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DeSantis pushes teacher pay raises and rips rejected AP course, social media bill, and more

Governor’s education proposals: More education initiatives, including higher teacher pay and lower school board term limits, were put forward Monday by Gov. Ron DeSantis. He’s asking the Legislature to commit $1 billion to raise teacher salaries, which would be a boost of $200 million from the amount approved last year but could come with a time limit for districts to use the money or lose it. DeSantis also is advocating that school board term limits be set at eight years instead of 12, that board races be permitted to be partisan, that teacher union dues stop being automatically deducted from paychecks, that the pay of teachers union officials be no higher than what the district’s highest-paid teacher is making, and that a bill of rights be created for teachers to give them more authority to discipline students and protect them from punishment if they act in accordance with state law when there is a conflict with a school or district policy. DeSantis made no mention of the bill proposed last week in the House that would make every K-12 student in the state eligible for state scholarships. News Service of Florida. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. Florida Times-Union. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. WCJB. WJXT.

DeSantis cites ‘queer theory’: At Monday’s news conference, Gov. DeSantis also continued his criticism of the AP African-American studies course the state rejected last week. He said the course pushes a political agenda by including such elements as “queer theory,” and asked, “Now who would say that an important part of black history is queer theory? That is somebody pushing an agenda on our kids. When you use black history to shoehorn in queer theory, you are clearly trying to use that for political purposes.” Meanwhile, black religious leaders in Florida urged DeSantis to reconsider his decision, and called for rallies Wednesday and Feb. 16 to protest. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. News Service of FloridaFlorida Politics. Associated Press. WTLV. WJXT. WTLV. CNN.

Around the state: Florida K-12 students would be blocked from accessing social media sites through Internet access provided by school districts under an amendment filed Monday for the upcoming legislative session, state officials say Broward Superintendent Vickie Cartwright ignored their requests to provide school safety information for months, some Manatee County teachers are covering their classroom libraries to avoid being out of compliance with state laws governing content, New College of Florida officials have denied a request from one of the trustees recently appointed by Gov. DeSantis to start meetings with a prayer, and Charlotte County schools announce the district’s teacher of the year. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Superintendent Vickie Cartwright has “ignored” requests from the state since last September to provide school safety information, state Department of Education officials alleged Monday. In a letter to Cartwright dated Monday, Scott Strauss, the DOE’s vice chancellor of the Office of Safe Schools, called the district’s “failure” to provide the documents a “chronic issue.” He also wrote, “To the extent that your continued non-compliance threatens the lives of children and staff attending school in your district, we intend to hold you fully accountable.” Today, Broward’s school board will consider two proposals to fire Cartwright. Sun-Sentinel. Florida’s Voice.

Polk: District officials are partnering with a company called Varsity Tutors to offer online, personalized tutoring for students at all 43 county public schools. “This program was designed to serve as an extension of our teachers, providing each classroom with resources that work hand-in-hand with the educators of our district,” said Superintendent Frederick Heid. WFTS. A physical education teacher at Union Academy Magnet School in Bartow was arrested Sunday and accused of threatening a security officer with a gun. Deputies said Devonta Gilmore, 31, tried to get into a gated community in Davenport without clearance, and showed an officer a gun after being turned away. WFLA. WFTS.

Brevard: Nine professional muralists and three other artists decorated Indialantic Elementary School over the winter break with 14 murals showing nature and space scenes, and paintings of inspiring quotes and books. Organizing the project was Colleen Tobia, president of the school’s parent teacher organization. Florida Today. A custodian at Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School in Cocoa has been arrested and accused of threatening a student with a razor. James Baillaregon, 26, was working in a bathroom last Thursday when a student walked in and made an obscene remark, Baillaregon said. Deputies said he then pulled a razor from his pocket, told the student he was “from the hood” and needed to be respected and that he would “cut him into pieces.” WFTV. WKMG.

Manatee: Some district teachers are eliminating access to their classroom libraries instead of risking being prosecuted for being out of compliance with state law, according to district officials who told them to remove books that hadn’t been approved by a certified media specialist. “If you have a lot of books like I do, probably several hundred, it is not practical to run all of them through (the vetting process) so we have to cover them up,” said Don Falls, a Manatee High School history teacher. “It is not only ridiculous but a very scary attack on fundamental rights.” Chief of staff Kevin Chapman said the district did not directly advise teachers to shut down classroom libraries and cover them up. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Collier: Interim superintendent Leslie Ricciardelli answers questions about her appointment, her new day-to-day routine, her priorities for the district, and her thoughts on applying for the permanent job. Naples Daily News.

Leon: Schools board members are being asked today to approve a change in the district’s policy governing students’ use of bathrooms and locker rooms. Students’ biological sex at birth will determine what bathrooms they can use, the policy states, with reasonable accommodations. The policy defines a reasonable accommodation as a single stall or “sex-neutral bathroom” to ensure privacy. The change was proposed after an appeals court upheld a St. Johns County School Board policy in December that bars transgender students from using the bathroom of their preferred gender. Tallahassee Reports. Tallahassee Democrat.

Bay: Four students were taken to a hospital for treatment after a semi truck ran into the back of their school bus Monday morning in the unincorporated area of Youngstown. “There were 21 students on the bus at the time of the accident, which was not our fault, and four were taken to the hospital for evaluation and treatment,” district spokeswoman Sharon Michalik said in an e-mail. “The remaining students were either picked up by parents or were transported to school.” Panama City News Herald. WMBB. WJHG.

Charlotte: Bonnie Powell, an English teacher at Lemon Bay High School in Englewood, has been chosen as the school district’s teacher of the year, and will represent the district at the state competition. Also honored as district support employee of the year was Charlotte High School media specialist Carmen Blake. Charlotte Sun.

Gulf: County officials have received $500,000 in federal funds that will be used to make improvements to the Washington High School gymnasium in north Port St. Joe. The school was partially torn down in 1970, but the gym continues to be used as a community meeting hall and for summer camps. Port St. Joe Star.

Colleges and universities: New College of Florida officials have denied a request from one of the trustees recently appointed by Gov. DeSantis to start meetings with a prayer. Eddie Speir, the founder and chairman of a Bradenton Christian school, said board chair Mary Ruiz denied the request after consulting with David Smolker, the school’s interim general counsel. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Prasant Mohapatra, the vice chancellor for research at the University of California, Davis since 2018, has been named the new provost at the University of South Florida. He begins March 1. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF.

In the Legislature: Florida K-12 students would be blocked from accessing social media sites through Internet service provided by school districts under an amendment to a law filed Monday for the upcoming legislative session. The law, which was filed by state Rep. Brad Yeager, R-New Port Richey, also would require social media education for students in grades 6-12. The 60-day session begins March 7. The Capitolist. Pre-Advanced Placement coursework could be used to determine Bright Futures scholarship eligibility under a bill proposed by state Rep. Jennifer Canady, R-Lakeland. Those course are generally taken by 9th- and 10th-grade students. Florida Politics. The ratio of required types of training for armed school guardian training would shift under a bill filed by state Rep. Carolina Amesty, R-Windermere. Training for active-shooter training would increase from eight to 16 hours, and instruction on legal issues would be cut from 12 to four hours. News Service of Florida.

Around the nation: Florida is just one of seven states considering enacting laws focusing on education savings accounts as a key component of school choice. “Parents want an all-of-the-above approach when it comes to how their kids are educated. Legislators across the country are responding to that desire,” said Tom Greene, vice president of advocacy for ExcelinEd, an education reform think tank. The 74.

Opinions on schools: Many states can put the unjustifiable folly of K-12 conscription in their rearview mirrors in 2023. Conscription made our military weaker and our politics more divisive, and it does the same in education. The time has come for reason, freedom and justice to triumph once again. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. Florida began challenging the antiquated school funding model two decades ago, and now it stands on the verge of restoring the original intent of publicly funding education — by funding individual students — so each child can reach their full God-given potential. Jeb Bush, Tampa Bay Times. One size fits all are four words that should never be uttered when it comes to our children’s education. After all, children in the same class have varied learning styles, learn at different paces and have their own unique talents. It’s one reason school choice is so important, and why the Legislature should pass the bill that expands it. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm. Florida, home to some of the nation’s most prestigious athletic programs, is right to help student-athletes access at least a slice of the billion-dollar industry that profits from their talent. Miami Herald. Gov. DeSantis has made a name for himself by harassing black voters and setting up a system to sue teachers for teaching race in ways that might offend whites. Now he’s gone full-blown white supremacist, banning the College Board’s Advanced Placement for African American studies course from Florida’s schools. Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post.

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BY NextSteps staff