University students participate in walkouts, school voucher plan figures differ and more

In the Legislature: A new bill submitted to the state House of Representatives would allow districts to put cameras in classrooms. HB 985, would require video cameras to be placed in certain public and charter school classrooms. Teachers in the classrooms with cameras would have to wear microphones during the school day, according to the bill. WKMG. A state senator has introduced legislation that would raise the state’s compulsory age for school attendance. The proposed legislation, SB 992, would raise the cap by two years from 16 to 18. If enacted, the bill would take effect on July 1. WFLA. Another bill filed recently in the Florida House would limit diversity efforts and expand the powers of university boards and alter course offerings. HB 999 proposes leaving all faculty hiring to boards of trustees and removing majors or minors in subjects like critical race theory and gender studies. It would also prohibit spending on activities that promote diversity, equity and inclusion and create new general education requirements. Tampa Bay Times. State lawmakers have been given two vastly different cost estimates as they consider HB1,  which would expand school vouchers and offer education savings accounts to all school-aged children in the state. The bill’s sponsor put the number at $209.6 million, but the Florida Policy Institute says the measure could add billions to the state budget. Tampa Bay Times. South Florida Sun-Sentinel. 

Around the state: The school board in Lee is considering a phased rebuild of Fort Myers Beach Elementary, students at universities statewide participated in walkouts regarding various issues and the school board in Alachua approved a new policy for homeless students. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools and colleges and universities:

Lee: The majority of the Lee County school board appeared to be leaning toward a phased rebuild of Fort Myers Beach Elementary, which was severely damaged during Hurricane Ian. During the board’s meeting on Wednesday, three options were presented, which ranged in cost. They include sending students to other schools and restoring the campus, a phased rebuild and a portable campus with the option to rebuild. Ft. Myers News-Press.

Volusia: Local businesses have donated items such as model jet engines and hotel stays to Volusia County schools through the adopt-a-school program. Now, the hospitality industry is on a mission to find adopters for the last nine of 67 traditional public schools — most of which are in West Volusia. The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Alachua: The school board in Alachua approved a new policy that waives school fees for students experiencing homelessness or who are unable to pay. The new Waiver of School Fees policy establishes prohibitions on school fees for students who qualify for free lunch of breakfast, a student whose family is experiencing a severe loss or does not have the ability to pay due to any reason Superintendent Shane Andrew deems appropriate. WUFT.

Target list: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ list of 14 incumbent board members around the state he is targeting to defeat in the 2024 election include Nadia Combs and Jessica Vaughn in Hillsborough county and Laura Hine and Eileen Long in Pinellas county. Tampa Bay Times.

Book reversal: A book about late MLB legend Roberto Clemente that was removed from public schools in Florida’s Duval County pending a review over its references to racism and discrimination has been approved for student use.  NBC News. Axios.

University and college news: A public art display celebrating diversity will not travel to State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota after college officials requested the omission of several pieces. The concern, according to a college spokesperson, was that several images could offend viewers. The organizer canceled the scheduled exhibit. WUSF.  Inside Higher Ed.  Members of University of Florida’s Bateman case study competition presented their campaign to Greater Gainesville Young Professionals. Students are teaching people how to identify credible news by sharing their experiences with misinformation. WCJB. A Florida nonprofit in a new lawsuit is seeking the call logs and texts of one of six trustees recently installed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to the state’s most progressive higher education institution. New College of Florida made headlines in recent weeks after an overhaul of the liberal arts university’s leadership. Miami Herald. The State University System Board of Governors signed off on making Richard Corcoran the interim president of New College of Florida, and will take the helm on Monday. WUSF. Hundreds of University of South Florida students participated in a walkout to protest Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education policies. Tampa Bay Times. At University of Florida, a protest was held called “Stand for Freedom.” Gainesville Sun.  In Tallahassee, Florida State University students also protested. Tallahassee Democrat. Meanwhile, students at six Florida universities staged a walkout protesting school officials sending transgender students health information to the state. In January, Gov. Ron DeSantis sent state universities a survey requesting the number and ages of students who sought gender dysphoria treatment, including sex reassignment surgery and hormone prescriptions. WMFE. NPR.

Opinions on schools: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush joined Students Over Systems host Ginny Gentles to talk about the history of Florida’s flourishing education options. Ginny Gentles and former Gov. Jeb Bush, reimaginED.

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BY Camille Knox