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Florida education news: Teacher bonuses, violent students and teens’ testing bill

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Tony Pirotta, right, meets with his Armwood High Ought to be a Law student club and state Rep. Susan Valdes to talk strategy for the group's latest legislative proposal. They presented their bill to state senators on Dec. 9. [JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer]
Tony Pirotta, right, meets with his Armwood High Ought to be a Law student club and state Rep. Susan Valdes to talk strategy for the group's latest legislative proposal. They presented their bill to state senators on Dec. 9. [JEFFREY SOLOCHEK | Times Staff Writer]
Published Dec. 10, 2019

TEACHER INCENTIVES: The Florida Senate takes its first steps toward repealing the state’s controversial ‘Best and Brightest’ teacher bonus, which has been criticized by teachers since its inception. Many educators have suggested the state return to rewarding those who earn National Board certification. Numbers in that program have dwindled after lawmakers stopped funding added pay for earning the recognition.

BAKER ACT: The numbers of Florida students deemed a threat to themselves or others and involuntarily removed from school under the Baker Act has increased dramatically over the past five years. The 1971 law isn’t being used as originally envisioned.

THERE OUGHT TO BE A LAW: Three students from Hillsborough County’s Armwood High School lobby lawmakers to ease testing requirements for teens still learning English. Their proposal wins unanimous approval at its first Senate stop.

FREE LUNCH PROGRAM: Hundreds of Pasco County school district employees are found to have misstated their income levels to qualify for federally funded free lunches. One of them was the person assigned to verify eligibility for the program.

STUDENT VIOLENCE: A push for ‘inclusion’ allows potentially violent students with disabilities to attend regular classes even though their districts don’t have the resources to provide the supports they need, the Sun-Sentinel reports. Many school employees have been injured.

COSTLY COSTUME: A Broward County schools purchasing administrator could be demoted, with a $44,000 pay cut, after she comes to work for Halloween dressed as a flasher, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

SCHOOL BELLS: Some Palm Beach County parents want their school district to consider starting classes later in the day, but have run into roadblocks, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

LEGAL BILLS: The Sarasota County school district is preparing a legal strategy in the wake of a determination that more than 100 students were wrongly placed in a special education program, the Herald-Tribune reports.

IN COURT: A Brevard County family sues the school district, saying it failed to protect their child from sexual abuse in school, Florida Today reports. • The Seminole County school district is considering whether to join a growing lawsuit against e-cigarette makers, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: A new Okaloosa County charter school, the first high school ever in the city of Destin, begins accepting student applications, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

FUNDING: A House committee gives initial approval to three dozen education appropriations bills, Florida Politics reports.

SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH: The Martin County School Board discusses qualifications for its first appointed superintendent, TC Palm reports.

LEGAL COUNSEL: Marion County’s School Board attorney will quit two weeks earlier than expected to take a similar post in Brevard County, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

AWARDS: The Lee County school district announces its principal and assistant principal of the year, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

BAD ACTS: A Collier County teaching assistant is arrested and fired amid allegations of having sex with students and providing them drugs, the Naples Daily News reports.

TODAY: House Education, 9:30 a.m. • House Higher Education Appropriations, 12:30 p.m. • Gov. Ron DeSantis makes an education policy announcement in Naples at 1 p.m.

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup


  1. Florida lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at improving the outcomes of the state's prekindergarten program. Some critics suggest the proposed solutions, such as added testing, go too far.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  2. Victoria Arriaga, left, does a letter-matching activity during Priscilla Perez's pre-kindergarten class at West Tampa Elementary School. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
    The 148-page bill would lead to a new ‘grading’ system for prekindergarten providers, so parents can better choose programs for their toddlers.
  3. Pasco County's Fivay High School has added new security measures to keep the peace on campus. [JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times]
    Parents want to see more control of the campus.
  4. Hillsborough County Chief of Schools Harrison Peters, speaking with students here at Potter Elementary School, is a the choice to become superintendent of Providence, R.I., schools. [Times file (2016)]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  5. Harrison Peters, Chief of Schools in Hillsborough County, has landed a job as superintendent in Providence, R.I. [HCPS  |  Handout]
    Peters will become a turnaround superintendent at a troubled district.
  6. Gov. Ron DeSantis. [STEVE CANNON  |  AP]
    Florida students will read more classical literature and learn math differently, according to summary documents.
  7. Janessa Horsford, 5, says goodbye to her parents, Julytsa and Nigel Horsford, on her first day of kindergarten at Lake Magdalene Elementary School.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  8. Miranda Harwood, a fourth-grade math teacher at Brooker Elementary School, is the Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year. [Hillsborough County Public Schools]
    The self-described “data queen” uses humor to keep her students engaged.
  9. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. [Times]
    Five girls and one boy will face charges after lunchtime fights disrupted the Pasco County campus, according to the school district.
  10. State Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, presents legislation to create a new chapter of Florida law dedicated to parents' rights when dealing with government and other agencies, during a committee meeting Jan. 23, 2020. [The Florida Channel]
    Parents have been marginalized by bureaucracy, and need to be empowered in law, sponsor Rep. Erin Grall says.