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Special session set on vouchers, Israel, Idalia and more, New College trustees approve lucrative contract for Corcoran, and more

Legislative special session: A special session of the Florida Legislature has been called for the week of Nov. 6 to consider new sanctions against Iran and other governments that sponsor terrorism, add protection for Jewish day schools and other organizations, offer tax relief to victims of Hurricane Idalia, and make more state money available for students with special needs who receive Family Empowerment Scholarships. More students applied for the program than anticipated, and some families reported delays in receiving funds. Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said legislators will “increase the number of students served.” The number of students receiving these scholarships went from 70,000 last year to 83,941 this year, according to Step Up For Students, which helps administer the programs and hosts this blog. Politico Florida. Florida Phoenix. WPTV. Tallahassee Democrat. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. WCTV. WKMG. WFLA. Florida Politics. The Hill. The Capitolist.

Around the state: New College trustees approve a five-year contract that could pay new President Richard Corcoran $1 million a year or more, Broward school board members are urging a review of the arrest of a longtime school volunteer at last week’s board meeting, a Hernando book review committee is recommending the school board remove two books, a conservative think tank is mounting a campaign against the union representing Miami-Dade teachers, and school media specialists compared notes about complying with new laws and offering each other support at a conference last weekend in Tampa. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A conservative think tank has begun a campaign urging members of the United Teachers of Dade to stop paying their union dues. The Freedom Foundation has mailed attack flyers against the union and released a video of some teachers expressing disappointment at the union, and saying they planned to start a new union and have the UTD abolished. The foundation says it’s simply a nonpartisan effort to educate workers about their rights, but Alex Hertel-Fernandez, a professor at Columbia University who specializes in labor unions, disagrees. “These aren’t isolated state by state episodes, but rather part of a bigger arc, a bigger campaign to try and defang, defund and demobilize public sector labor unions, particularly teachers unions,” he said. WFOR.

Broward: Last week’s arrest of a longtime district volunteer at the school board meeting stunned members of the board and sparked calls for a review of the incident and whether additional training is needed for conflict resolution. Debbie Espinoza, a former district volunteer of the year, was handcuffed and charged with a felony count of battery against a law enforcement officer when she made physical contact with a deputy while being ejected from the meeting because she engaged in a heated disagreement with an opponent of the curriculum. “I have asked the superintendent to review our safety and public participation protocols for school board meetings and workshops to ensure we are providing a safe, secure and welcoming environment for all,” said board chair Lori Alhadeff said. Sun-Sentinel.

Hillsborough: School board members voted unanimously last week to recognize October as LGBTQ+ National History Month. The symbolic gesture has been routine in the past, but has drawn intense opposition from some members of communities since state laws were passed that restrict instruction about sexual orientation, gender identity and racial issues. Several school boards, including Miami-Dade’s and Polk’s, have declined to approve such a resolution. WUSF.

Leon: A 16-year-old Lincoln High School student was arrested Friday and accused of shooting a classmate with an airsoft gun. After the student reported being shot, school officers confronted the suspect and found the gun in the back seat of a car. He’s been charged with felony possession of a dangerous weapon on campus. No injuries were reported. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL.

Bay: Coaches are now in every district high school to keep seniors on track to graduate on time. The program was started because the district has been under the state average in the percentage of students earning diplomas. Coaches help students choose classes, manage their time, recover credits required for graduation and motivate them. “I’m going to do everything in my power to get them to graduate from this school,” said Rutherford High graduation coach Ashley Myatt. “I’m going to give them alternatives, whether it’s a GED, whether it’s another dropout prevention technique. But my main goal is that they get a diploma no matter what.” WJHG. WMBB.

Hernando: A book review committee is recommending that the school board remove two challenged books at its meeting Tuesday. The books are It’s So Amazing: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families, by Robie H. Harris, which is recommended for students 7 to 10 years old, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Steven Chbosky, a book about a high school wallflower that includes references to drugs and sex and is recommended for students 14 and older. Hernando Today.

Charlotte: Three lawsuits have now been filed against the Babcock Neighborhood School in Punta Gorda by students claiming they have been discriminated against. Each suit alleges the school did nothing when the three girls, all biracial, were the targets of racial slurs by white students. Attorneys and members of the NAACP are calling for the firing of all teachers, administrators and coaches named in the complaint. Fort Myers News-Press.

Putnam: Four 2nd-graders at Robert H. Jenkins Jr. Elementary School in Interlachen were hospitalized during school Friday after ingesting gummies that contained THC, the main chemical component of marijuana. Deputies said one of the children brought the gummies from home. None of the injuries is believed to be serious. WJXT. WTLV. WCJB.

Colleges and universities: New College trustees approved a five-year contract for new President Richard Corcoran at their meeting Friday. He’ll be paid $699,000 a year, but with benefits and incentives he could make up to $1 million a year. Corcoran, a former speaker of the Florida House and state education commissioner, was named interim president of the school in January and permanent president earlier this month. He becomes one of the highest-paid leaders of any school in the state system even though New College is the smallest school with 733 students. Critics call the contract a “gross overpayment,” but college trustee Matthew Spalding, who was appointed to the board earlier this year by Corcoran ally Gov. Ron DeSantis, disagrees. “This does not strike me as a radical deviation and an excuse to pump up a salary. It strikes me as a very reasonable package.” Patricia Okker, whose firing was followed by Corcoran’s hiring, made $305,000 a year. Politico Florida. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Phoenix. Florida Atlantic University trustee Barbara Feingold is known for her financial contributions to the school, helping create a school of dentistry and, lately, for the long-delayed search for a new school president. Palm Beach Post. The University of Florida is the most affordable college in America, according to a new rating. Florida State University is second and the University of South Florida fourth. WPTV.

Librarians gather,  trade notes: School media specialists compared notes about complying with new laws putting restrictions on what they can and cannot stock, dealing with death threats, and offering each other support at last weekend’s American Association of School Librarians conference in Tampa. Tampa Bay Times. Alachua County Public Schools media specialist Patty Duval has spent months learning to write code to automate a way to catalog tens of thousands of elementary classroom books and materials to make sure they comply with state law. She hopes to roll the program into middle and high schools by the end of the month, and is offering it to other state media specialists. WUFT.

Choice and unbundling: Education officials are urging parents and charter schools to take advantage of the provisions in the new universal school choice law that offer flexibility to buy unbundled educational services. “As families start to curate and customize their children’s education a lot more. … I hope that charters, because they tend to be more innovative, will see that as an opportunity and will sell classes a la carte,” John Kirtley, the founder and chairman of Step Up For Students, said at the annual charter school conference last week in Orlando. “I think the next step where H.B. 1 really gets rocking and rolling is when parents figure that out and the market provides that opportunity,” said Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. reimaginED.

Around the nation: The College Board’s senior vice president over Advanced Placement courses, Trevor Packer, talks about the year of turmoil that started with Florida rejecting a course on black history, claiming it was indoctrination, and turning the academic institution into a national political issue. Deseret News. Nina Rees, the outgoing president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, talks about her tenure, the rapidly changing world of school choice and her insistence that charters continue to be considered public schools. The 74. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. students struggle with math because they have a neurological learning disorder called dyscalculia, which affects children’s ability to process numbers and retain math knowledge. But many schools don’t screen for the disorder or provide much help to the students who have it. Health News Florida.

Opinions on schools: We have to do a better job advocating the value of a well-rounded education in America. Kids and far too many adults simply don’t get it. Their overriding question is reasonable enough: Why do we need to know all this stuff? The short answer is that all this “stuff” provides a frame of reference that, in turn, provides relevance. Chris Fulton, Tampa Bay Times. Teachers once concerned with English, math or science are now tasked with intercepting disaffected wannabe gunslingers before they shoot up the joint, because 4.6 million American kids live in households where guns are loaded and accessible to children. Fred Grimm, Sun-Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff