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Bills revising voucher program, restricting social media, relaxing labor laws advance, and more

School voucher changes: A bill that would impose deadlines on distributing funds from state scholarship programs, restrict what items families receiving scholarships can buy, increase the number of students with disabilities who can receive funds, and end the Hope Scholarship for bullied students was approved Tuesday by the House Education & Employment Committee. News Service of Florida. WMNF. Parents of students who attend virtual and “hybrid” private schools that split time between online and on-campus classes told the committee that they’re frustrated they aren’t eligible for state vouchers. Politico Florida. Florida Phoenix. Two Florida private schools suspended from participating in the state’s K-12 scholarship program have appealed the decision, saying they are not owned or operated or “in any way controlled by a foreign country of concern.” Park Maitland School in Orange County and Sagemont Preparatory School in Broward were suspended from the program after Gov. Ron DeSantis accused them of having direct ties to China. Orlando Sentinel.

Also in the Legislature: House members rejected three amendments and approved one for a bill that would prohibit students under 16 years old from establishing social media accounts, require those platforms to use “reasonable” age verification methods to enforce that, and terminate accounts that exist now. The approved amendment more clearly defines a social media platform, though it doesn’t name any. Rejected were amendments that would put a curfew on social media use instead of banning it, raise the age limit to 18, and drop the age limit to under 13. The full House is expected to approve the bill today. News Service of Florida. USA Today Florida Network. Florida Politics. Students 16 and 17 years old would be able to work longer hours under a bill that won the backing Tuesday of the House Commerce Committee. WPTV. Florida Politics.

Around the state: Broward’s school board has asked district officials to put together a survey of parents, students and teachers about their opinions on a proposal to require school uniforms for all K-12 students, the FHSAA says it won’t reduce the $16,500 fine imposed on Monarch High School in Broward for allowing a transgender student play on the girls volleyball team, Flagler’s school board fires its attorney 18 months before her contract ends, Miami-Dade schools name their teacher of the year, an Osceola school rezoning plan could affect 3,000 students, Volusia’s school board tables a proposal to permit random searches at schools, and a 15-year-old Polk County student was killed when he was hit by a vehicle while riding a standup electric scooter Tuesday morning. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Melissa Abril-Dotel, a 2nd-grade teacher at North Beach Elementary in Miami Beach, has been chosen as the school district’s teacher of the year. She now advances to the statewide competition. Miami Herald. A 16-year-old student at Miami Palmetto Senior High School was arrested Tuesday at school and accused of beating up a 15-year-old at Coral Reef Park following baseball practice Jan. 18. WSVN. WPLG. WTVJ.

Broward: School board members decided in a 5-3 vote Tuesday to have district staffers survey parents, students and teachers for their opinions on mandatory school uniforms for all K-12 students. Board members Brenda Fam, Daniel Foganholi and Torey Alston favor uniforms, with Alston arguing that requiring them would help the district get an A grade from the state. But the majority want more information before committing, and requested the survey. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WFOR. The board also approved Aug. 12 as the first day of school. The last day is June 3, 2025. WTVJ. WSVN. Monarch High School’s request to reduce the state-imposed $16,500 fine for allowing a transgender student to play for the girls volleyball team has been rejected. The Florida High School Athletic Association did not give a reason, but did say the fine was based on a penalty of $500 a game for 33 games played by the student. The school can appeal. Sun-Sentinel.

Polk: A 15-year-old Auburndale High School student was killed Tuesday morning in Winter Haven when the electric standing scooter he was riding was struck by a driver who swerved to avoid hitting dogs that were in the roadway. Yeriel Gonzalez of Winter Haven was pronounced dead at the scene. The 29-year-old driver has not been charged, and the investigation is continuing. Grief counselors are available at the school for students and staff. Lakeland Ledger. WFTS. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT.

Lee: The proposed sale of almost 70 acres of land owned by the district for about $14 million is being considered by the school board. The land along Three Oaks Parkway was purchased in 2019, but has now been determined not to be suitable for a school site. WINK.

Osceola: About 3,000 students would be affected by the district’s proposed rezoning of school boundaries for 12 elementary and middle schools and two K-8 schools opening in the fall. District officials said the rezoning is needed to better balance enrollment. WKMG.

Volusia: Concerns about a proposal to allow school administrators to perform random searches without probable cause prompted the school board to table its scheduled discussion Tuesday. Board member Carl Persis was among those who questioned the language of the policy. “I think if you want to say all students, we should say all students, all employees and all visitors,” Persis said. Board members will talk more about the details of the policy at their next workshop meeting. WKMG. WFTV. WESH.

Leon: About 300 students were added over the winter break to the district’s list homeless students, bringing the total to nearly 900. “I think those numbers can be deceiving,” said Superintendent Rocky Hanna. “They’re homeless in the sense that they don’t have their own home, but not in the sense that they’re sleeping on the side of the street.” He said the majority don’t have a permanent home but are living with other people. But, Hanna told school board members at a retreat, any unstable living arrangements can have a serious effect on a student’s education and mental well-being. Tallahassee Democrat.

Flagler: School board attorney Kristy Gavin has been fired months after a majority of board members proposed to do so, and 18 months before her contract ends. Gavin was negotiating with Superintendent LaShakia Moore to move into a school district attorney role, supervised by Moore, but no agreement could be reached. A district spokesperson said the firing was for cause, but no details were provided. Gavin had been the board’s attorney since 2006. Flagler Live. A consultant assured school board members Tuesday that, despite their concerns, a cell phone tower behind the stadium bleachers at Flagler Palm Coast High School is not a health hazard. The contract for the tower runs through 2046. Flagler Live.

Walton: Portable 3rd-grade classrooms at Butler Elementary School in Santa Rosa Beach are in poor condition, parents told the school board at this week’s meeting. Some have sewage backups and unsanitary water, they said, and this week a dead rodent was discovered in one of the buildings. Superintendent A. Russell Hughes said, “We are never going to allow children to be at risk when it comes to their health and their safety. If that building needs to be condemned, we’ll make sure that happens by next year. I’ll make sure that happens so that there is no problem.” WJHG.

Colleges and universities: A teacher accelerator program developed at the University of Miami is expanding to include Florida International University and Miami-Dade College. The program helps students with bachelor’s degrees or in the process of earning one become certified and get a job. WPLG.

Weapons in Florida schools: More than 2,060 cases of weapons possession in K-12 schools were reported in the past school year, according to the Florida Department of Education. Hillsborough had the most cases with 272, followed by Palm Beach County at 205, Broward with 135, Miami-Dade with 92 and Duval with 89. Just over 200 of the statewide cases reported involved a firearm. WPBF.

More on graduation rates: Florida’s high school graduation rate hit a record high of 88 percent in the 2022-2023 school year, the Florida Department of Education announced Monday. Here are reports on graduation rates from school districts around the state. Miami-Dade. Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River, Okeechobee Orange. Leon. Lee. Volusia. Florida Department of Education.

Opinions on schools: A proposed bill that that would make it more difficult for people to challenge books en mass is an implicit acknowledgment that book banning in Florida schools has gone too far. It also suggests that the enormous number of books being taken off school shelves has become a political problem for Florida Republicans. Jedd Legum, Popular Information. Post-pandemic education policy developments raise at least two questions for policymakers and researchers alike. The first is, for effective school choice policies, how important are accountability provisions—as opposed to accountability to the “market” alone? The second question is how to produce rigorous evidence about new voucher (and voucher like) programs as they grow. John D. Singleton, The 74. Florida’s assault on higher education is most visible by its takeover and makeover of New College, the tiny public liberal arts college that is being remade into a bastion of conservative thought. But restrictions on academic freedom and free expression began two years earlier and are continuing in the current legislative session. Stacy Frazier and Elisa Trucco, Sun-Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff

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