundup of Florida education news, visit the Gradebook weekday mornings.

Other Views

Effective career and technical education requires rigorous math and science courses., Tampa Bay Times guest column, FSU physics professor Paul Cottle and former state senator John Legg

“A high school graduate with only Algebra 1 and geometry would be crippled in trying to complete a postsecondary certification or associate degree in a high-paying technology field. Furthermore, a student with a combination of industry certifications and high school computing credits could graduate having only one course in the natural sciences — the state’s basic Biology 1 course.”

Don’t Undermine Lottery Funding of Education Without a Plan to Replace It, The Capitolist op-ed, Sarah Rumpf

“Rep. Will Robinson (R-Bradenton) told Florida Daily that the prohibition on expanding to online sales was to prevent ‘fraudulent websites’ from scamming Floridians with fake ticket sales. However, wiping out hundreds of millions of dollars from an already tight education budget — with no plan to replace it — is irresponsible.”

Shameful Spending Part of an Abusive Union Relationship, Sunshine State News guest column, Shawn Frost of School Choice Movement

“The union is engaged in psychological warfare and willing to sacrifice the best interests of children in the process. They use words like ‘diverting, funneling, and siphoning,’ as though the money belongs to them and is not generated to educate students. The union calls for ‘fully funding”’ public education and then sets up a false narrative that students who chose a non-union school are depleting resources.”

The Florida book banners are back, Florida Phoenix columnist Diane Roberts

“‘Deviate sexual intercourse,’ depictions of nudity (goodbye 3000 years of Western Art), and descriptions of ‘sexual excitement’ are also verboten in this bill – which could turn into a hot evangelical-on-evangelical issue since there’s also a bill to allow Florida schools to offer a course on the Bible, which, were it to pass, would fall foul of the Hill-Mayfield measure. I mean, check out the Old Testament: you’ve got Lot pimping out two of his daughters, then bumping uglies with the other two; you’ve got pervy King David watching Bathsheba naked; and all that erotic talk in the Song of Solomon: breasts like ‘fawns,’ testicles compared to ‘a bag of myrrh,’ joyful oral sex, and not one word about sin.”

Arizona nudges past Florida in teacher pay as both states turn Japanese, Redefined columnist Matthew Ladner

“It is positively horrible for a seven-year teacher, especially one tasked with teaching children how to read in the early years, to be receiving such a tiny percentage of the revenue generated by her students. It is, however, *ahem* very difficult to blame this teacher’s salary exclusively on the state Legislature with a straight face.”

Charter school companies feast at the public trough, Sun-Sentinel editorial

“In the Summer 2015 edition of the conservative magazine National Affairs, two of America’s leading charter school proponents made a striking confession. ‘We wanted the infusions of capital and entrepreneurialism that accompany the profit motive, but we didn’t take seriously enough the risk of profiteering,’ wrote Chester Finn Jr., and Bruno Manno, both former assistant U.S. secretaries of education. They also warned against letting the charter sector ‘ossify into a conventional interest group.’ Florida has become Exhibit A of both counts: profiteering and interest group politics.”

Reports of Note

Insufficient: How State Pension Plans Leave Teachers with Inadequate Retirement Savings, Bellwether Education Partners

“Nearly every state has made changes to their pension plans over the years. Unfortunately, most of those changes have been driven by cost pressures, rather than the motivation to provide all workers with adequate retirement benefits.”

The True Cost Of Public Education In Florida 2.0, Florida TaxWatch

“The most commonly reported per-student spending figures in Florida are based solely on funding provided through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP). For the 2017-18 school year, Florida public schools would have spent an average of $7,307 “per student” in FEFP funding. But this figure, which is published in legislative budget summaries and widely cited by the media, can be misleading since it does not reflect total spending per student. Funding for other programs and services (e.g., school construction, voter-approved general obligation bonds, pre-school programs, debt service, school construction, etc.) is provided to school districts in addition to FEFP funding and is reported separately from the FEFP.”

Coming Up

March 25: House PreK-12 Appropriations, 3 p.m.

March 26: Senate Education, 1:30 p.m. • House Higher Education Appropriations, 3:30 p.m. • House PreK-12 Quality, 3:30 p.m. (On the agenda: HB 73 Financial Literacy graduation requirement, HB 855 Instructional Materials challenges) • Senate Infrastructure and Security, 4 p.m. (On the agenda: SB 7030, school security)

March 27: House Appropriations, 9 a.m. • Senate Appropriations, 1 p.m.

March 28: Senate Appropriations, 9 a.m.

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