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Florida education news: Graduation rates, teacher pay and a move to close a school

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Graduates enjoy fireworks after a Clearwater High School commencement ceremony at Bright House Field.
Graduates enjoy fireworks after a Clearwater High School commencement ceremony at Bright House Field.
Published Jan. 10, 2020

GRADUATION RATE RISES: The percentage of Florida high school students earning a high school diploma continued to rise in 2019, this time by a slight 0.8 percentage points to 86.9 percent. It’s a record high for the state, but comes with some skepticism among some observers who also note that the state’s average SAT score dropped and is below the national average. In Manatee County, questions remain after the superintendent was accused of artificially increasing the district’s past rate, the Bradenton Herald reports. And despite the statewide improvement, some local districts still experienced declines, TC Palm reports. More from the Palm Beach Post, Naples Daily News, Miami Herald

SUPERINTENDENT SEARCHES: The candidate pool for Hillsborough County’s superintendency shrinks by one, as deputy superintendent Chris Farkas drops his bid. Farkas was a controversial addition to the list, with three School Board members clearly opposed to him or any other in-house candidate. The other local aspirant, chief of schools Harrison Peters, continued to rack up high profile endorsements, with a fifth state lawmaker urging the board to make him Hillsborough’s first superintendent of color. Want to meet all the remaining hopefuls? They will appear at a public meet and greet on Jan. 16. • Marion County will hold public forums as it prepares to look for its first ever appointed superintendent, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

CLOSING A DISTRICT SCHOOL: It doesn’t happen often that a school district shuts down a neighborhood school, especially a full one. The Pasco County School Board is considering doing so to persistently low-performing Hudson Elementary. And members have been baffled by the dearth of feedback from the community.

LOW PAY = TEACHER SHORTAGE? The University of West Florida’s education dean blames the shrinking number of applicants for teaching jobs on the low salaries paid across the state, WEAR reports. • State House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee files a bill to create a three-year pay increase plan. But don’t look for it to have legs, as the GOP leadership quickly showed no appetite for a proposal more expensive than the governor’s nearly $1 billion raise recommendation, Florida Politics reports.

CONSTRUCTION FUNDS: An Okaloosa County business group wants to help the school district increase the local sales tax to support needed school improvements, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports. A similar effort fell flat three years ago as the superintendent at the time was embroiled in several investigations that led to her ouster. • After initially opposing the idea, the Santa Rosa County Commission approves school impact fees on new construction, WEAR reports. More from the Pensacola News-Journal.

PACKING HEAT: A state senator seeks to change the law that bars anyone besides law enforcement from carrying guns into government meetings. His bill would allow elected officials, including school board members, to be armed, the News Service of Florida reports.

DON’T VAPE: That’s the message that Polk County leaders including superintendent Jacqueline Byrd are sending to teens in a new video public service announcement, the Ledger reports.

CHANGING CHOICES: The Lee County school district considers changes to its elementary school choice program amid parent concerns about long bus rides, WINK reports. The idea would make it easier for families to get choices closer to home.

IN COURT: Lawyers for the Broward County school district ask for a partial dismissal of the case brought against the system by families of victims in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School deadly shooting, CBS4 reports.

TOP TEACHERS: The Lake County school district announces its three teacher of the year finalists, the Daily Commercial reports.

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup


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