Budget negotiators agree on $116B spending plan, school board term limits, and more

$116B budget deal: Budget negotiators for the Senate and House reached an agreement Monday on spending about $116 billion for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The budget will be published today and distributed to lawmakers, which gives them the required 72 hours of “cooling-off” time to consider the details before a final vote can be taken Friday that would end the legislative session as scheduled. If approved, state spending would increase by $6 billion. Among the highlights of spending for education: About $1 billion in auxiliary cash for universities, $26.8 billion for K-12 schools, a set-aside of $350 million to cover potential cost overruns in the new universal school choice plan, $200 million more for teacher raises, $50 million to continue the conservative makeover of New College in Sarasota, and $75 million to help build a University of Florida graduate school campus in Jacksonville. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Legislators gave Gov. Ron DeSantis most of what he wanted from this session. “The governor can rightly claim credit for having one of the biggest sessions certainly in Florida history,” said House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast. Politico Florida.

Also in the Legislature: School board members could serve no more than eight consecutive years in office under a bill approved Monday by the Senate. H.B. 477 has already been passed in the House and now heads to Gov. DeSantis for consideration. It would apply to terms beginning in November 2022, but board members re-elected to a consecutive term last year can still serve another eight years before being term-limited. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. A bill allowing school districts to install cameras on school buses to capture images of drivers illegally passing them was approved Monday in the Senate. Drivers who violate the law could be fined $225. News Service of Florida.

Around the state: Duval school board members are expected to meet today to discuss how the district handled allegations of teacher misconduct at a district high school, Escambia’s school board voted 3-2 to negotiate a contract to turn over a struggling middle school to a charter company, a former longtime English professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University who was fired after an allegation that he was “indoctrinating” students with lessons on racial justice has filed a discrimination complaint against the school, Miami-Dade’s school board chair calls for a meeting to talk about the state’s open government law, and the state has approved the creation of a four-year equine science program at a Marion County high school. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: The school board vice chair who called a meeting two weeks ago and tried to keep the most senior board member from attending is now calling for a meeting about “Florida in the Sunshine meeting procedures.” Vice chair Danny Espino and fellow board member Roberto Alonso called last month’s meeting to discuss minority participation in school board contracts, but were the only board members in attendance. When Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, who is black, arrived at the meeting shortly after it began she was told she was not invited and could not participate. Miami Herald.

Palm Beach: Seven district teachers received Dwyer awards for education excellence at a ceremony Monday. Winners were Will Rhymes of Northmore Elementary, for elementary education; Magaly Hodgkiss of South Olive Elementary for early learning; Rebecca Patterson of The Conservatory School for middle schools; Monica Russell of Suncoast High for senior highs; Ashraf Abdelsayed of Discovery Key Elementary for special programs; Kristin Delatorre of The Conservatory School for STEM education; and Thomas Hrebin of Pioneer Park Elementary for student advancement and career education. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: The school board is expected to meet in an emergency session this morning to discuss the district’s handling of a series of teacher misconduct allegations at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and the state’s criticism of the district for not disclosing about 50 teacher misconduct accusations in a timely manner, as required by state law. The meeting had been scheduled for last Friday but was postponed at the last minute “due to pending legal matters,” according to a district spokesperson. WJAX.

Marion: A four-year equine science program was approved by the state last month for North Marion High School in Sparr, the only program of its kind in the state. Students would take agriscience foundation in freshman year, then equine science 2, 3 and 4 in subsequent years. Equine science 2 would teach students about horse safety, behavior, breeds, grooming, health, digestion and nutritional requirements, anatomy, regulation and horse industry careers. Equine 3 and 4 include topics such as breeding readiness, reproduction leadership, analyzing records and the environment. “This program has opened doors not only for students to take an equine science class, but they are getting real world experiences by working with industry leaders. This program would not have been possible without the help of our equine sponsors in our community,” said instructor Lori Jones, who developed the curriculum. Ocala Star-Banner.

Escambia: School board members voted 3-2 Monday to move ahead with negotiations on a contract to turn the struggling Warrington Middle School over to Charter Schools USA. Details would still have to be worked out and if no agreement is reached, the matter would be turned over to the Florida Department of Education for a decision. “We’re excited about the potential of having the charter school come in with their resources and strategies and the environment they’ll create,” said Superintendent Tim Smith. “We’re hoping we can sustain the education in the Warrington community at the middle school level.” WEAR.

Leon: School Superintendent Rocky Hanna has been threatened by the state with punishment ranging from a reprimand or fine to suspension or the revocation of his teaching license for his “politically charged statements,” but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to speak out against Gov. DeSantis’ education policies. Hanna has announced his intention to run for re-election next year regardless of whether his teaching credentials are revoked or he’s removed from office. WFSU.

Columbia: Columbia High School has rehired a teacher who resigned five years ago after allegations of having inappropriate contact with a female student. Chris Martinez, who is back as a physical education teacher and defensive coordinator for the football team, resigned in 2018 after the allegations were made. No charges were filed, and he went on to work in both the Union and Suwanee school districts. WCJB.

Gilchrist: State officials have given the district permission to build a third elementary school to relieve overcrowding. A location is undetermined, but the district will begin designing the school this fall, establishing a construction timeline and working out how it will pay for the school. WGFL.

Colleges and universities: A former longtime English professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University who was fired after an allegation that he was “indoctrinating” students with lessons on racial justice has filed a discrimination complaint against the school. Samuel Joeckel’s complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission contends that his firing was racially motivated. Palm Beach Post. Orlando Sentinel. New College of Florida intends to add baseball, softball, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s and women’s soccer teams, said head baseball coach and athletic director Mariano Jimenez. The school plans to compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Sunshine State Scholars: More than 100 of the state’s top-performing juniors in STEM subjects were honored at the 26th annual Sunshine State Scholars conference last weekend. Twenty-eight of the students were awarded one-year college scholarships from the Florida Prepaid College Foundation and State Farm. Patch. Florida Department of Education.

Opinions on schools: The Statue of Liberty has long welcomed migrants to the United States, but it no longer seems appropriate to have her torch lifted in a state that Americans increasingly seek to flee. Perhaps a move south would be in order. Florida is America’s New Colossus. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. The governor should sign the bill permitting speed cameras in school zones and make it safer for our children to get to school. It’s about law and order. Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff