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Florida education news: Charter schools, transgender rights, public comment and more

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Students at Kid's Community College, a Riverview charter school, make their way onto a basketball court for recess on May 11, 2016.
Published Sep. 11

CHARTER SCHOOLS: Student enrollment in Hillsborough County public schools continues to grow, but largely in charter schools. The publicly funded, privately run schools now account for 12.7 percent of the district’s population, up from 7.3 percent five years ago.

TRANSGENDER RIGHTS: The Pasco County school district scraps its controversial 71-page ‘best practices’ guide for the treatment of LGBTQ students. The new one-page reference sheet maintains the protections that have motivated conservative critics to pressure the School Board for new policy.

BUDGETS: The Pinellas County School Board adopts its final 2019-20 budget with a reduced property tax rate. • The Orange County School Board approves its budget without knowing how much it will be paying teachers, Spectrum 13 reports. Other districts adopting budgets include Charlotte, Citrus

PUBLIC COMMENT: The Hillsborough County School Board decides to again broadcast the public comment section of its business meetings, after having removed them to allow residents to speak ‘privately’ to the board at the public sessions.

EARLY RELEASE: Pasco County students will have their first early release day, so teachers can participate in training. • The Hillsborough County school district cancels all its remaining first semester early release days to make up time missed because of Hurricane Dorian.

LOSING PATIENCE: Some Hillsborough County School Board members want to know how long they have to wait to see academic improvement at the district’s most struggling schools.

STUDENT PRIVACY: State audits indicate that too many school employees have access to student Social Security numbers without needing them, Fresh Take Florida reports. The state is working to protect the information.

SCHOOL OVERHAULS: A Leon County school serving a high poverty area begins offering added services as it converts to a community school, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. • A Bay County elementary school will expand to become a K-8 campus to serve anticipated growth at a nearby air base, WJHG reports.

‘DATA CULTURE’: Florida schools increasingly rely on student testing and assessment data to guide their instructional decisions, with a goal of boosting their state grades, Florida Politics reports.

HACKED: The Wakulla County school district’s email system is shut down after hackers invade, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

‘IN GOD WE TRUST’: The Manatee County school district finally gets around to adopting a policy following a state requirement to post the state motto in all schools, the Bradenton Herald reports.

IN COURT: The private company fired amid accusations its training of Palm Beach County school guardians was inadequate sues the district, saying its training met district demands, the Palm Beach Post reports.

ON THE FIELD: All Duval County high schools now have full-time athletic trainers, meeting a goal set four years ago, the Florida Times-Union reports.

SECURITY: Broward County school safety officials detail all the security improvements made to schools since the Parkland shooting, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

WASTE NOT: A Polk pastor and teacher urge the school district to adopt ‘share tables’ in cafeterias, where students can place unused food items for others to take, the Ledger reports.

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup


  1. Fortify Florida is a new app that allows for anonymous reporting of suspected school threats. Florida Department of Education
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  2. Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning says Fortify Florida, the new state-sponsored app that allows students to report potential threats, is "disrupting the education day" because the callers are anonymous, many of the tips are vague and there's no opportunity to get more information from tipsters. "I have an obligation to provide kids with a great education," Browning said. "I cannot do it with this tool, because kids are hiding behind Fortify Florida." JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |
    Vague and anonymous tips often waste law enforcement’s time and disrupt the school day, says Kurt Browning, president of Florida’s superintendents association.
  3. Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, during a Feb. 7, 2019, meeting of the House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    ‘One test should not determine the rest of your life,’ Rep. Susan Valdes says.
  4. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. The Florida Channel
    School security and early learning get top billing in the first committee meetings of the looming 2020 session.
  5. This image from a Pinellas County Schools video shows an armed police officer running to respond to a fictional active shooter.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  6. Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer
    The proposal is short on details, with officials saying they want to work through specifics during negotiations.
  7. Hillsborough schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia holds a back-to-school press conference at Rampello K-8 School, [TIMES files]
    MaryEllen Elia, who led the Hillsborough district from 2005 to 2015, has been an educator since 1970.
  8. Jeff Eakins and MaryEllen Elia, Hillsborough's last two superintendents, were hired from inside the school system. So have all others since 1967. [TIMES FILES] Times staff
    Two more public meetings are planned, and the online survey is up until Saturday.
  9. Pasco School District headquarters in Land O' Lakes
    The board’s 2019-20 budget totals $1.39 billion.
  10. The DeLucio family of Trinity toured the Mitchell High School campus and showed the visit on their YouTube channel, which has more than 1 million subscribers. Many parents, students and school officials were not amused. YouTube
    The proposed policy comes up for a vote on Oct. 1.