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Florida education news: Book challenges, superintendent campaigns and the school choice game

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Cecelia Solomon of Brooksville, a media specialist at West Hernando Middle School, volunteers with inventory in the media center at Eastside Elementary School. One Florida organization is looking to control what types of books may be provided in public schools.
Cecelia Solomon of Brooksville, a media specialist at West Hernando Middle School, volunteers with inventory in the media center at Eastside Elementary School. One Florida organization is looking to control what types of books may be provided in public schools.
Published Jan. 9, 2020

ABOUT THOSE BOOKS WITH SEX SCENES: The conservative Florida Citizens Alliance is looking to do more than just get the materials removed from schools. Citing the state’s obscenity law, the group has called on the Attorney General’s Office to prosecute schools that make the books available to minor students.

SCHOOL CHOICE CHANCES: A year ago, one in four Pinellas County families walked away from the school district’s choice lottery disappointed. There are some strategies they’re looking to this year to get better results this time around. The application window opened Monday.

CAMPAIGNING FOR SUPERINTENDENT: Yes, the Hillsborough County School Board appoints its chief executive. But as its search enters the semifinalist stage, some of the applicants and their supporters are actively wooing board members and the community in hopes of winning the job.

PAY RAISES: Pasco County school-related employees gave 98 percent support to their new contract, which includes 3.25 percent raises. Will the teachers’ bargaining unit reach that level? Their ratification vote comes this month, with higher pay slated to arrive in February paychecks if approved.

A LITTLE EXTRA SOMETHING: State revenue estimators say Florida’s two education trust funds will have added money available for the coming fiscal year, Florida Politics reports. The state PECO fund for school construction also is poised for a boost, Florida Politics reports.

MENDING FENCES? The Sarasota County School Board has a long to-do list ahead, including a superintendent selection and improving relations with the teachers union. The biggest potential stumbling block is the board itself, which has been starkly divided in recent years and could see a change with two seats up for election, the Herald-Tribune reports.

EIGHT IS ENOUGH: U.S. Term Limits applauds Florida lawmakers for refiling legislation to create school board term limits, Space Coast Daily reports. One proposal would cap consecutive years of service at eight, while another would allow for 12 years, WFSU reports.

WHO’S THE MAN? Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is driving the education agenda as lawmakers return to Tallahassee for their 2020 session, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

ON THE HOOK: Former Okaloosa County schools superintendent MaryBeth Jackson paid nearly $300,000 to fight her removal from office by Gov. DeSantis. Then she sought reimbursement from the school district. An Okaloosa County judge has now ruled she’s not entitled, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

SCHOOL SECURITY: After the Parkland school shooting in 2018, Florida lawmakers required that all schools have armed security. Several Broward County officials including the district superintendent are calling on the Legislature to pay the full cost of the mandate, Florida Politics reports.

ELECTED VS. APPOINTED: A north Florida lawmaker has proposed a bill that would let Duval County have an elected schools superintendent. Duval’s School Board chairman says that’s a bad idea, WJXT reports.

CHARTER EXPANSION: Texas-based IDEA charter schools announces plans to open four schools in Duval County, the Florida Times-Union reports. State officials have pressured the district to bring the charter group to communities with low-performing schools.

EARLY LEARNING: The Rise and Shine program partners with a Manatee County charter school to help prepare youngsters and their families for school, the Bradenton Herald reports.

SHRINKING ENROLLMENT: Volusia County district schools have 300 fewer students this year, owing to a combination of factors such as charters, home schooling and virtual education, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

HURRICANE AFTERMATH: Lee County schools continue to wait for $26 million in reimbursements for repairs following Hurricane Irma, which blew through in 2017, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

TOP TEACHERS: Five teachers are named finalists for St. Johns County teacher of the year, the St. Augustine Record reports. • Five Marion County teachers are finalists for their district’s Golden Apple, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

SUE YOU: A software firm responsible for upgrades to the Manatee County school district’s financial and operational systems sues the district, saying it is owed $700,000, the Herald-Tribune reports. Implementation of the system went more than $15 million over budget and cost some high-ranking district officials their jobs.

MEDIATION: The Leon County school district faced major problems with its bus routing at the start of the year. It’s now entered mediation with its tracking software provider to avoid a lawsuit, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

BAD ACTS: A Flagler County middle school teacher is arrested after allegations he picked a student up from a chair and dragged the student out of a classroom, WTSP reports.

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup


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