Florida education news: Bright Futures, armed teachers, charter schools and more

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Pinellas Park High School seniors, arrive for graduation at Tropicana Field on Thursday, May 17, 2018, in St. Petersburg, Fla. MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE   |   Times
Pinellas Park High School seniors, arrive for graduation at Tropicana Field on Thursday, May 17, 2018, in St. Petersburg, Fla. MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times
Published Apr. 24, 2019

BRIGHT FUTURES: Saying they want to hold to the “integrity” of the Bright Futures scholarship mission, Florida lawmakers consider increasing the scores needed to earn the award. Poor and minority students stand to lose out most, school district officials warn.

TEACHERS WITH GUNS: Mostly along party lines, the Florida Senate approves a measure allowing classroom teachers to participate in the state’s armed school guard program, if their districts agree. It’s part of a broader school safety bill that includes more money for mental health services and other initiatives that largely got ignored in the discussion over guns. • The Manatee County School Board votes 3-2 to oppose the change, the Bradenton Herald reports. • The Lee County School Board says it will not participate in the program, WFTX reports.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: Pinellas County-based Plato Academy, which has nine charter schools in the Tampa Bay area, struggles to keep itself afloat amid lawsuits, management woes and canceled projects. • A new charter high school for high achieving teens prepares to open in Tampa. It will specialize in project-based learning.

FULL CREDIT: St. Johns County students whose final exams were canceled because of district technology problems will get full credit for those tests, WJXT reports.

FUNDING: More than 23,000 Floridians sign petitions urging lawmakers to increase spending on public schools, the Capitol News Service reports. House and Senate conference committees continue to hash out their budget differences through April 25, the News Service of Florida reports.

TAX ELECTIONS: The Duval County School Board decides to hold a special election asking voters to increase local sales taxes in support of school construction and maintenance projects, the Florida Times-Union reports. Officials say they have nearly $2 billion in needed work. • St. Lucie County voters approve a property tax increase to help raise teacher pay and improve school safety, TC Palm reports.

IN COURT: The Sarasota County Commission settles a discrimination lawsuit brought by a church that contended it was improperly denied zoning permission to operate a school, the Herald-Tribune reports.

TEACHER PAY: Brevard County teacher representatives call for the school district to use reserve accounts to raise salaries during an impasse hearing aimed at resolving contract negotiation disputes, Florida Today reports. • The Lee County School Board unanimously ratifies a teacher contract with raises between 2 and 9.5 percent, the Fort Myers News-Press reports. • Broward County teachers arrive at a contract deal with their district that provides annual pay supplements over four years, the Miami Herald reports. More from the Sun-Sentinel.

NAME GAME: The Manatee County school district receives 65 suggestions for the renaming of a middle school that is becoming a K-8 campus, the Bradenton Herald reports.

SUPERINTENDENTS: The Indian River County School Board continues to work on details for the exit of superintendent Mark Rendell, TC Palm reports.

BREAKING POINT: The Volusia County teachers union president says a teacher’s decision to press charges against a student who was violent demonstrates how frustrated educators have become in the current system, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. The union leader suggests student violence against teachers happens more often than many might imagine.

BUS SAFETY: Polk County school bus radios will now connect to county emergency communication systems, making it easier to report incidents, the Ledger reports.

ARTS EDUCATION: Six Miami Beach schools integrate the arts into their math and science curriculum as part of a pilot project, WLRN reports.

CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS: Without discussion, the Broward County School Board cancels five school design contracts, further setting back its already troubled bond program, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

GUNS ON CAMPUS: An Okaloosa County middle school student is arrested on allegations he had a loaded gun in his backpack, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

TODAY: Senate session, 10 a.m. (On special order: SB 190 Bright Futures, SB 7070 vouchers and teacher bonuses) • House session, 10:30 p.m. (On third reading: HB 401 Mastery-based education; On special order: HB 7071 workforce education, HB 259 human trafficking education)

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup