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Jessica Bakeman

Jessica Bakeman reports on K-12 and higher education for WLRN, south Florida's NPR affiliate. While new to Miami and public radio, Jessica is a seasoned journalist who has covered education policymaking and politics in three state capitals: Jackson, Miss.; Albany, N.Y.; and, most recently, Tallahassee.

Jessica first moved to the Sunshine State in 2015 to help launch POLITICO Florida as part of the company’s national expansion. She is the immediate past president of the Capitol Press Club of Florida, a nonprofit organization that raises money for college scholarships benefiting journalism students.

Jessica was an original member of POLITICO New York’s Albany bureau. Also in the Empire State, Jessica covered politics for The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. As part of Gannett’s three-person Albany bureau, she won the New York Publishers Association award for distinguished state government coverage in 2013 and 2014. Jessica twice chaired a planning committee for the Albany press corps’ annual political satire show, the oldest of its kind in the country.

She started her career at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson. There she won the Louisiana/Mississippi Associated Press Managing Editors’ 2013 first place award for continuing coverage of former Gov. Haley Barbour’s decision to pardon more than 200 felons as he left office.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and English literature from SUNY Plattsburgh, a public liberal arts college in northeastern New York. She (proudly) hails from Rochester, N.Y.

End Common Core. Pay new teachers $50,000 a year.

These education platforms are likely to be politically effective for the major party gubernatorial candidates — Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum, respectively. But actually implementing them would be more complicated than voters might glean from candidates' stump speeches.

State lawmakers are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the state's long-term financial outlook. Also notable is what's not on the agenda.

Gov. Rick Scott recently asked legislative leaders to give school districts another shot at money some of them rejected because they didn't want to arm school staff. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission — chaired by House and Senate leaders — won't consider his proposal.

When William Olson had a dog next to him in class, he got through the school day. When he didn't, he often went home early.

"Just knowing it's there, that I can pet it — it helps me remember that I'm at school and I'm safe," he said one July afternoon, as we sat with his mom in the living room of their Parkland home.

Gov. Rick Scott is asking state lawmakers to redirect most of the money they allocated for arming and training school staff, since many districts didn’t want to use it.

The Legislature included $67 million in this year’s state budget for the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, which would allow for trained armed guards at schools. Named for a victim of the shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School, the provision was the most controversial aspect of a larger, $400 million package passed quickly in response to the Feb. 14 massacre.

After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, English teacher Sarah Lerner was displaced from her classroom. Now she’s going back.

Several current and former students and their parents describe Miami Country Day School as a place where white children mock and dehumanize their black peers and the adults in charge do little to stop it.

Broward County schools Superintendent Robert Runcie on Wednesday showed off a new system of fences and locked doors at Miramar High School — an example of the "single point of entry" standard that will eventually be in place at all schools in the county.

Here's how it works: During arrival and dismissal times on school days, there will be three or four doors students can use to enter or exit. But during school hours, several fences will funnel visitors to only one entrance. The door will be locked, and there will be police or security staff posted there.

A state investigative panel plans to interview officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation about why they failed to act on a tip that could have prevented the Parkland shooting.

The last time the federal government asked about citizenship status on the U.S. census was 1950. Now federal officials plan to do it again in 2020.

Broward County teachers want their retirement money out of companies that make guns.

Parents of kids who attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School lined up on Thursday night to hug Cobra, Black Cat and Yankee.

The three volunteers are with the Guardian Angels, a non-profit network that organizes safety patrols in communities around the country. Their red berets and small tent on the sidewalk in front of the Parkland high school have been a steady presence since the shooting on Feb. 14.

“These guys were standing in front of the school every day, in the heat, with rain … protecting our kids,” said Jon Faber, whose two sons attend Stoneman Douglas.

Fifty years ago, Florida was home to the first statewide teacher strike in the nation. The protest led state leaders to guarantee public employees’ right to collective bargaining in the constitution and state law, making Florida a leader in the South.

JESSICA BAKEMAN / WLRN

On the afternoon of Feb. 14, Fawn Patterson got a call from her daughter telling her to come to the hospital.


Amanda Ray Carrillo was pregnant with her fifth child, and she was bleeding. She’d been admitted to Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale the day before but hadn’t gotten answers yet about what was wrong. She wanted her mom to be there when the doctor came to explain.

Superintendent Robert Runcie opened a community forum on Monday night by saying he’s not a liar.

“There are some out there that are concerned that somehow we misled the public. Some will say we lied. I mean, I’ve heard all of it,” Runcie said during a “workshop” on a disciplinary program known as PROMISE.

Broward school district officials admitted Sunday that the confessed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gunman was assigned to a controversial disciplinary program, after the superintendent repeatedly claimed Nikolas Cruz had "no connection" to the alternative punishment designed to limit on-campus arrests.

Dozens of students, parents and school staff members lined up at two microphones in the auditorium at Plantation High School on Wednesday night to share their fear and anger with Broward school district leaders.

The Broward School Board unanimously voted Tuesday to reject the state’s new program to arm school staff in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shootings.

The negotiation and passage of Senate Bill 7026 — a 100-page gun control and school safety measure that is awaiting Gov. Rick Scott's signature —  prompted some Democratic lawmakers to question whether LGBT and black victims of gun violence matter less to Republican leaders than white, affluent ones.

The white Republican leaders of the Florida Legislature believe giving guns to school staff members will help protect students.

But black members in both houses warn it could endanger them — particularly children of color, who are often disciplined more harshly than their white peers in school.

When Sarah Lerner walked into her classroom on Friday, she felt like time had stood still.

Abandoned quizzes sat on her students’ desks. Their backpacks were scattered around the room and cell phones plugged into electrical outlets. The date was still on the board: Feb. 14.

It was the first time she’d been to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School since that day, when she sheltered 15 students from a shooter who opened fire in the hallways. Seventeen people died, and more than a dozen others were injured.

Not even two weeks after a shooter fired more than 100 bullets in the hallways of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, students and staff are returning to the campus fearful of emotional triggers that could force them to relive the traumatic event.

A group of elementary school students opened Broward County’s first school board meeting since last week’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting by reciting the pledge of allegiance and singing the national anthem.

The kids were in their classroom at Griffin Elementary School in Cooper City, but they appeared via livestream video. They weren’t there to see how their performance was received, how poignant it seemed, as their community mourned 14 other children and three staff members who were slaughtered in the Valentine’s Day mass shooting.

State lawmakers are facing renewed pressure to pass gun control legislation following last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland — and the Legislature is only scheduled to be in session for another two and a half weeks after it returns from the Presidents' Day recess.

State Sen. Gary Farmer, who represents nearby Fort Lauderdale, is pushing the Legislature’s Republican leadership to hear bills he and his Democratic colleagues have introduced in past years.

Shock was turning to anger and grief for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and their families on Thursday morning as they sought grief counselors’ help in processing the shooting that left 17 dead at the Parkland school the day before.

Read more: Resources Available For Grief Counseling For Those Affected By Shooting

A budget proposal that is advancing in the Legislature would make next year's funding for Florida's public schools contingent on the passage of Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran's chief education priority: a new voucher directing taxpayer dollars to private schools.

Democrats in the state House of Representatives are employing a more aggressive strategy in fighting Republicans’ education priorities this year after they felt like they got burned by the chamber’s GOP leadership during the last legislative session.

State higher education officials directed Florida's public universities to hire more mental health counselors to meet growing student demand — and asked a Florida Atlantic University administrator to help them keep track of the progress.

The Florida Senate wants to see state universities get another funding boost in the next state budget, while leaders of the state House of Representatives say public higher education has been “overfunded” and is ripe for cuts.

For Geancarlo Rodriguez, Hurricane Irma was a little bit like summer.

Rodriguez has worked as a clerical assistant at Hialeah Gardens High School for nine years, answering phones and greeting visitors for about 25 hours a week. But when his school closed for seven days because of the September storm, he didn’t get paid.

A national teachers union is targeting two South Florida Republicans in an ad campaign pressuring members of Congress to force a vote on a replacement for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

President Donald Trump has announced he’s ending the Obama-era immigration program that allows immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to obtain work permits and reside here without fear of deportation. Trump has challenged Congress to come up with a different solution for about 800,000 so-called Dreamers.

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