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Fine calls for expulsion of students who support Hamas’ attack on Israel, hiring freeze in Sarasota school district, and more

Around the state: Republican state Rep. Randy Fine calls for the expulsion of any college or university student or student organization justifying the “killing of Jews” and the firing of faculty who “propagated, excused, or encouraged this genocide,” Sarasota’s school superintendent orders a hiring freeze because of a drop in enrollment, what is expected to be the final tour of the Parkland school building where 17 people died in a 2018 shooting took place Saturday, 75 books have now been removed from Seminole County school bookshelves, the pay gap between Florida teachers and other college-educated professionals grew to 20.4 percent in 2022, and Florida’s preschools are ranked No. 1 in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward, South Florida: What is expected to be the final tour of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building where 17 students and staff were shot to death Feb. 14, 2018, took place Saturday. Florida legislators and education leaders from 25 states were led by Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son Alex was one of the students murdered. The building is scheduled to be torn down next summer. Associated Press. WPLG. WFOR. Some south Florida private school principals are digging into their own pockets to keep their schools open because they have yet to receive funds from the state’s new universal voucher program. Record demand is delaying processing of scheduled payments. WSVN.

Hillsborough: A teacher and ROTC captain at Chamberlain High School in Tampa was arrested last week and accused of child abuse and having a gun on school property. Tampa police said Michael Bradford, 55, allegedly stood over a 16-year-old student who was on the ground during training, smacked him on the behind and made an inappropriate comment. When the student stood up, police said, Bradford grabbed him by the neck, then threw the student’s phone when the 16-year-old tried to call his parents. When officers escorted Bradford to his office to gather his personal belongings, they said they found a loaded handgun in a cabinet. WFLA. Tampa Bay Times.

Pinellas: A bitter intraparty squabble has broken out between two Republicans who are running for the District 5 school board seat next year. More conservative Republicans are backing Stacy Geier, a business owner who says her views align with Moms for Liberty, while others in the party are supporting Katie Blaxberg, who was an aide to Pinellas County Commissioner Chris Latvala when he served in the state House. Blaxberg has said it’s important to not allow a “small, very loud minority” to “take up all the air in the room.” Moms for Liberty said it would not support Blaxberg because “There’s too much at stake to make a mistake on this seat.” Blaxberg said she was “not prepared for the viciousness and ugliness like I’ve seen for the past month.” Incumbent Carol Cook is widely expected to not run for re-election to a seventh term. Tampa Bay Times.

Seminole: Seventy-five books have now been removed from school libraries, district spokeswoman Katherine Crnkovich said Friday. The books appeared on a list of 380-plus titles with “questionable” content that the district received from the State Department of Education. Media specialists are reviewing the books on the list to decide if they should be removed or restricted by age level. WFTV.

Sarasota: A hiring freeze was imposed Friday by Superintendent Terry Connor, who said it’s a reflection of enrollment being lower than expected. He attributed the decline to shifting demographics, population changes, students moving out of the county and the new school choice law that offers vouchers to every student regardless of income. Sixty-seven teaching jobs and 25 non-instructional vacancies had been posted as open as of Friday, and will be evaluated for removal or left open “until further notice,” Connor said. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WWSB.

Santa Rosa: District officials say construction should begin soon on a $103 million high school. Southend High School will have room for 1,794 students, and is expected to open in the fall of 2026. It will relieve the enrollment pressure on Gulf Breeze and Navarre high schools, which are both at capacity. WEAR.

Monroe: Florida schools have banned the most books of any state, said the nonprofit group PEN America, but none of them have been in the Monroe school district, said Superintendent Theresa Axford. “If a parent complained about a book, then we’d pull it initially and run it through a review committee, but no one has done that,” she said. “I feel really fortunate. I don’t want to get to the point of pulling books like Of Mice and Men and other literature. I believe in reading. I love reading and I don’t want to have the kind of stuff going on in our schools that is happening elsewhere in Florida.” Florida Keys Weekly.

Colleges and universities: A powerful legislator’s call to expel college students who express support for Hamas’ attack on Israel has gained support from Gov. DeSantis. On Friday, state Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, who is Jewish, said any state college or university student or student organization justifying the “killing of Jews” must be expelled immediately, and that faculty who “propagated, excused, or encouraged this genocide” must be fired. DeSantis’ office issued a statement saying the governor “expects nothing less than the full enforcement of Florida laws by those empowered to (protect Jewish students).” USA Today Florida Network. Politico Florida. New College is expected to soon finalize a new lease agreement with the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport on a 32-acre site. The tentative deal would allow the airport to build six new terminals on the western part of its property, and give the school a more affordable way to buy the land it leases. Without a deal, the land would revert to airport ownership in 2056. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The University of West Florida is receiving a $500,000 federal grant to support on-campus child-care programs. News Service of Florida. At a campaign event in Iowa on Saturday, Gov. DeSantis said New College of Florida was “cycling through faculty” during the conservative makeover of the school, and he called the attrition “addition by subtraction.” Florida Politics.

Florida teacher pay gap: The pay gap between teachers and other college-educated professionals is growing, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. Nationwide, teachers made 26.4 percent less in 2022 than other similarly educated professionals, up from the 6.1 percent gap in 1996. In Florida, the gap is 20.4 percent. The gap is a “deep problem that needs a deep solution,” said Sylvia Allegretto, a senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute who authored the report. “The teacher has the future of the country in front of them every day, so I think this is of enormous importance, and I think we’re at a critical point,” she added. WUSF.

Florida and preschools: Florida’s high ratings in K-12 and higher education extend to preschool, according to recent rankings by U.S. World & News Report. The state’s average disparity in preschool enrollment between racial groups is just 1.5 percentage points, making it the best state for racial equality in preschool enrollment, the rankings indicate. Florida’s overall preschool enrollment rate of 61 percent is also third in the country. Palm Beach Post.

SAT, ACT test dates: Deadlines to register for the upcoming national SAT and ACT test dates are in early November. To avoid a late fee for the Dec. 2 SAT, students must register by Nov. 2. For the ACT, the deadline is Nov. 3 for the test given Dec. 9. Other ACT tests and their registration deadlines are: Jan. 5 for the Feb. 10 test, March 8 for the April 13 exam, May 3 for the June 8 exam, and June 7 for the July 13 test. Other SAT tests and their registration deadlines are: Feb. 23 for the March 9 exam, April 19 for the May 4 test, and May 16 for the June 1 exam. WINK.

Opinions on schools: “Classical liberal education” is yet another lofty term to justify moving higher education away from some of its mains tenets: fostering critical thinking and intellectual exploration. The ultimate goal seems to be to control young minds. New College is paying top dollar to accomplish that, but Florida pays the ultimate price. Miami Herald. Rather than reduce our support for public schools and the teachers who work to nurture our children, we should work together – teachers, parents, administrators, and politicians – to ensure that public school classrooms are and remain intentionally constructed spaces equipped as the training ground for contentious, democratic self-rule. Monte F. Bourjaily IV, Florida Phoenix.

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BY NextSteps staff