Lottery payment change could affect education funding, ‘fatherhood crisis’ bill signed, and more

Lottery change and education: A late change legislators made in the state budget would pay gas stations and giant retail chains such as Publix, 7-Eleven and Circle K higher commissions for selling lottery tickets, which in turn could mean less money for Bright Futures Scholarships and other educational programs that get money from lottery sales. Vendors currently receive 5 percent commissions on ticket sales and 1 percent cashing bonuses when they redeem winning tickets. The new law, if signed as expected by Gov. Ron DeSantis, will pay them a flat 5.75 percent on all tickets. An analysis suggests that could mean an extra $19 million for retailers. Future Senate President Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, said he didn’t think the change would affect education funding, and lottery spokesperson Keri Nucatola said, “At this time, we are unable to say with certainty what impact, if any, the change in retailer commissions will have on our overall transfers to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund.” Seeking Rents.

Fatherhood crisis bill: Gov. DeSantis signed a bill on Monday that will funnel about $70 million into the creation of a “Responsible Fatherhood Initiative” program that will make grant money available to provide fathers with parenting education, finding them employment, managing their child support obligations and helping them transition from incarceration. H.B. 7065 also boosts a stipend of $1,256 to $1,720 for young adults who had been in the foster care system and are attending postsecondary schools. “If you look over the last many decades, one of the worst social trends has been the decline of fatherhood,” said DeSantis. “And we do have, in many instances, a fatherhood crisis in this country. The fact of the matter is when you take kids who do not have a father present during their upbringing, the chance of them dropping out of school, getting involved in trouble with the law, having other difficulties, increases dramatically.” News Service of Florida. WKMG. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the state: Broward school officials are considering whether to challenge the state’s decision making 12 school districts ineligible for state recognition funds over the face mask dispute, Brevard school board members will consider creating a district-level approach at reviewing books challenged by parents, a female Jacksonville University soccer player died last weekend when a team bus crashed in Baker County, Pasco school employees are asking the district for raises in addition to bonuses, Marion County School Board member Don Browning says he feels “bullied” because he has yet to see a hostile work environment complaint filed against him three months ago, a former band director at Buchholz High School in Alachua County has his teaching certificate revoked for a year, and Martin County commissioners are voting today whether to put the renewal of higher property taxes for schools on the ballot. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: School officials are considering a legal challenge to the state’s decision to declare 12 school districts ineligible for state recognition money. The districts defied a state rule that banned them from requiring students to wear face masks in schools, so the Legislature approved a provision in the budget that eliminates them from consideration and distributes the recognition money they could have gotten to the 55 districts that followed the state rules. Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said she will apply for the funds, which have been used for employee bonuses in past years, and if the state turns Broward down as expected, some board members said they want to go to court. Sun Sentinel. After eight prospective jurors in the sentencing trial for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz became upset Monday at the possibility of being selected and having to decide whether to put Cruz to death for the murders of 17 students and staff or sentence him to life in prison, Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer dismissed the entire panel of 60 candidates. She said the raw emotion shown tainted the entire pool. In four days of jury selection, 136 candidates have been chosen to return for additional questioning in May. Sun Sentinel. WPLG. WSVN. WTVJ. A summary of Day 4 of the sentencing trial. Sun Sentinel.

Lee: Officials at the St. Francis Xavier School in downtown Fort Myers are asking city council members to approve school zone warning signs with lights to inform drivers of the 15 mph speed limit when the school opens and closes. The school has installed its own school zone signs and flashing yellow “go slow” lights. A report on the request is being prepared for the next council meeting in two weeks. Fort Myers News-Press.

Palm Beach: Anyone who needs last-minute help filing their taxes before Monday’s deadline can turn to some students from Santaluces and Lake Worth community high schools. Both schools are participating in a pilot program with the IRS that trains students to become volunteer tax preparers. “This is basic skills, this is life lessons,” said teacher Veronica Kivela. “It’s incredible to think they will be able to take this on in the future.” WPTV.

Pasco: School district employees want a raise instead of one-time bonuses, they told district officials during Monday’s contract negotiations. The district has offered a 4 percent, one-time supplement. A union representative countered with an offer of a 1 percent supplement and raises of at least 3 percent. The negotiator for support personnel is asking for raises of 4.25 percent for all workers, but 7 percent for bus drivers. District officials said they don’t have the money for raises because  the funds that are available are non-recurring. The next round of bargaining is Thursday. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: At a school board workshop today, board members will discuss a proposed policy that would create a formal review process for challenged books at the district level. The current policy calls for school-by-school reviews. It’s hoped that changing the policy could lead to more efficient responses to complaints about library books. Florida Today.

Marion: School board member Don Browning said he wants to know the nature of a hostile work environment complaint filed against him three months ago before he talks to the attorney investigating it. He said he can’t be an effective board member with the complaint out there, and without knowing about the complaint he can’t decide whether to run for re-election. “I feel harassed and bullied because, for example, of my questioning of Sunshine Laws and consent agenda items that I have brought up for discussion as official board business,” Browning wrote in a text message to the investigating attorney, school board attorney Jeremy Powers, Superintendent Diane Gullett and a newspaper. Ocala Star-Banner.

Leon: For the first time in the history of Chiles High School in Tallahassee, twin sisters will share the title of valedictorian. Surabhi and Sandhya Kumar, 18, have been together throughout school. That will end in the fall when Surabhi heads to Yale University to study cell and molecular biology and become a physician. Sandhya is going to Harvard University to also study cell and molecular biology, but she intends to become a physician-scientist. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: Buchholz High School’s former band director has had his teaching certificate revoked for a year for what the state’s Education Practices Commission called inappropriate online conversations with a student. Shawn Barat resigned a year ago after the accusations were made. Once the year of suspension is over, Barat will be on three years of probation. WCJB.

Bay: School district officials said they are starting to prepare parents for the end of free meals for students. Between Hurricane Michael in 2018 and the pandemic in 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has given free breakfasts and lunches to students. But that ends in June unless Congress agrees to extend the waiver program. Legislation has been introduced to push the end of the program to the fall of 2023. Panama City News Herald. WUSF.

Martin: County commissioners are expected to decide today whether to allow voters to determine whether to renew a higher property tax for school safety, teacher recruiting and retention and academic initiatives. Voters approved the four-year added millage in 2018, and it raises about $12 million a year. If commissioners approve, the measure will be on the Aug. 23 primary ballot. WPTV.

Flagler: A Palm Coast parochial school that started a program for students of migrant workers has received a national award for its leadership in promoting a vision of Catholic education that welcomes and serves cultural and economic diversity or serves students with diverse needs. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School was awarded the Catherine T. McNamee CSJ Award by the National Catholic Education Association. reimaginED.

Colleges and universities: A Jacksonville University soccer player was killed and seven of her teammates were injured when the van they were in veered off the road and crashed in Baker County on Sunday. Stephanie Davis, an 18-year-old freshman from St. Cloud, and the team were returning from a tubing trip near Lake City. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WTLV. WESH. WJAX.

Apprenticeships touted: A series of “apprenticeship accelerator” events are being scheduled throughout the state, sponsored by the Florida Department of Education. The goal is to encourage employers in various industries to offer registered apprenticeship programs. The health-care industry is being showcased at an event April 27 in Tallahassee, and transportation industry opportunities will be discussed May 18 in Miami Lakes. News Service of Florida.

Tax credit scholarships: A third of U.S. students with tax credit scholarships live in Florida, according to a report by the Boston free-market think tank Pioneer Institute. The report notes that Florida ranks in the middle of the 24 states with such scholarships in income eligibility restrictions, and is the only state offering scholarships to students who report being assaulted, bullied or sexually harassed. reimaginED.

Around the nation: A RAND Corp. survey reports that 1 in 4 U.S. school superintendents expect to leave their job soon. That’s in addition to the more than a third of superintendents from the nation’s 500 largest districts who have already left. “I was not surprised to see that a greater percentage of superintendents say they plan to leave,” said Heather Schwartz, a senior policy researcher at RAND and co-author of the study. “The question for me is, will they leave?” K-12 Dive.

Opinions on schools: A recent analysis of state policies for dealing with the pandemic shows that Florida did about average on mortality as other states, but far better in protecting its citizens from severe economic harm and its children from lost schooling. We can thank the U.S. Constitution for our federalist system of government, allowing state to implement their own policies. The outcomes would have been much worse had Washington imposed a single national policy as dictated by the federal bureaucracy. Wall Street Journal. There’s a new trend going around schools and higher education classrooms across the nation right now. This idea called “going gradeless” is changing the way educators, students and parents think about assessments by removing grades from student work. Here’s why I think it will work. Nate Turcotte, Fort Myers News-Press.

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BY NextSteps staff