Senate approves budget: Florida senators unanimously approved a $113.7 billion budget on Monday that includes about $26.6 billion for education and is about 3 percent higher than this year’s spending. The House is expected to vote today on its $113 billion budget, which also includes about $26.6 billion for education but would change the formula determining the way schools are funded by the state. Once it’s approved, negotiators for the two chambers will begin work to finalize an agreement that state Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, promised would include “the single largest tax-relief package in Florida history.” The budget is the only bill the Legislature is required to pass. Differences have to be reconciled and approved by May 2 in order for the session to end as scheduled May 5. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.
Also in the Legislature: A bill overhauling the Florida High School Athletic Association’s governance of athletics for grades 6-12 was approved by the Senate on Monday after it was amended to expand the number of members on the board. Previously, the governor would have appointed eight of the nine members, with the education commissioner appointing the ninth. The change would expand the board to 13 members, with the added four being chosen by the FHSAA’s board members. The bill also allows for two-minute opening remarks for each school before events. The bill is now headed back to the House for it to consider the amendment. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Florida House members unanimously approved a proposal expanding New Worlds Reading Scholarship Accounts to include tutoring in both math and English. reimaginED. A bill has been introduced that would eliminate state viewpoint diversity assessments, remove the prohibition against shielding specified individuals from free speech, and prevent students from recording class lectures without the permission of professors. State Rep. Yvonne Hayes-Hinson, D-Gainesville, is the sponsor. WCJB.
Around the state: A Pinellas County school review committee has decided a movie about a 6-year-old black girl integrating a New Orleans school in 1960 can be shown at a St. Petersburg elementary school, 2023-2024 school assignments for Lee County students have been delayed, a Volusia charter school board authorizes an audit of a former principal who wrote a $100,000 check on school funds to an Internet scammer claiming to be Elon Musk, Brevard’s school board will choose semifinalists for the superintendent’s job at today’s meeting, and Flagler school board members release their ratings of the superintendent the day before they decide to extend or end her contract. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Pinellas: A review committee made up of three teachers, two parents and two members of the community decided Monday that the 1998 movie about a 6-year-old black girl who integrated a New Orleans elementary school in 1960 was appropriate for students at North Shore Elementary School in St. Petersburg. “I personally found the Ruby Bridges film to be an inspiring story about black people and white people overcoming challenges,” said committee member Kyandra Darling. “I don’t believe the film teaches hate. Instead it displays the ugliness of intolerance … which our students should learn from.” In March, the movie was removed from the curriculum when a parent filed a formal complaint about the movie after it was shown to her 2nd-grader, saying it might teach white children to hate black children. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT. WFTS.
Lee: Students’ school assignments for the 2023-2024 academic year have been delayed. District spokesman Rob Spicker said enrollment growth and the introduction of proximity zones at the elementary level are behind the delay. Proximity zones assign students based on how close they live to a school. “Implementing proximity was delayed by the hurricane, so we only did elementary this year,” Spicker said. “Next year we will introduce proximity zones for middle schools. The student assignment process for high schools is currently not expected to change.” WINK. WFTX.
Brevard: Semifinalists for the superintendent’s job are expected to be chosen today by the school board. Thirty-three candidates had applied by the deadline Friday to replace Mark Mullins, who stepped down Dec. 31 under pressure from the board. Interim superintendent Robert Schiller was suspended last week after allegations that he created a hostile work environment, and assistant superintendent Susan Hann was then appointed as the acting leader. Finalists will be named April 18 and interviewed April 27-28. A superintendent will be chosen May 2, and the board is expected to approve his or her contract at a meeting May 9. Florida Today.
Volusia: The Burns Science and Technology Charter Bchool board voted Monday to conduct an audit of spending by the former principal who wrote a check for $100,000 from a school account to an Internet scammer claiming to be Elon Musk. Jan McGee resigned after her actions were discovered. The check was canceled before it could be cashed. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Sarasota: The group Support Our Schools plans to protest before today’s school board meeting against school board chair Bridget Ziegler’s proposed hiring of a consultant connected to the conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan. “The scope of the consulting work Vermilion (Education) spells out in its two proposed contracts is so broad and expansive, it in effect, turns over the keys to the school district to the company,” SOS said in a statement. Charlotte Sun. WUSF.
St. Lucie: No charges will be filed over allegations of child abuse last year at the Chesterbrook Academy preschool in Port St. Lucie. Prosecutors said there was insufficient probable cause to charge anyone. Melanie Caramma, a parent who at the time was also a teacher at the preschool, said another teacher held her 2-year-old son’s head under a running faucet when he wouldn’t stop crying. WPEC.
Escambia: School board members are balking at the demands made by Charter Schools USA, which is in negotiations with the district about turning Warrington Middle School into a charter school. The company wants a seven-year contract giving it control of the building on a lease for $1 a year with the school board paying for major capital repairs, and it wants to expand from a grade 6-8 school into a K-12 over five years. Superintendent Tim Smith recommended moving ahead with the contract, but some board members expressed doubts. “I have grave concerns,” said board chair Paul Fetsko said. And board member Patty Hightower added, “I have real heartburn with the dollar a year because they’re a for-profit organization.” If a contract ageement can’t be reached, the school will close. WKRG.
Leon: A 16-year-old student at Lincoln High School in Tallahassee was arrested Friday and accused of having a gun on campus. Police officers said the boy returned to the track after school “with a handgun after being involved in a physical altercation with another student regarding an ongoing feud between the individuals.” He’s been charged with possession of a firearm on school property and possession of a firearm by a minor. Tallahassee Democrat. Tallahassee Reports. WTXL. WCTV.
Santa Rosa: Pace High School’s Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps has won its third consecutive 2023 Navy National Academic, Athletic and Drill championship. Cadets competed on drill teams, in push-ups, sit-ups, 100-yard relays, and academic tests and personnal inspections. WEAR.
Hernando: School board members recently voted to remove the book Lucky by Alice Sebold from schools, then were criticized by speakers at the meeting who said not enough books are being removed. Those speakers said many books contain pornography, and the board’s inaction is allowing students to see inappropriate books. Suncoast News.
Flagler: Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt has received an average score of 3.69 points out of 5 in evaluations from school board members. That score puts her on the higher end of the “acceptable/satisfactory” category. She received her highest scores from Cheryl Massaro (4.44) and Colleen Conklin (4.11), and her lowest scores from Sally Hunt (2.78) and Will Furry (3.11). The board is expected to decide today whether to extend or terminate Mittelstadt’s contract. Flagler Live.
Around the nation: Enrollment in U.S. community colleges has dropped 37 percent since 2010, by nearly 2.6 million, according to a report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “The reckoning is here,” said Davis Jenkins, senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. The report would be worse without dual-enrollment classes being taken by high school students, it also concluded. Hechinger Report.
Opinions on schools: Florida has all the ingredients necessary for a pluralistic and dynamic system of education in which teachers have the freedom to create their own schools and families have the ability to shape the K-12 space. The schools families are demanding will open and expand, while schools not valued by families will have fewer students to miseducate. Whether you are a liberal, a conservative, a libertarian, or a vegetarian, this is as it should be. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. The guardians patrolling the campus of the Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto have military-style rifles strapped to their chests, wear body armor, and are military veterans who have been shot at in combat so they know how to react. Why isn’t every school in America doing the same thing? Chris Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman has been dead for nearly two decades. But the moment has come for the idea that may prove his greatest legacy: Parents should decide where the public funds for educating their children go. William McGurn, Wall Street Journal. The increased time, cost and paperwork that the legislative bills aimed at union busting would incur will potentially lead many teachers to opt out of joining or rejoining their unions, leaving them unable to have a voice in contract and labor negotiations or to receive the legal advice and protection that unions provide. Katharine Hull, Sun-Sentinel.