Budget talk: Legislators are expected to approve the $101.5 billion state budget this afternoon and then adjourn the legislative session. Thursday, senators and representatives made their final preparations for the vote. After the budget is approved, it will go to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to issue some line-item vetoes that will bring the final total closer to $100 billion. The budget was bolstered by about $10 billion of federal coronavirus relief aid, though legislators are putting more than $3 billion of that into reserves. Education is expected to get $22.4 billion, which includes $1,000 bonuses for public school teachers, principals and first responders, $550 million for teacher raises and $200 million to expand school choice, among other things. Florida Politics. The House has signed off on a higher education budget that would not change the funding for Bright Futures scholarships, but would give in-state tuition for high-achieving out-of-state students who have a grandparent living in Florida, shield universities from lawsuits for tuition and fees refunds for the time schools were closed because of the pandemic, and offer a variety of tuition and fee waivers. The bill is now headed to DeSantis’ desk. News Service of Florida.
Police training bill: Senators have approved a bill that would require law enforcement agencies across the state to retrain their officers on the use of force, limit the use of chokeholds and prohibit the arrest of children under the age of 7 for anything other than a forcible offense. The bill is a bipartisan effort that black legislators called a starting point to improving relations between the black community and officers, even as they acknowledged it lacks enforcement and doesn’t go far enough. The measure now heads to Gov. DeSantis, who has not publicly indicated if he favors it. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. Florida Phoenix.
DeSantis to sign transgender bill: Gov. DeSantis said Thursday night that he will sign the bill that contains a provision banning transgender females from playing on women’s high school and college sports teams. “We’re going to protect our girls,” he said at a town hall meeting on Fox News. “I have a 4-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old daughter. They’re very athletic. We want to have opportunities for our girls. They deserve an even playing field.” LGBTQ activists warned that signing the bill will have legal, political and economic consequences. Also included in the bill, which began as a proposal to create more ways for charter schools to be approved, is a year-long delay in the implementation of a policy that would allow college athletes to be paid for the use of their names, images and likenesses. The delay from 2021 to 2022 is being roundly criticized by head coaches and athletes. Florida Politics. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. ESPN. Tampa Bay Times. USA Today Network.
Also in the Legislature: The Senate approved a bill Thursday to prohibit businesses and schools from requiring proof of vaccinations for service, but declined to add an amendment that would have protected people being discriminated against by businesses and schools because they have been vaccinated. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. The tax cut bill approved by the Senate Thursday extends the back-to-school sales tax holiday to 10 days and makes other changes that boost its value from $60 million to $100 million. Because the proposal was amended, it now goes back to the House for another vote. Politico Florida. A bill that would create a “do-not-hire” list of teachers fired for sexual misconduct or other bad behavior passed the Senate on Thursday and is headed to the governor’s desk. Florida Politics. A pilot program focusing on STEM subjects at the Palm View K-8 School in Manatee County is in line to receive $950,000 from the state budget. Florida Politics. A bill that would have asked Hernando County voters whether they wanted to elect superintendents or continue to have them appointed by the school board has been killed. Senate rules say an objection by any member of the county delegation to a local bill removes it from the calendar. In this case, that member was Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, who said the bill lacked a local consensus. Tampa Bay Times.
Around the state: Broward school board members hit a potential snag in the timeline for negotiating a termination settlement with Superintendent Robert Runcie, Hillsborough school Superintendent Addison Davis said he’s optimistic the district has found a way to address its financial crisis and meet the state’s May 12 deadline to file a recovery plan, an Osceola School District task force makes its recommendations for changes in the way school resource officers work in schools, and a survey shows that more than 90 percent of Florida families whose children receive McKay or Gardiner scholarships for children with special needs are somewhat or very satisfied with their child’s educational experience. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Miami-Dade: A tutor at a private Jewish school in Miami Gardens has been arrested and accused of touching two students inappropriately. Yosef Benita, 33, has worked part-time at the Lubavitch Educational Center since 2017. He faces four counts of lewd and lascivious molestation on a child under 12. Miami Herald. WSVN.
Broward: The school board’s intention to negotiate a termination settlement with Superintendent Robert Runcie by the end of next week hit a possible snag Thursday when board members decided not to use attorney Michael Burke to advise board chair Rosalind Osgood during the negotiations because he has done other work for the board. Marylin Batista, a staff attorney for the district, said she would ask other school districts for recommendations, but it could delay the process and the hoped-for vote next Thursday. Runcie, who is charged with perjury and said he would resign, is in line for a severance payment of $333,000 in salary and unused sick time and vacation. General counsel Barbara Myrick, who was indicted for disclosing grand jury proceedings and has also agreed to resign, could get $208,000. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. Associated Press. WLRN. WSVN. WTVJ. A front-desk attendant at Lauderdale Lakes Middle School has been arrested and accused of making bomb threats this week to the school and a nearby high school. Patrick Jean, 29, is charged with threats to discharge a destructive device and written threats to kill or conduct a mass shooting. WPLG. Miami Herald.
Hillsborough: After meeting with state education officials in Tallahassee on Thursday, Superintendent Addison Davis said district officials uncovered “new information” they can use to help put together a financial recovery plan due to the state May 12 and keep the district out of financial receivership. Last week, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran gave the district 20 days to come up with a detailed financial recovery plan or risk having the state step in. The district has a projected $100 million-plus budget deficit and its reserves are projected to fall $80 million short of the minimum required by the state. A special board meeting has been called for next Thursday to discuss the options. Tampa Bay Times.
Orange: The school district has launched a campaign to encourage students to take classes in theater, dance or music. Officials are using videos featuring nationally known celebrities, local artists and students sharing their experiences in the arts to get the attention of students. “Kids listen to social media, and on social media, they listen to each other and people with influence,” said Donald Rupe, who is coordinating the campaign. “We were thinking, ‘Who needs arts classes coming out of COVID and the isolation that was experienced?’ The answer was everybody.” Orlando Sentinel.
Palm Beach: A 4th-grade teacher at Forest Park Elementary School in Boynton Beach has been fired for throwing a cursing student to the ground in February 2020. School district police said Jason Wasloff pushed the victim to the ground for “name-calling” as they returned to their classroom after recess, then put his knee on the boy’s back and lifted his right arm in the air. No criminal charges were filed. Palm Beach Post.
Polk: Bartow High School students are hosting their own prom May 22, and the organizers and city leaders are collaborating to collect donations of dresses, suits and accessories today and Saturday for students who can’t afford them. Lakeland Ledger.
Pinellas: When Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said schools could opt in to receiving school grades this year, he did so at the urging of Pinellas Superintendent Michael Grego, who had Lakewood Elementary School in mind when he suggested it. Lakewood, long one of the state’s lowest-performing schools, has made impressive gains under new leadership despite the pandemic, and preliminary test scores suggest the school will get a C or better. “The COVID slide did not happen in Lakewood Elementary School,” Grego said. Tampa Bay Times.
Osceola: The district’s school resource officer task force issues its report calling for changes in the SRO program after the release of a video of an deputy slamming a female student to the ground at Liberty High School went viral. The task force wants to require SROs to wear body cameras and get more training. It also suggests creating a citizens review board and getting school officials involved in the hiring process. The recommendations now go to the school board. Orlando Sentinel. WFTV.
Manatee: Graduating high school seniors will now receive four tickets for guests to commencement ceremonies, district officials announced Thursday. The limit had been two, but the district negotiated the upward adjustment with LECOM Park, the site of all but one graduation. Bradenton Herald. WWSB.
St. Johns: The school district is focusing on recruiting more minority teachers to better reflect the student diversity, and will hold a minority teacher recruitment fair May 15, where applicants will be interviewed in person and virtually. “The diversity within the district continues to show changes, and we want to keep up with the diversity within our communities,” said Cynthia Williams, the district’s senior director of innovation and equity. “We want to be able to provide students with an opportunity to see people who look like them in their community.” WJXT.
Escambia: The school district is now allowing live performances by students in venues with 50 percent seating capacity. Superintendent Tim Smith made the decision after a campaign by performing arts students, who argued that their activities should be treated no differently than athletes’. WEAR.
Highlands: A paraprofessional at Park Elementary School in Avon Park has been arrested and accused of abusing two pre-K special need students at the school. Highlands County deputies said Cynthia Lee Heiss, 38, forced a packet of jelly into the mouth of one student, and a tissue into the mouth of the other. The students are 3 and 4 years old. She’s accused of felony child abuse and has been placed on administrative leave. WTVT. WFTS.
Hendry: A Hendry County principal is under investigation by deputies at the Department of Children and Families after paddling a 6-year-old student in front of her mother. A video taken by the mother shows Central Elementary School principal Melissa Carter paddling the student. The school district does not permit corporal punishment. WINK.
Monroe: All county high schools will hold in-person graduation in late May. Limited seating is available, and masks and social distancing are required. Key West Citizen.
Colleges and universities: Florida Gulf Coast University is launching the Soaring Eagle Academy in August to help teach students with intellectual disabilities how to live an independent life. It will be one of 298 schools in the nation, and will consist of 39 credit hours over six semesters. WINK.
Scholarship satisfaction: More than 90 percent of Florida families whose children receive McKay or Gardiner scholarships for children with special needs are somewhat or very satisfied with their child’s educational experience, according to a report from researchers at Boston University. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarships. redefinED.
Around the nation: Iowa’s governor is expected to sign a bill that would allow private groups to apply to the state Board of Education to form charter schools without going through local school boards. redefinED.
Opinions on schools: A measure that would have kept secret the names of those applying to lead Florida’s colleges and universities died this week after failing to muster the required two-thirds support. But it also shows the Legislature’s depth of indifference to Florida’s once-heralded Sunshine Laws. Tampa Bay Times. If Florida’s bill to ban transgender females from playing on women’s high school and sports teams is approved by the governor, it will likely be coming soon to a courtroom near you. Florida will no doubt spend lots of money defending the indefensible. Joe Henderson, Florida Politics.