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Florida education news: Standards, mergers and life after that school threat arrest

A roundup of stories from around the state.

SIMPLY THE ‘BEST’: Florida education department leaders said they’d create the nation’s best K-12 academic standards to replace the ones they contended were too closely tied to the Common Core. The Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (BEST) won unanimous approval from the State Board of Education, amid praise for the changes and the process to get there. Still, questions of whether the state truly eradicated the CCSS lingered. More from Florida Phoenix, Orlando Sentinel.

COLLEGE MERGER: Despite fervent opposition and heavy criticism, a bill to merge two of Florida’s smallest universities into two of the largest advanced out of its first Florida House committee. Desired changes to the state’s scholarship program appeared to do the trick for otherwise opposed lawmakers — at least for now. More from GateHouse.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: The Florida Board of Education approves requested turnaround plan amendments for four Tampa Bay area schools. The move gives Lakewood Elementary in Pinellas and Foster and Oak Park elementaries in Hillsborough an extra year under their current initiatives to show improvement. For Pasco’s Hudson Elementary, it means closure at the end of the spring.

WHAT’S IN A NAME? The Pasco County School Board gets dozens of recommendations for the name of its next new high school. The one with the most submitted support is for a former high school student who died of a rare disease in 2014.

SUICIDE WATCH: The Hernando County school district unveils new methods to help students who have suicidal thoughts.

FLEX TIME: Osceola County school district leaders are asking students what they think about a proposal that would allow them to begin classes as late as 3 p.m., WFTV reports.

RED INK: Citrus County school district budget planners worry that the Legislature’s proposed education spending plan includes small changes to retirement benefits that could lead to big shortfalls, the Citrus County Chronicle reports.

SOLAR SCHOOLS: The Manatee County School Board offers its support for a bill that would make it easier to install and use solar energy in new school construction, the Herald-Tribune reports.

AFTER THE THREAT: Some southwest Florida parents say their children have worse behavior problems as a result of their punishment for making school threats, which is now considered a felony, WINK reports.

SCHOLARSHIP BATTLE: Two Democrats in the Florida House back off their plans to amend the education budget with language banning discrimination in the state’s tax credit scholarship program, saying a negotiated settlement might be in the works, Florida Politics reports.

CAMPAIGN TRAIL: A retiring Manatee County school principal files papers to run for School Board. The controversial incumbent has not yet announced whether he will seek reelection, the Bradenton Herald reports.

WHO’S IN CHARGE? The Clay County School Board takes steps to appoint an interim superintendent after Addison Davis officially resigns, Clay Today reports. Board members make clear they understand the governor has the authority to name the district chief executive, which remains an elected post. But they want to be sure someone is running the show until the governor acts. Gov. Ron DeSantis says he anticipates naming a successor by the end of February, WJXT reports.

GETTING THERE: The Martin County school district will consider eliminating courtesy bus routes for students who live closer than 2 miles from school, TC Palm reports.

SCHOOL DAYS: The Miami-Dade School Board approves a new 2020-21 student calendar with a later start date than initially proposed, the Miami Herald reports. The district would begin classes two weeks later than most others in the state.

TAX TIME? The Lee County School Board ponders asking voters to approve a property tax rate increase to help pay teacher raises, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

TODAY: Senate Education Appropriations, 10 a.m. • House floor, 1:30 p.m. (On third reading: HB 5001 Appropriations, HB 5003 Appropriations implementing, HB 5101 Education Appropriations) • Senate floor, 2 p.m. (On third reading: SB 2500 Appropriations, SB 2502 Appropriations implementing)

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup

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