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Florida teachers to split $500 million pay raise. Plus free meals, computers and other education news

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Teachers rallied for better pay and public education funding just before the 2020 legislative session in Tallahassee. Lawmakers settled on a pay package in the waning hours of the final day.
Teachers rallied for better pay and public education funding just before the 2020 legislative session in Tallahassee. Lawmakers settled on a pay package in the waning hours of the final day. [ PHIL SEARS | AP ]
Published Mar. 16, 2020|Updated Mar. 16, 2020

So, how much is in that raise package? As most Floridians raided stores for bleach and bread, state lawmakers concluded their budget negotiations just after 7 p.m. Sunday. They settled on $500 million for teacher pay increases, to be split up as described in HB 641. Many lawmakers and educators viewed this as a start, not the end of the road. “We recognize this is an important down payment in what must be a multi-year investment, and it was accomplished while facing significant challenges,” FEA president Fed Ingram said. Here’s a bit more background on the deal from Florida Politics.

What do you think about this plan? We’d like to talk about the agreement with you. Please email jsolochek@tampabay.com if you’re willing to share your opinion.

Meals on wheels: More than half of students in many Florida school districts rely on school for their daily meals. They’ll be able to continue to do so in the middle of the virus-extended closures. Most are not serving during planned vacation, figuring families already had things worked out. But afterward, they’re on it. The Pinellas school district announced its schedule late Sunday, as did several others across the state. Watch for more soon. The state Department of Agriculture created a searchable website to find the serving location nearest you.

Do you have a computer? The Hillsborough County school district was among the latest to contact families, seeking information about whether they have access to devices and the internet in case classes need to be offered remotely. The robocall survey went out midday Sunday. All you needed to do was press 1 for yes, 2 for no. Some districts, such as Miami-Dade County, already have begun passing out laptops to kids that will need them, as WTVJ reports.

Want more coronavirus news? The Tampa Bay Times is providing all its latest stories about the pandemic online free of charge as a public service. You always could subscribe, too.

And now there are seven. The Florida Board of Education operated with a vacant seat for more than a year, after Gov. Ron DeSantis withdrew the nomination of Parkland parent Andrew Pollack. DeSantis’ replacement choice, Parkland parent Ryan Petty, won Senate confirmation in the final day of session. But not without some fierce criticism.

School safety matters. So much so, in fact, that the group Stand With Parkland is calling for a special session of the Legislature, so lawmakers can try again to pass amendments to the state’s school security laws, Florida Politics reports. The House and Senate failed to agree on the bill before them this year.

What else happened in the 2020 session? How’d that education bill you were watching fare? We have reviewed the fate of the big ones for you. Let me know if we missed one.

Stay safe. This isn’t news, just us talking. Social distancing isn’t necessarily easy or fun. But who knows? Maybe it will work. This Washington Post story explains clearly why it’s important. While you’re doing it, we’d like to know what you’re up to — especially as it relates to education, natch. Send us a note if you care to share what you’re doing to stay sane and keep on top of schooling while schools aren’t open. And, of course, wash your hands. (Had to say that.)

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