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Education budget spending agreed upon, LGBTQ amendment rejected, physical restraints, and more

Education budget agreements: Florida’s Senate and House have agreed on how to spend $42.4 billion in next year’s state budget, including $13.5 billion for K-12 education, $5 billion for higher education, $14.4 billion for health care, $5.94 billion for criminal and civil justice, and $1.5 billion for agriculture, natural resources and the environment. No specific details within those categories were announced. Negotiators will now begin talking about the rest of the spending, which is likely to exceed $100 billion. The two chambers will have to agree on a final budget by next Tuesday to conclude the session by March 11 as scheduled, since a 72-hour “cooling off” period is required once an agreement is reached. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Agreeing on a state budget, including whether to redirect $200 million from 12 school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on face mask mandates in schools, is one of several key decisions legislators will have to make in the next two weeks in order to adjourn on schedule. Miami Herald.

LGBTQ amendment rejected: A Republican senator’s attempt to tone down the Parental Rights in Education bill by more broadly defining what schools could not teach K-3 students about sex was rejected Monday by members of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, wanted to replace the phrase “sexual orientation or gender identity” to read “human sexuality,” arguing that the change would have no effect on the intent of the bill but would remove the perceived marginalization of LGBTQ students. But state Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said the change would “gut” the bill, and it was voted down mostly along party lines. It now goes before the full Senate. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. Capitol News Service. WFSU.

Also in the Legislature: The bill expanding the restrictions on the use of physical restraints against disabled students cleared its final Senate committee on Monday. Florida Politics. Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee gave their okay to a proposal asking voters to grant an extra $50,000 in homestead property tax exemption for teachers, first responders, members of the military and child welfare professionals. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. A bill creating a “Victims of Communism Day” each Nov. 7 and requiring students to take at least 45 minutes every year to learn about those victims has been approved by a Senate committee and is now headed to the full chamber. Florida Politics. Also ready for a Senate vote is a bill updating the state’s school safety rules. Florida Politics. A House committee has approved a bill doubling the caps on the amount of money school boards and other governments could pay to settle lawsuits without asking the Legislature for more. The caps would double from $200,000 to $400,000 per person, and $300,000 to $600,000 per incident. Florida Politics.

Around the state: Thirty-four adults and 15 students are appointed to two Polk County School District committees that will take three months to review 16 books and recommend to the school board whether they should be retained or removed from school libraries, Indian River school board members agreed Monday to remove five books from school libraries after Superintendent David Moore recommended that they were inappropriate for all K-12 students, Jacksonville University is starting a law school this fall in downtown Jacksonville, Catholic school enrollment in Florida rose 6.3 percent in 2021-2022, and the Florida High School Athletic Association votes to divide high school football teams into metro and suburban classifications next fall. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: An employee at the Nob Hill Academy in Pembroke Pines has been fired for taping a 2-year-old’s shoes to his ankles after he kept taking them off in class. The boy’s mother, who is stationed at Homestead Air Reserve Base, had to cut the tape off, leaving the boy’s ankles irritated. WPLG.

Orange: An accident caused by a school bus driver Monday morning put a Pineloch Elementary School student in the hospital with injuries that are not considered life-threatening, according to Florida Highway Patrol troopers and hospital officials. Troopers said the driver was distracted when dealing with an unruly student and ran into a vehicle, causing a chain-reaction crash involving five vehicles. One of the other drivers also was hospitalized. WKMG. WOFL.

Palm Beach: The school district is working with the city of West Palm Beach on a complicated property deal. Because it preserved historic buildings on the campus of Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, the district earned “transfer development rights” to about 477,500 square feet of property in the downtown area. It is working to sell those rights to the city for $8 million. Palm Beach Post. Student government leaders at Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton introduced the use of a therapy dog named Coco to help students deal with their mental health issues. WPTV.

Duval: James Day, a longtime teacher and track coach at Raines High School in Jacksonville and one of the founders of the Bob Hayes Invitational track and field meet, died Saturday. He was 89. WJXT.

Polk: Thirty-four adults and 15 students have been appointed to two committees that will take three months to review 16 books and recommend to the school board whether they should be retained or removed from school libraries. The books were challenged by the conservative groups County Citizens Defending Freedom and the Florida Citizens Alliance. Tonight is the first meeting of the committees, and it will be open to the public although those in attendance will not be permitted to make comments. Lakeland Ledger. School board members have agreed to spend $22 million to add a middle school to the Bella Citta Elementary School campus in Davenport. Lakeland Ledger.

Escambia: A Pensacola charter preschool teacher has been arrested and accused of aggravated child abuse. Deputies said Samantha Forester broke a 3-year-old girl’s femur in early January when the girl had a tantrum while Forester was helping her change out of wet clothes, and was injured while being restrained. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR. WKRG.

Indian River: School board members agreed Monday to remove five books from school libraries, after Superintendent David Moore recommended that they were inappropriate for all K-12 students. The conservative group Moms for Liberty had called on the district to take 156 books off library shelves. Board members also approved Moore’s suggestion to create a  permission form allowing parents to restrict access to some library books for their children. The board also agreed to move  25 books that were in middle school libraries to high schools. TCPalm. WPEC.

Catholic school enrollment: Catholic school enrollment in Florida rose 6.3 percent in 2021-2022, the biggest jump of any of the 10 states with the most Catholic students and outpacing the 3.8 percent hike nationally, according to new figures from the National Catholic Educational Association. reimaginED.

Colleges and universities: Jacksonville University is starting a law school this fall in downtown Jacksonville. It’s expected to enroll 20 to 30 students, and grow to about 150 students by the 2024-2025 school year. Tuition will be $36,000 a year. “A law school and law students are critical to provide legal aid,” said Michael Freed, president of the Jacksonville Bar Association. “A city the size of Jacksonville without a law school is at a disadvantage.” Florida Times-Union. WTLV. WJCT.

FHSAA’s football classes: State high school football teams will be divided into metro and suburban classifications next fall in an effort to help eliminate some of the competitive disparities. The Florida High School Athletic Association approved the proposal in a 9-7 vote. The 228 schools in the eight largest counties in the state — Duval, Seminole, Orange, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade — will be placed in a four-classification metro division, and the 228 schools in the other 59 suburban counties will be placed into five classifications, including a rural classification with 33 teams. Gainesville Sun. Miami Herald. WJXT. WCJB. WTXL.

Opinions on schools: It’s wrong to financially punish Sarasota students because school board members imposed a face mask mandate in schools. State Sen. Joe Gruters, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The findings in two studies show that urban charter schools boost the achievement of their own students and that they have a neutral to positive impact on the achievement of children in traditional public schools. And the logical implication is clear: The growth of charter schools should boost achievement overall for students in a given community. Michael Petrilli and David Griffith, The 74. In the 1970s, education choice pioneers John E. Coons and Stephen Sugarman envisioned parents, including low-income parents, having the power to create “personally tailored education” for their children, using “divisible educational experiences.” If this sounds like education savings accounts, it is only because it is exactly like education savings accounts, except it was 33 years before the first education savings account program. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done to increase gender and diversity representation in STEM fields. Laine Powell, Orlando Sentinel. Families of college-age students are fortunate to have the opportunity for their child to qualify for the Bright Futures to ease the burden of paying for college, while rewarding students’ proactive engagement in their future. Sue Zumstein, Naples Daily News.

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BY NextSteps staff