State rejects math textbooks: Fifty-four of 134 math textbooks submitted by publishers have been rejected for classroom use by the Florida Department of Education because, it says, they don’t meet the state’s new learning standards or because they “contained prohibited topics” such as references to critical race theory. The announcement was made Friday in a DOE press release that was titled, “Florida Rejects Publishers’ Attempts to Indoctrinate Students.” The statement did not include the names of the books or examples of the offending comments. Most of the rejected books were for students in grades K-5, the DOE said. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has railed against “woke indoctrination” said in a statement, “It seems that some publishers attempted to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on the foundation of Common Core, and indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism, especially, bizarrely, for elementary school students.” Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. Orlando Sentinel. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida Phoenix. Politico Florida. WFLA. WEAR. WFOR. Florida Politics. Axios. Florida Department of Education.
Around the state: Two Polk school book review committees determine that two challenged books should be allowed to remain in school libraries, lawyers for both sides in the sentencing trial of the Parkland school shooter are asking a judge for more time to prepare, shortages of school bus drivers continue to cause problems for Florida districts, Pasco school officials and employees remain at odds over salary raises, Monroe school board members are put on notice that parents will be watching how they implement the state’s Parental Rights in Education law, and an accrediting agency is re-evaluating the University of Florida’s credentials after the controversy over the school’s conflict of interest policy that has since been rescinded. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Miami-Dade: School board vice chair Steve Gallon apologized to the community for the “hurt, pain and anguish” caused last week when a board member declared at a board meeting that “we have one creator, one creator, and that is God and Jesus Christ” during a discussion about commemorating the National Day of Prayer on May 5. Some Jews and Muslims at the meeting called board member Lubby Navarro’s comments “ignorant” and made them feel “invisible.” Miami Herald.
Broward: Lawyers on both sides of the sentencing trial for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz said they need more time to depose witnesses. Testimony was supposed to start May 31, but lawyers have asked Judge Elizabeth Scherer for more time, perhaps as much as a month. While she seemed open to pushing the beginning of testimony to the middle of June, Schrerer asked, “In what universe does it take, in any case, three months for jury selection?” She made no decision on the request. Jury selection resumes April 25. Sun Sentinel. Associated Press. Six Northeast High School students were hospitalized last week after swallowing an unknown, but apparently legal, substance during an Air Force JROTC Military Ball in Davie, according to district officials. The ball included students from Northeast and Coral Springs high schools. Sun Sentinel. WSVN.
Orange, Osceola: About 16 percent of the school bus drivers in the Orange County School District called in sick Friday, putting further pressure on an already short-staffed department. On a typical day, about 10 percent of drivers call in sick. In Osceola, 24 percent of the school bus routes did not have drivers. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WOFL.
Palm Beach: School board members have approved spending another $550,000 to have members of the Jupiter and West Palm Beach police departments patrol campuses. The district had previously approved contracts with the sheriff’s department and other municipal forces to help provide coverage at schools because of staffing shortages in the district’s police department. WPEC.
Duval: Two 15-year-old students who board at the Bolles School in Jacksonville have been arrested and accused of sexual battery and battery against a third boarding student. The charges are felonies. School officials said they are cooperating fully with authorities who are investigating. WJXT. WTLV.
Polk: Two more books that were flagged by critics as harmful to children or pornographic have been cleared to remain in middle and high school libraries by two review committees. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart were the 9th and 10th books reviewed by the committees since 16 books were quarantined for review in January by Superintendent Frederick Heid. Lakeland Ledger. State funding for the school district is expected to be up by $74.5 million this year, said district officials, but the district expects to see $49 million less in funding that will follow students who receive Family Empowerment Scholarships from the state to attend private schools. Last year, the district said it received about $14.4 million less in funding that went to scholarship students. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarships. The district’s budget is $2.2 billion, up from $1.9 billion last year. Lakeland Ledger.
Pinellas: School board elections are officially nonpartisan, but party politics is increasingly becoming an issue. In a recent candidate forum sponsored by the St. Petersburg Republican Club, only GOP candidates were invited, and they mostly repeated their support for partisan GOP issues such as restricting what can be taught about critical race theory and gender identity and sexual orientation, and for school choice and charter schools. Tampa Bay Times.
Lee, Collier: Ongoing shortages of school bus drivers in Lee County are causing tension between the district and its drivers. “It’s very hard,” said union president Amanda Evans, who is calling for higher salaries. “With the traffic and everything, and plus we’re doing doubles and triples … We can’t get there to pick them up on time. And the parents are attacking so many drivers because they’re late … We feel the district is not backing us up.” Lee is short about 100 drivers, and Collier about 40. Fort Myers News-Press.
Pasco: District officials said they aren’t moving off their position of offering bonuses only to teachers and other staff for the current school year because they can’t afford raises. But when negotiations resume today, they said, they intend to negotiate raises for the 2022-2023 school year because they expect to have more money available. “Our goal is to get right to work on doing that, and it looks like there is money to do that,” said district employee relations supervisor Tom Neesham. Tampa Bay Times. The district’s decision to end courtesy busing for students who live less than 2 miles from their schools has drawn the attention of the county’s elected officials. They want to prioritize building sidewalks so those students losing their busing will have a safe path to walk to schools. Tampa Bay Times.
Volusia: Interim superintendent Rachel Hazel said she intends to focus on student safety, academic achievement and getting the position ready for the permanent superintendent for however long she’s asked to lead the district. School board chair Ruben Colon said the board intends to offer the job to former deputy superintendent Carmen Balgobin, who recently accepted the position of deputy superintendent of teaching and learning position for the Broward County School District. If she declines, he said, they will start an official search. WKMG.
Manatee: Eighty-three high school seniors were honored last week with Golden Herald awards for their academic achievements and service to their schools and communities. Each winner in 16 categories received $1,800 scholarships, and the honorable mention winners each received $700 cash. Bradenton Herald. WWSB.
Escambia: The African American activist group Movement for Change is accusing the school district of unfairly denying administrative position promotions to black candidates for decades. Right now, the group says, the principal’s job at Lincoln Park Elementary School should be filled by the assistant principal, a black woman, because the school is in a predominantly black neighborhood. In its response, the district said in a statement, “The school district of Escambia County is committed to diversity and inclusion in its workforce. Recently, the district has made great strides in this effort; not only promoting minority candidates to leadership positions, but also identifying potential minority candidates for future leadership opportunities.” WEAR.
Leon: School board members said they need more information before they can commit $70,000 to the Tallahassee-Leon County Council on the Status of Men and Boys. They said last week that the charter draft has some language they want clarified. “We want to make sure we are doing everything the correct way,” said district spokesperson Chris Petley. The city and county have already agreed to provide funding for the program. Tallahassee Democrat.
Martin: Since 1980, a Catholic school in Indiantown has focused on helping children of farmworkers. Hope Rural School helps students learn the English language, but also caters to families by offering parenting and English classes and hands out food and clothing. “It provided stability for their homes and now 42 years later, we are still existing and we are serving immigrant children,” said Sister Elizabeth Dunn, the school director. WPTV.
Flagler: Flagler Palm Coast High School junior Jack Petocz has received a mark on his permanent school record for organizing a statewide walkout March 3 to protest the Parental Rights in Education bill, which governs discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools. Petocz said he was told by school administrators he would be suspended but not be punished further. “Now they’ve placed a level 3 referral on my permanent record for organizing the walkout, preventing me from running for leadership in most clubs,” he said. “I just want to be left alone.” District officials said they cannot comment on “individual student disciplinary actions.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Monroe: Several parents have let school board members know that they will be watching closely to see how the district implements the Parental Rights in Education law. “Our first step is to audit all schools to see where we stand in each location,” said parent Tia Kollars, who is a member of the local Moms for Liberty chapter. “Schools often interpret policies differently and individual school administrators make different decisions, often with no oversight. We need to ensure that teachers aren’t sharing personal opinions. We need someone watching all the schools to avoid lawsuits.” Florida Keys Weekly.
Colleges and universities: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission is re-evaluating the University of Florida’s credentials after the controversy over the school’s conflict of interest policy that has since been rescinded. A decision is expected June 16. WCJB. Thirteen advisors have been appointed to help the University of Florida’s presidential search committee. Mainstreet Daily News. North Florida Technical College is ending its cosmetology program at the end of this school year, leaving many students to find a place where they can complete their education. WJXT.
Bills that didn’t make it: Among the notable bills that did not make it through the legislative session was one that would have required schools to provide free menstrual products for students in schools. Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton, argued that the products are a necessity, like toilet paper, and that some students can’t afford them. Fresh Take Florida.
Opinions on schools: Coming out of this pandemic, lawmakers across the country should embrace every student-centered policy possible, and make year-after-year progress in transforming education the guaranteed way to improve their state, serve their constituents and deliver on the promise of a quality education for all of their students. Jeb Bush, Miami Herald. Is the Hillsborough County School District’s budget a valid concern, and should voters have a chance to express their commitment at the ballot box? The answer to both is a resounding yes. Tampa Bay Times. I believe public schools are a public good. They exist to educate the citizenry of today and tomorrow by teaching the principles on which our country was founded and our future depends. Sharon Harris-Ewing, Naples Daily News. The overwhelming evidence shows that when public schools cease to be monopolies, they improve, at least as evidenced by their students’ standardized test scores. Byron Schlombach, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. A veteran school administrator reflects on changing lives and education choice. Ashley Elliott, reimaginED. We can’t even get state lawmakers to fully fund education, nor do lawmakers provide necessary dollars for programs signed into law, and now they’ve found one more way to take money from students. Jeff Bryan, Citrus County Chronicle.