Parental rights bill, budget hits $117B, Greene out at Duval, Rendell in at Brevard, Broward unhappy with leadership options, and more

Parental rights bill: The bill that would expand on last year’s Parental Rights in Education law is now ready for a full Senate vote, which could come as early as today. Tuesday, senators agreed to adopt the House’s version of the bill, which would regulate pronoun use in public schools and strengthen the public’s right to challenge library books. It’s being billed an as expansion of last year’s bill that prohibited instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in schools. “The bill seeks to protect parental rights and prevent the indoctrination of children in schools,” said state Sen. Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville. “The bill also protects students and teachers from being required to use language that violates our personal convictions.” Florida Politics. Florida Phoenix.

Budget in at $117B: The published state budget released to lawmakers Tuesday calls for spending $117 billion in the fiscal year that begins July 1. That’s about $8 billion more than the state is spending this year. It includes $26.8 billion for K-12 schools, a $2.2 billion increase from the current year, a boost of $405 in per-student spending to $8,648, and an extra $252 million for teacher raises. It also gives local school districts more flexibility in how they use money they get from the state. “With increases in revenue, we have the amazing opportunity to make key generational investments in many areas of our infrastructure, from workforce housing, to transportation, to clean water, to our iconic Wildlife Corridor,” said Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Orlando Sentinel. Tallahassee Democrat.

Also in the Legislature: Senators approved a bill Tuesday that would create an Office of Public Policy Events at every state university campus to ensure that “multiple, divergent and opposing” viewpoints be presented by speakers on campuses. Next stop for the bill is Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida. Members of the House unanimously approved a bill that will prohibit relationships between China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria and Venezuela, and Florida’s higher education institutions. It now goes to the governor. Florida Politics. The Senate is expected to vote today on a bill prohibiting people from using bathrooms in schools and other public places that do not conform with their gender assigned at birth. Florida Politics.

Around the state: Duval school Superintendent Diana Greene has reached an agreement with the school board to retire this summer, Brevard’s school board selects Mark Rendell as the new district superintendent, Broward school board members express disappointment in the quality of the 26 applicants for the district’s open school superintendent’s job, Flagler’s school board indicates its choice for an interim superintendent, Charter Schools USA will now decide if it will accept the Escambia school board’s contract and take over Warrington Middle School, college operations around the state were interrupted Tuesday by false active-shooter reports, U.S. News & World Report ranks Florida first in the nation in education, and test scores on national history and civics exams continue to decline for 8th-graders. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A school bus driver has been removed and is under investigation after a parent said her child was left alone on a parked, empty bus in Hialeah. The girl was rescued when a person saw her on the bus and called police. WFOR.

Broward: School board members expressed disappointment Tuesday in the caliber of the 26 applications submitted for the school superintendent’s job. Only 15 met the minimum job requirements, and a search firm recommended only four to six candidates for serious consideration. But even among those, school board members said there was no “transformational leader” they were looking for. “I’m not thrilled where we are in terms of the pool,” said Torey Alston. “The pool is weak.” Nora Rupert concurred, saying, “If I’m forced to do this, I will vote no on everyone.” The consultant helping with the search, Ralph Ferrie of the firm McPherson Jacobson LLC, told the board that, “Politically, Florida is a challenge. I’m being very straight up with you. Very, very challenging.” Another meeting is scheduled May 9 to review the 15 applicants considered qualified. Sun-Sentinel. WLRN. WTVJ. Miami Herald. WFOR. WPLG. The board agreed to observe prayer day Thursday with voluntary prayers or meditation. “With different things that are happening in our society, sometimes we need to stop, reflect and just take time, take a moment,” said board member Daniel Foganholi, who proposed the motion. “Prayer should be our first response, not our last resort.” Schools already have a moment of silent reflection every day during first period. Sun-Sentinel.

Duval: Superintendent Diana Greene, who has been under fire over teacher misconduct allegations and how those incidents have been reported to the state, has reached an agreement with the school board to leave her job June 2 and formally retire July 24. The board voted 4-3 to approve the agreement. Greene will receive $114,942.53, or about five months of pay, and $20,015.22 for unused sick leave. She had led the district since July 1, 2018. Any discussion of her temporary replacement has been postponed to a later meeting. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WJAXWTLV. Jacksonville Today.

Pinellas: As the school year comes to an end, a St. Petersburg High School English teacher Philip Belcastro is wrestling with a decision to leave the job he loves or continue working under conditions that he finds increasingly unsatisfying. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: Mark Rendell was chosen as the next school superintendent Tuesday by the school board in a 3-2 vote. Rendell was the only one of the three finalists with a background in the district. He began as a teacher in 1993 and was promoted into assistant principal and principal jobs before leaving the district in 2006. He worked for a few years in North Carolina and as superintendent for Indian River County Schools from 2015-2019. He then returned to Brevard as principal at Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High. He was supported by board members Matt Susin, Megan Wright and Gene Trent. “This is the person we need. We’re excited as a community,” Trent said. “That’s overwhelmingly what I’m getting.” Katye Campbell and Jennifer Jenkins voted for Scott Schneider, chief of schools in Duval County. The other finalist was Jason Wysong, deputy superintendent in Seminole County. Florida Today. WKMG. WFTV. WMFE. WESH.

Marion: Hammett Bowen Jr. Elementary School in Ocala has begun a no-backpack policy for the rest of the school year after a 1st-grader brought a pellet gun to school Monday in his backpack. The ban began Tuesday and continues until school is out May 26. WCJB. WOFL.

Escambia: The decision on whether to accept the terms of a contract to take over Warrington Middle School, revised by the school board and approved Monday, is now in the hands of Charter Schools USA. “I don’t know if Charter USA is even going to take this, what we’ve got here. They may not,” said board member Kevin Adams. The contract would last for seven school years with an automatic 15-year renewal if the new charter earns a C grade within the first four years, and Charter Schools would lease the building for 30 years at $1 a year. Warrington’s school zone would remain in place until the end of the 2025-2026 school year before transitioning to full choice. The school would expand into a K-12 school by the 2028-2029 school year, with students zoned for Warrington now getting preference for seats. If Charter Schools rejects the contract, the Florida Department of Education could step in. Pensacola News Journal.

Alachua: Interim superintendent Shane Andrew received a mixed job evaluation from the school board Tuesday, but no attempt was made to fire him. Board members Kay Abbitt graded Andrew out as “highly effective,” Diyonne McGraw and Leanetta McNealy rated Andrew “effective,” Tina Certain rated him as “needs improvement overall,” and Sarah Rockwell gave him an “unsatisfactory” rating. Board members also voted 3-2 to delay the start of the search for a new superintendent until January, and to keep Andrew in his job until June 2024. WCTV. Mainstreet Daily News. A 15-year-old student at Buchholz High School in Gainesville has been arrested and been accused of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and having a knife at school. Deputies said the boy attacked and injured a 16-year-old boy in a school bathroom. WGFL.

Hernando: The Hernando County Education Foundation has received a $1 million donation from Thomas and Christina Tomoshosky for Central High School that will be used for scholarships and to help pay for an air rifle range at the school. The couple said they donated the money in memory of their late daughter, Valentina, and said the best times of her life were at Central High. Suncoast News.

Flagler: School board members informally agreed at a workshop meeting Tuesday to appoint assistant superintendent LaShakia Moore as interim superintendent from July 1 until at least the beginning of January. Moore would take over for Cathy Mittelstadt, whose contract expires June 30 and is not being renewed. A contract for Moore will be negotiated and voted on by the board in June. Flagler Live.

Colleges and universities: College operations around the state were interrupted Tuesday by false active-shooter reports. Among the schools affected were Florida International University in Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, City College Hollywood, Broward College and Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, Arizona College of Nursing in Tampa, Indian River State College, Tallahassee Community College, Santa Fe College, Southern Technical College in Fort Myers and Cape Coral Technical College. Sun-Sentinel. WESH. WTVJ. Tampa Bay Times. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Palm Beach Post. WCJB. WTXL. WGCU. WINK. Miami Herald.

Around the nation: Florida is the #1 state in the nation in education in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings. The state was rated first in higher education and 14th in preK-12. Overall, Florida was also 7th in the economy, 13th in fiscal stability, 14th in infrastructure, 17th in both natural environment and crime and corrections, 27th in health care and 46th in opportunity, to finish 10th best among the states. U.S. News & World Report. U.S. 8th-graders’ scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress tests on history and civics continued to decline in 2022, and the history scores were the lowest recorded since 1994, according to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. NPR. Education Week. Chalkbeat. School musical productions that have LGBTQ or racial elements are increasingly being canceled by administrators around the country over concerns that they are objectionable. Washington Post.

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BY NextSteps staff