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Funding cuts at private schools, marching band to perform overseas, data breaches and more

Around the state: Funding was cut at four schools Gov. Ron DeSantis alleges have communist ties, a high school marching band in Venice is headed overseas to perform, the state of Florida leads the nation in book bans and a data breach occurred in Hillsborough. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Palm Beach: Students aren’t the only ones who receive report cards in this county. The school district’s leaders do, too. Palm Beach Post.

Hillsborough: The protected information on 254 students has been accessed improperly as a result of a cybersecurity breach, according to a letter sent to families recently by the Hillsborough County school district. The information may include names, Social Security numbers and details about school nurse visits, among other information. Tampa Bay Times.

Sarasota: The Venice High Marching Band will perform in London for a New Year’s Day parade in January 2025, the school announced recently in a press release. About 100 band students will travel to London for about a week during the district’s winter break and will perform alongside more than 8,000 performers. The event will also stream on PBS with a street audience of about half a million people, according to the release. “The kids are really excited about this. The families are excited. Our school is excited. I’m excited, as you can tell,” said Band Director David Wing. Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Bathroom rule: The governing body of the state University System of Florida is moving forward with a proposed rule that prohibits faculty from using restrooms that don’t correspond to their assigned gender at birth. Gov. DeSantis signed the law in May, and the Board of Governors approved moving forward with a notice of intent to adopt a new regulation about the designation of restrooms or having unisex restrooms. “University employees who violate (the law), are subject to their university’s established disciplinary procedures, which must include disciplinary actions up to and including dismissal,” the proposed regulation said. Universities are required to provide documentation certifying their compliance with the law by April 1. Amanda Phalin, a member of the Board of Governors who also is a professor at the University of Florida, voted against moving forward with the regulation. Orlando Weekly. CBS 47. WCJB. CBS Miami. Florida Phoenix.

Book bans: Florida leads the nation in book bans according to a new report by national free speech group PEN America. The report found 3,362 instances of books banned across the nation in the 2022-23 school year, which is up 33% from the previous one. School districts in Palm Beach and Okeechobee counties have not banned any books. Jonathan Friedman, the director of education programs for the nonprofit group, calls the escalation of book bans “alarming.” Tallahassee Democrat. WUSF. WPTV. WFSU.

Funding cuts: Gov. Ron DeSantis said he ordered the Florida Department of Education to suspend the availability of school choice scholarships to four private schools he says have alleged ties to the Chinese Communist Party.  The schools are: Lower Sagemont Preparatory School in Weston; Upper Sagemont Preparatory School in Weston; Parke House Academy in Winter Park; Park Maitland School in Maitland. In the release, DeSantis said the four schools have “direct ties to the CCP (Chinese Community Party) and their connections constitute an imminent threat to the health, safety, and welfare of these school’s students and the public.” Fox 35. WKMG. WESH. Tampa Bay Times.

University and college news: The Florida Board of Governors voted to close three University of Central Florida campuses. WMFE. New College of Florida Interim President Richard Corcoran made his case to students and employees to keep his job on a permanent basis. The Board of Trustees is expected to make a decision on the president during an Oct. 3 meeting. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF. University of Florida’s Rob Ferl is leading a national panel on space research. Main Street Daily News.

Opinions on schools: In a recent survey, The Wall Street Journal named University of Florida the best public college in the United States and No. 15 among all schools, both public and private. Several other state universities are also doing well, according to the WSJ, which said its rankings reject the assumption that education quality is largely dictated by how expensive it is to produce. Editorial Board, Tampa Bay Times.  Young people are more active and less informed. Cortney Stewart, Citrus County Chronicle. District officials say frustration is mounting as they try to enforce new education laws championed by Florida’s Republican-run government regarding race, sex, gender issues and books. Editorial Board, Tampa Bay Times.

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BY Camille Knox