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Florida education news: Teacher pay, college plans and school panic alarms

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Teachers and supporters gather Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, during the Florida Education Association's "Take on Tallahassee" rally at the Old Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sears) [PHIL SEARS | AP]

RED FOR ED: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis promised 2020 would be the “year of the teacher.” On Monday, thousands of teachers filled the streets of Tallahassee to have their say on what that year should entail — better pay, greater respect, more independence to act as professionals. The governor’s plan gets “an A for effort” but “we have a bunch of teachers out here who can help you with a lesson plan,” said Florida Education Association president Fedrick Ingram to loud cheers. The message also resonated in Polk County, where hundreds of teachers who couldn’t make in to the capital held their own event, the Ledger reports. More from Florida Today, the Ledger, Florida Times-Union, Space Coast Daily. Plus, a look at some of the creative rally signs from the Tallahassee Democrat.

SPEAKING OF TEACHER PAY: Activities Monday showed just how complicated a task it will be to reach the goal of higher salaries. Senate Democrats joined the debate with their own idea, to spread more evenly across all education employees the $900 million DeSantis wants to spend on teacher salaries and bonuses. The Senate Education Committee meanwhile advanced legislation that had another approach, including allowing districts that already meet a set minimum wage to spend their allocation on other things. “We know this is probably going to be an issue that goes all the way to the end of session,” committee chairman Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. said. • Manatee County teachers say they want the state’s controversial bonus programs to end, the Herald-Tribune reports.

CHEAPER COLLEGE: Access to Florida’s colleges and universities also made the agenda as lawmakers prepared for their 2020 session. Gov. DeSantis held a press conference to announce a cut to the price of the state’s prepaid tuition program, including a refund to families that bought plans dating back to 2008. Total estimated savings: $1.3 billion. More from the Miami Herald.

SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH STORIES: As the Hillsborough County School Board nears its choice of the next district leader, unflattering tales about some of the candidates have begun to emerge. The latest focuses on hopeful Addison Davis, currently Clay County superintendent, who had an unpleasant run-in with a constituent at a softball game. Details courtesy of the police report. • The Martin County School Board is looking for a leader, too. It has set its time line to get it done, TC Palm reports.

SCHOOL SECURITY: Florida lawmakers continue to seek ways to improve the safety of students and staff in schools. On Monday, the Senate began moving bills with that goal in mind, including a measure to require panic alarms in all public schools, the News Service of Florida reports. Florida is the latest of several states to consider such a mandate, The Crime Report reports. More from Florida Politics.

TOP TEACHERS: The Charlotte County school district names its 2020 teacher of the year, the Charlotte Sun reports.

PAYING THE REF: The Florida High School Athletics Association approves higher wages for game officials. Some schools are saying they can’t afford the increase, Florida Today reports. Higher ticket prices might follow, CBS 12 reports.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: With concerns lingering over violating federal law, the Leon County school district continues to delay adopting a medical marijuana usage policy as required by state law, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

PARENT INVOLVEMENT: Lake County’s Beverly Shores Elementary seeks to revive its parent-teacher organization, which disbanded three years ago, the Daily Commercial reports.

MILITARY TRAINING: The Marion County school district looks for a U.S. Army instructor to teach the students displaced by the mid-year closure of the county’s military-themed charter high school, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

SCHOOL DAYS: Miami-Dade County school leaders look to balance science with community needs as they consider starting classes later each day, WLRN reports.

REZONING: The Lee County School Board will consider spending $280,000 to hire a districting expert to help redraw attendance boundaries, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

BAD ACTS: A Lake County school district technology specialist is accused of an inappropriate relationship with a student, WFTV reports. • A former Manatee County charter school teacher heads to trial on child pornography charges. The situation contributed to the school’s eventual closure by the school district, the Bradenton Herald reports.

TODAY: House Higher Education Appropriations, 1:30 p.m. • House PreK-12 Appropriations, 1:30 p.m.

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup