DeSantis’ proposed $114.4B budget includes $27.8B for K-12 and $5.4B for higher ed, 4-day weekends and more

Governor’s budget: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed $114.4 billion budget for the 2024-2025 fiscal year allocates $27.8 billion for the K-12 public school system, including $1.25 billion for teacher pay, $290 million for school safety, $180 million for student mental health, and funding for 274,000 students enrolling in the state’s Family Empowerment Scholarship program that provides vouchers for students to attend private schools or to spend on other education options. Florida’s colleges and universities would receive $5.4 billion, including $36.5 million to New College of Florida operations and dorm renovations, and $152 million for historically black colleges and universities. Overall, DeSantis aims to cut state spending by about $4.6 billion from last year. Also in the budget are tax cuts totaling $1.1 billion, with $169 million coming from back-to-school holidays in the spring and fall, and $1 million for possible legal action after Florida State University’s football team was passed over for the four-team college playoffs. DeSantis’ proposal now goes to legislators to consider as they craft a budget they must pass before the end of the 60-day legislative session that starts Jan. 9. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. USA Today Florida Network. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. Florida Phoenix. Associated Press. Florida Politics. Office of the Governor.

Around the state: Pasco’s 2024-2025 school calendar includes several scheduled four-day weekends as “something new” to combat student absenteeism, University of South Florida officials affirm their support for free speech on campus for all students, completion of USF’s $340 million on-campus stadium has been delayed a year, Alachua’s school board delays consideration of a new contract for interim superintendent Shane Andrew, nearly 1,000 Brevard students would change schools next year in a proposed rezoning of school boundaries to relieve overcrowding, and a 15-year-old Polk County student was hit and killed by a school bus as he rode his bicycle to school. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Hillsborough: Three months after the principal at Webb Middle School in Tampa imposed an all-day ban on students using cell phones, administrators, teachers, parents and even students have good words about the idea. Students no longer use phones to bully others during classes or text to set up meetings in bathrooms to vape, and are focusing more on learning than on TikTok. Principal Glenda Vinueza said she’s anxious to see if the idea will change the reputation of the school and improve academic performance. “I’m curious to know how much better some kids can do on any assessment, if this is taken away and they actually have to pay attention to what happens in class,” she said. Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: Dates, times and locations have been announced for 32 high school graduations next spring. Most will be held at the South Florida Fairgrounds. Ceremonies begin Thursday, May 9, and conclude Thursday, May 23. Students must maintain a 2.0 grade point average, complete course credit requirements and pass the 10th-grade state’s language arts and the algebra 1 end-of-course exams to be eligible for graduation. Palm Beach Post.

Polk: A 15-year-old Central Florida Aerospace Academy student who was bicycling to school Tuesday morning was killed when he was hit by a Schools of McKeel Academy bus. Lakeland police said the student, identified by his family as Jaxon Crabtree, moved into the path of the bus on West Pipkin Road. Neither the driver, 71-year-old Nina Lewis, nor any of the eight students on the bus was injured. Both schools have made grief counselors available to students and staff. Lakeland Now. Lakeland Ledger. WFTS. WKMG. WFLA. WTVT.

Pasco: Four-day weekends in October, February and April have been approved for the 2024-2025 school calendar as a way to “try something new,” school board chair Megan Harding said at Tuesday’s board meeting. These weekends are in addition to a week off for Thanksgiving, a two-week winter break in December and January, and a week off in March for spring break. District officials will encourage parents to plan family trips on these mini-breaks in an effort to cut down on absenteeism. Tampa Bay Times.

Volusia: At least 951 students would change schools next year under the plan being considered by the school board to reduce overcrowding at eight schools. Students from 20 schools would be affected. Rezoning would also move many of the students closer to their schools, saving the district money on transportation costs. More community meetings have been scheduled for this month and January. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Sarasota: Bridget Ziegler should resign from the school board, her colleague Tom Edwards said Tuesday. Edwards, a moderate on the mostly conservative board, said Ziegler has become too much of a distraction to continue. “She is nothing but a distraction from before and only getting worse, and it will never go away as long as she sits there,” he said. “As a school board member, my focus is on our students, their academic achievement and educational outcomes. It is not on the Zieglers’ escapades.” Ziegler has not commented since she told police that she and her husband Christian, chair of the Florida Republican party, had a sexual encounter with a woman who is now accusing her husband of rape. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Leon: A 14-year-old 7th-grader at Raa Middle School in Tallahassee was arrested Monday and accused of bringing a box cutter to school. A school resource was tipped about the weapon by other students. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. WCTV.

Alachua: School board members decided Tuesday to delay consideration of a new contract to interim superintendent Shane Andrews. The proposal, which will now be a topic for a meeting in January, would rewrite Andrews’ contract, extending it to Dec. 31, 2026, raising his salary from $175,000 to $225,000, and providing for another 3 or 4 percent raise on July 1, 2024. Teachers union officials had urged the board to reject the raise, citing the district’s failure to meet the deadline for an agreement with the union and noting it was a bigger raise than what teachers had been promised. Main Street Daily News. WCJB. A book the school district had removed, then returned to school libraries has been removed again after two new challenges were filed against it. Gender Queer: A Memoir, by Maia Kobabe, has again been taken out of libraries because of graphic references to sex and masturbation. WUFT

Citrus: Crystal River City Council member Ken Frink has announced he is bowing out of a special election for the council in March and will instead run for the District 2 seat on the school board. Frink joins Laura Gantling-Wright, Dale Merrill and Victoria Smith as candidates to replace six-term incumbent Ginger Bryant, who is not running for re-election. Citrus County Chronicle. Florida Politics.

Flagler: School board members tentatively gave their support this week to a proposal adding one minute to every high school class period — or seven minutes a day — during the 2024-2025 academic year so schools can be closed on election days and for the entire Thanksgiving week. The final vote will be taken Dec. 19. Flagler Live. Two candidates have filed to run for the District 3 school board seat that is being vacated by Colleen Conklin in 2024: legal administrative professional Nicole Durenberger and AdventHealth Palm Coast emergency room physician Paul Mucciolo, who challenged Conklin in 2020 but lost. Conklin has held the seat for 22 years. Flagler Live.

Putnam: A teacher at the Putnam Academy of Arts and Science School in Palatka has been arrested and accused of child abuse and battery. Police said James Bellamy got angry at a 12-year-old student during a basketball game because he thought the student had intentionally hit his arm or head. Bellamy then threw a basketball at the boy and elbowed him in the mouth, knocking out a tooth. WOFL. WCJB.

Colleges and universities: Top University of South Florida officials expressed support Tuesday for preserving free speech rights to all students. President Rhea Law and board of trustees chair Will Weatherford agreed that even when school officials don’t agree with views expressed on campus, such as during protests over the Israel-Hamas war, students “have a right to that speech,” Weatherford said. Tampa Bay Times. USF trustees have agreed to pay President Law $300,000 as a bonus for the school’s “banner year.” Law’s base salary is $655,000 a year. Tampa Bay Times. Completion of an on-campus, $350 million, 35,000-seat football stadium at USF has been delayed a year, to 2027, because of supply shortages, trustees announced Tuesday. Tampa Bay Times. St. Pete Catalyst. Florida Politics. Five people arrested during a protest over the state’s crackdown on diversity programs at USF in March won’t be prosecuted as part of a plea agreement. Charges will be dismissed if the five complete a community service program and stay off USF campuses for a year. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: Legislatures in several states, including Florida, are planning to revise standardized testing and high school graduation requirements. Testing has long been a part of education policy in the United States, but declines in scores during the pandemic are causing some states to rethink its role. “You’ve got kind of a bizarre coalition of progressive lefty people who still like tests, and remnants of the Bush-era accountability mavens who still like tests. But those are waning,” said David Cleary, who served as chief of staff to former Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander and is GOP staff director of the Senate’s education committee. “So states are really trying to figure out how we measure the quality of education — or the lack of quality of education that we’re providing — and what role do tests have.” Politico.

Opinions on schools: Florida students are posting some of the lowest SAT scores in America. This should be an all-hands-on-deck crisis. Yet what are Florida education officials obsessing over? Pronouns. And censoring books. But perhaps the most disturbing thing about the state’s current crop of top education officials isn’t just the misguided policies they’re pushing, it’s the way they behave. Like it’s all a joke. Like Twitter trolls. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. Beyond the allegations about the not-so-conservative lifestyle of the Zieglers, do not forget this: Parents and gay children have suffered immeasurably from the fires the Zieglers and their followers stoked pushing the lie that children were being groomed in Florida schools to be gay and trans. Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald. If Bridget Ziegler wrote a book about her life, wouldn’t she also be calling to remove it from the shelves of school libraries? It’s not easy sorting out the champions of traditional family values these days in Florida. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff