Florida education news: #HB7069 lawsuit, school board speakers, audits and more

Citizens fill a Pinellas County School Board meeting in 2016.
Citizens fill a Pinellas County School Board meeting in 2016.
Published Jul. 25, 2017

#HB7069: Lee County could be the next school system to join in a legal challenge against the state for approving an education bill that many school boards claim is unconstitutional. ...The decision will come up today as part of the consent agenda at the 6 p.m. action meeting. The lawsuit "would seek a declaratory judgment that the bill is unconstitutional, and a court order enjoining its enforcement." Because the district would be joining other school districts in the fight, the legal fees would be shared by all the plaintiffs. This could cost Lee County $25,000, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

SILENCE: Palm Beach County public school officials would be barred from discouraging people from speaking at public school board meetings under a new policy to be considered this week. The proposal comes five months after The Palm Beach Post reported that two school district administrators pressured students and a parent to cancel plans to speak out at a board meeting about a controversy at Lake Worth High School, the Palm Beach Post reports.

AUDIT: State Rep. Jason Fischer on Monday urged state officials to do an operational audit of the Duval County school district, in part because the school board is considering suing the state over a controversial new education law that Fischer championed. "The Duval County school district is indulging in irresponsible budget practices and it needs to end," Fischer said in a statement. Recently the district found out it spent $21 million more from operating funds than it had budgeted last year. Duval's School Board called for an independent, forensic audit to explain how it happened, the Florida Times-Union reports.

CHARTER: As the only Title 1 charter school in the Sarasota County school district, Suncoast School for Innovative Studies (SSIS) will face some hard questions about why it earned a D rating from the Florida Department of Education in June. "Title 1 is a difficult thing to do, there's no doubt about that," said School Board member Eric Robinson, who raised the accountability issue during a meeting earlier this month. "But why did (Title 1 elementary school) Emma E. Booker get a B and you got a D when you've got the same demographics?" the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.

BUDGET: Marion County superintendent of schools Heidi Maier and her administrative team had big plans back in February when they unveiled a robust staffing plan to the School Board. As the administration worked with school district finance officials about the new way they were going to deliver education, they soon learned that the cost would be expensive. Adding all of the Maier team's wish list items to Marion County Public Schools would add an estimated $32 million to the budget, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

LOAN: Martin County School Board members aren't completely sold on borrowing money to help pay for a new athletic facility at South Fork High School. They are, however, interested enough to gauge their options. Since April, the board has been working to address issues raised by outraged parents and students at South Fork High School over run-down athletic facilities. On Monday, it approved exploring two routes to borrow money: a five-year loan or a 15- to 20-year loan. There is no specified amount for the loan yet, but the money would help pay for the South Fork athletic facility, as well as district-wide weatherproofing, the TCPalm reports.

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SROs: Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan has officially notified the Escambia County School Board that he may be forced to reduce the number of deputies in the school resource officer program. Morgan appeared before the district's board Thursday and said the Sheriff's Office has been working for the past few years without enough deputies on the streets. He said if the $3.6 million budget increase his office has requested isn't funded, he will be forced to reduce the number of officers in schools and put them on patrol, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

CODING: The Seminole County school district will expand its efforts to teach computer science by infusing coding lessons into the curriculum at two elementary schools when classes start next month. The new "Code to the Future" effort builds on the district's two-year-old initiative to give all students a "robust introduction" to the field by the end of middle school. That includes a program, started in 2015, to teach basic coding to all kindergartners, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

CAREER ED: Whether they want to be an engineer, a nurse or a teacher, Mulberry High students will now get some hands-on experience, industry certifications and college credit in prospective fields with three new career academies starting this year. Mulberry High's technology, medical and future educators programs will join the 105 career academies across the Polk County School District, the Lakeland Ledger reports.