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Florida education news: Reading lessons, teacher salaries and LGBTQ rights

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Tyanaliz Gonzalez, 10, right, completes her worksheet while reading a chapter from the book Esperanza Rising as part of her class curriculum at Forest Hill Elementary School in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, September 19, 2019. Forest Hills Elementary School is taking part in a new pilot program with materials and curriculum designed by Harvard University to help students improve their reading and writing skills. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Oct. 9

TEACHER PAY: Gov. Ron DeSantis has called on lawmakers to increase Florida’s starting teacher pay to $47,500. But can the Legislature set salaries? State law gives that power to school boards, as part of the constitutionally protected collective bargaining right. Still, the Polk County School Board is urging lawmakers to put funding toward raises rather than bonuses, the Ledger reports. The need is clear, many say. Another analysis puts Florida’s teacher pay near the bottom nationally, Miami Today reports.

READING LESSONS: A consultant finds Hillsborough County schools need better materials to help boost student reading skills, particularly among minority children.

SCHOOL ZONES: A proposal to reassign hundreds of Pasco County children to different schools receives minimal reaction from parents, many of whom say they’ll focus on trying to minimize the effects of the change. • The Manatee County school district considers redrawing its attendance zones to minimize the time students spend on buses, the Herald-Tribune reports. Officials say the plan would not lessen diversity on the campuses.

CONSTRUCTION FUNDS: The Hernando County School Board calls for an increase in school impact fees placed on new home construction. County commissioners aren’t so sure they want to approve the hike.

CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Hillsborough County School Board member Cindy Stuart announces her reelection bid. • Marcus Chambers, appointed Okaloosa County superintendent by Gov. DeSantis after the incumbent was removed, prepares to seek election to the post, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports. • Richard Shirley, Sumter County’s school superintendent since 1996, will seek another term, the Villages News reports.

SUPERINTENDENT SCANDAL: The Florida Education Practices Commission rejects a proposed settlement for Manatee County superintendent Cynthia Saunders, accused of inflating graduation rates by improperly reassigning students to home education, the Bradenton Herald reports. The commission fond the offer too light. Saunders predicted she will eventually be exonerated of the allegations, the Herald-Tribune reports.

LGBTQ ISSUES: The Orange County school district declares October to be LGBTQ+ awareness month for the first time, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Advocates cheer the move, a first in central Florida, as a way to help gay and transgender students feel more welcome in school.

NO JOKE: The Miami-Dade County school district reminds parents and students that making threats of violence against schools carries severe legal consequences, even if just joking around, WBFS reports.

HELPING HAND: Southwest Florida students with special needs find supportive peers in school through the Best Buddies program, WINK reports.

ON THE BUS: School districts in Duval and several other urban counties will be able to purchase electric and alternative-fuel buses under a state plan using money from the VW emissions scandal, WJXT reports. • Alachua County parents complain about consistently late school buses after classes end, the Gainesville Sun reports. • The St. Johns County school district increases pay for bus drivers in training as a way to attract more people to the job, the St. Augustine Record reports.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: The Lake County School Board will consider adopting a policy allowing parents to administer medical marijuana to their children in designated school spaces, the Daily Commercial reports.

TAKE A BREAK: State Rep. Susan Valdes files legislation to allow students to claim one ‘mental health day’ break per semester, Florida Politics reports.

STUDENT THERAPY: A Brevard County family is fighting the school district after its nonverbal child, who is on the autism spectrum, is denied access to privately paid therapy in his classroom, WFTV reports.

ELECTED VS. APPOINTED: The Jacksonville City Council delays action on a proposed local bill to convert the Duval County schools superintendent job to an elected post, Florida Politics reports.

MARKETING MESSAGE: A consultant tells the Leon County school district it needs a new branding initiative to improve its identity, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup


  1. The Pinellas School Board recognized James Krull as the district's bus Driver of the Year at its meeting Tuesday. From left are board members Bill Dudley, Eileen Long, Carol Cook, Rene Flowers, Krull, and board members Nicole Carr, Joanne Lentino and Lisa Cane. Pinellas County Schools
    News and notes about K-12 schools and colleges in Pinellas County.
  2. In this image from a telecast by The Florida Channel, Florida education commissioner Richard Corcoran speaks to a Gainesville crowd that came to discuss revisions to the state's education standards this past week. “We’re going to end up with the world’s best standards,” Corcoran said. The Florida Channel
    The effort, ordered by Gov. Ron DeSantis, aims to transform the way students learn in public schools. A “listening session” is set for Tampa’s Jefferson High.
  3. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times  Florida Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr., R- Hialeah; Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, watch the passage of the school voucher bill Tuesday in the Florida House.
    The new program, designed to eliminate waiting lists for tax credit scholarships, is likely to be challenged in court.
  4. A research group has raised concerns that Florida's plan to track student social media usage and collect other data will compromise children's privacy.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  5. Sigfredo Garcia rubs his eyes as he prepares to hear the closing arguments on Thursday in his trial on charges he killed Florida State University law professor Daniel Markel in 2014. The case went to the jury later in the day, and they will resume deliberations Friday. Tallahassee Democrat
    Florida State University law professor Daniel Markel was killed in 2014. Prosecutors blame his ex-wife, but only the hitman and his girlfriend stand trial.
  6. Gov. Ron DeSantis greets local officials at Dunedin High School on Oct. 7, 2019, part of a swing around the state to announce his plan to boost starting teacher pay in Florida to $47,500. MEGAN REEVES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Veteran teachers aren’t included. The governor can’t set teacher salaries. And a host of other concerns.
  7. Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is scheduled to lead a listening session on the state's education standards review. CHRIS URSO  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Watch the discussion on the Florida Channel.
  8. Pinellas Sheriff's trainers line the back of the room as more than 100 school security officers, or "guardians,"  began training.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  9. At a bargaining session in late August, Hillsborough Schools Employee Relations Manager Mark West trades contract proposals with officers from the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association. MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times staff
    The higher starting salary of $40,000 falls short of the $47,500 proposed by the governor.
  10. Pasco County School Board member Colleen Beaudoin [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times] JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |
    Beaudoin has been an outspoken board member on issues ranging from teaching time to transgender student rights.