Local News

School board takes issues to Tallahassee

SEBRING - Education funding, the new assessment and a controversial bill were among the issues two Highlands County School Board Members discussed with area legislators recently in Tallahassee.

School Board Members Donna Howerton and Jan Shoop met last week with state senators Denise Grimsley and Bill Galvano, and state representatives Cary Pigman and Ben Albritton.

Howerton said they asked the legislators to maintain school funding and also discussed concerns about the new assessment test that will replace the FCAT next year.

Superintendent Wally Cox believed that the test had to be created, Howerton said, but according to Galvano the assessment company, American Institutes for Research, has already developed the assessment, which is being used in another state.

"That made me feel a little bit better; I would like another year [before the change to a new assessment], but they said it will be given next year," she said. But districts won't be penalized. The scores and school grades will take effect the second year of the new assessment in 2016.

Howerton informed the legislators of the district's plans to put a half-cent sales tax on the November ballot because of funding cuts in recent years.

She also shared her concerns about Senate Bill 968, which would make it legal for superintendents and principals to designate certain employees and volunteers to carry a loaded firearm in school.

Howerton agrees with The Florida School Boards Association's opposition of the bill.

The FSBA states the possession of weapons or firearms on school grounds should be limited to highly trained law enforcement professionals and school security. Classroom teachers and school administrators are neither trained nor qualified to serve as professional law enforcement officers or school security,

Howerton said, "Our teachers are in the classroom to nurture our students ... the guns should remain with law enforcement."

Shoop said funding and specifically funding for technology were two of the key issues of the Tallahassee trip.

They also reviewed the House and Senate budgets, which were released last week.

Both proposals call for a boost in per-student funding for public schools by more than Gov. Rick Scott's plan, but less than is needed to get back to the all-time high before the economic recession. The Senate plan calls for an increase of nearly 2.6 percent, while the House would increase the amount by almost 3.1 percent.


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