DeSantis offers $114.8B budget with $25.9B for K-12 education, AP course revised and more

Governor’s budget plan: Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed a state budget of nearly $115 billion for the 2023-2024 fiscal year that includes $25.9 billion in spending for K-12 schools. That’s an increase in education spending of $1.4 billion, or 5.8 percent. Per-student spending would increase to $8,453, a boost of about 2.5 percent. A billion dollars is being requested for teacher raises, a figure the teachers union said is not enough, and the budget also includes two back-to-school tax holidays, one before schools open in August and the other before students return to schools after the winter break, and no increase in college tuitions. The governor’s budget requests now go to the Legislature for consideration when the 60-day legislative session begins March 7. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Tallahassee Democrat. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics. Florida Phoenix.

AP course revised: College Board officials have released a new outline for the Advanced Placement African American studies course that was rejected by Gov. DeSantis and the Board of Education for allegedly “pushing an agenda” that they considered “woke.” Removed were lessons on Black Live Matters, queer studies, reparations and abolishing prisons, all of which drew objections from the state. The nonprofit insisted that criticism from Florida and other states was not taken into consideration in making the changes. DeSantis welcomed the changes, but did not announce whether the updated course would be accepted, while officials in other states accused the College Board of caving in to pressure. Politico Florida. Associated Press. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. K-12 Dive. Forbes.

Around the state: A bill increasing the minimum teacher pay in Florida to $65,000 a year has been filed for the legislative session, Florida nursing students have the lowest passing nation in the United States on the national nursing certification exam since 2017, Pinellas school officials admit the usual procedure was not followed when they decided to remove a Toni Morrison novel from school libraries, a Brevard parents organization formed in 2021 to support COVID mitigation measures in schools has disbanded, and Brevard chooses its teacher of the year. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A North Miami Senior High School teacher was injured when she was knocked  to the ground by a student while trying to break up a fight. School officials said the student was experiencing a medical emergency after taking an unknown substance. WSVN.

Duval: Students from the Douglas Anderson School of Arts in Jacksonville have launched a petition demanding a better explanation from district leaders about why their production of the play Indecent, by Paula Vogel, was canceled Jan. 6. District leaders said at the time that it was due to the play’s “adult sexual dialogue that is inappropriate for student cast members and student audiences.” WJAX.

Pinellas: The removal of Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye from district school libraries was done without following the formal procedures set up by the district, according to a school board member and the teachers union president. There are several steps to be taken when a book is challenged, but they weren’t followed when a Palm Harbor parent complained about the Morrison book and it was quickly removed. Assistant superintendent Dan Evans admitted that the process was not followed, but defended the removal. “We believe we made a decision that is consistent with the new state rules and clarifications,” Evans said. Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: Fort Myers High School has raised the $1 million needed to replace the natural grass on Sam Sirianni Field at Edison Stadium with synthetic turf and a new rubberized track. Multiple organizations, including the Miami Dolphins and Sanibel Captiva Community Bank, donated to the project. The installation will begin immediately. WINK.

Brevard: Pamela Brockmeyer, a math and AP calculus teacher at Cocoa High School, has been chosen as the school district’s teacher of the year. Other finalists were Devane Clark of Cambridge Elementary, Jennifer McFadden of Fairglen Elementary, Marybeth Scrivener of Indialantic Elementary, Kathryn Thorner of Madison Middle, and Ada Dixon of Palm Bay Magnet High. Space Coast Daily. A year after becoming a nonprofit, Families for Safe Schools is disbanding. It began in 2021 as a parental group that supported COVID-19 mitigation in schools such as masking policies, protecting public education, LGBTQ rights, historically accurate education within public schools, stopping gun violence and supporting teachers. “It’s the laws now that really hinder the ability for an alternative voice to really be heard here and in the state,” said one of the founders, Kim Hough. Florida Today. Ground was broken Wednesday for a new middle school in Viera. It’s expected to cost up to $55 million, and is projected to open to as many as 1,000 students in August 2024. Florida Today. WKMG.

Seminole: Officials at Evans Elementary School in Oviedo said a Reading Buddies program that pairs kindergartners with 4th-graders is getting results and building relationships. Students meet twice a month to read and answer questions about what they’ve read. “They definitely step up their game,” said 4th-grade teacher Tiffany Schmidt. “All of their behaviors, anything that might be out of the ordinary they usually reel it in. They’re just great role models. They model reading. They show the kids fluency by reading to them.” WKMG. A Lake Mary High School student has been arrested and accused of selling brownies laced with marijuana to classmates. One of the students who ate a brownie was transported to the hospital after having a bad reaction. The arrested student told deputies she didn’t know the brownies contained marijuana. WFTV. WESH.

Collier: Golden Gate High School was damaged during a burglary last weekend. School officials said the intruders stole about $8,100 in cash, digital camera, two media cards, a high-end computer, an Apple TV and more, according to sheriff’s deputies. Doors were also damaged when they were pried open. The approximate cost in damages and thefts is $16,000 and expected to rise, according to the deputies’ report. WINK. WBBH.

Okaloosa: Superintendent Marcus Chambers has filed papers to run for re-election in 2024. Chambers was appointed by Gov. DeSantis in 2019 after the governor suspended Mary Beth Jackson over the way she handled allegations of child abuse by school employees. Chambers was re-elected in 2000 with about 66 percent of the vote. WEAR.

Colleges and universities: Florida has had the lowest passing rate in the nation of nursing students taking the certification exam since 2017, according to an analysis of data from the Florida Center for Nursing. Fewer than two-thirds of the state’s students passed the national certification test in 2022. Tampa Bay Times. Bethune-Cookman University officials have announced a series of upgrades to campus facilities. Among them are repairs to at least 60 buildings to correct problems ranging from infrastructure issues to mold. At least $10 million has been committed for the work. WFTV. WOFL.

In the Legislature: A bill called the “Save Our Teachers Act” has been filed that would increase the minimum teacher pay in the state to $65,000. “Right now, teachers are not just teachers. They are therapists. They are being parents. And right now, they are being shortchanged. They are underpaid and overworked,” said state Rep. Jervonte Edmonds, D-West Palm Beach, the sponsor of the bill. WPTV.

Opinions on schools: In celebration of National School Choice Week, we need to stop viewing choice as something to fear, but as an opportunity to focus on every child’s need to be well educated in whatever setting suits them best: district, private, charter, home, or something yet to be imagined. We also shouldn’t be afraid to redefine the terms of American education. Shawn Peterson, reimaginED. State leaders have a choice: revitalize public schools, or dilute public school resources by pouring money into two distinct school systems. At the moment, lawmakers are tilting toward the wrong option. Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff