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BOG says no to DEI funding for colleges, legislative K-12 education budgets, and more

DEI funding cut: Florida’s Board of Governors voted 15-2 on Wednesday to prohibit all public universities from using state or federal funds for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, or on political or social activism activities. The board also approved the removal of sociology as a general education core course option at the state’s public universities. “When you look at the concepts that are discussed in sociology, they’re very theoretical,” said BOG member and state Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. “While that field was very scientific at one point, it has moved away from that.” Associated Press. ABC News. Tallahassee Democrat. Tampa Bay Times. Board members also voted to extend State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues’ contract for another year, through November 2026, and raise his pay from $400,000 to $420,000 a year. News Service of Florida. Changes in the way college presidential candidates are selected are being discussed by the BOG after Florida Atlantic University’s search was suspended last summer for “anomalies” in the process. Board members also censured Brad Levine, chair of the FAU trustees, for his role in the search. News Service of Florida. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel.

Legislative K-12 education budgets: Senators and representatives are largely in agreement in their proposed education budgets for the 2024-2025 fiscal year. The House plans calls for spending $28.4 billion for K-12 spending, a 7 percent increase of $1.5 billion. It also includes $1.25 billion to boost teacher pay, an increase of $202 million over this year. Senators propose spending $28.3 billion for K-12 education, and the chambers are in alignment on per-student spending at $8,936, which is an increase of $218 over the current budget. But the Senate does not include additional money for teacher raises. House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, said, “We’re going to have a pretty tight budget that we release today — that’s on purpose. We are looking to get out of the Covid era, the euphoria of never-ending revenues and money coming from the federal government.” Politico Florida. Florida Politics.

Also in the Legislature: The House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday, 106-13, for the bill that prevents students under 16 years old from having social media accounts. The issue, which some critics contend is unconstitutional, now heads to the Senate. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Associated Press. USA Today Florida Network. A bill requiring adult websites to check ages of users was approved 119-0 in the Florida House on Wednesday. A Senate compansion bill has yet to have a committee hearing. Florida Politics. Vaping and marijuana stores and bars would not be permitted within 1,500 feet of schools and religious buildings under a bill approved Wednesday by a House committee. Politico Florida. A bill that would pay teachers and students a stipend for participating in an after-school tutoring program was approved by a Senate committee and now heads to the Senate floor. Florida Daily.

Around the state: A judge orders Gov. Ron DeSantis to explain why a man who won a school board election seat in 2022 should not be seated, black students in Brevard continue to be disproportionately given discipline referrals but a school board says it’s a societal problem and not bias, Hendry County’s school board approves an impact fee on new residential housing, Okaloosa County schools name their principals and assistant principals of the year, and Santa Rosa County schools announce their teacher and principal of the year. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: A Leon County Circuit judge has ordered Gov. Ron DeSantis to explain why a candidate who won a Broward school board election in 2022 should not be seated. Rod Velez was convicted of a felony in 1995 and hadn’t had his right to run for office restored. After he won, the state attorney said he wouldn’t be prosecuted for swearing he was eligible to run when he filed for the seat. But on the day he was to be sworn in, DeSantis declared the office vacant and appointed Daniel Foganholi to it. Velez sued, and Judge John Cooper ruled that DeSantis either put Velez in the seat or defend his actions. A spokesman for the governor said a response would be filed to answer the “typical procedural action in this type of case.” Florida Politics. Author Judy Blume’s book Forever, which contains details of sexual encounters, has been restricted to high school bookshelves after school board member Brenda Fam and someone in the community objected to it. WTVJ.

Orange: Agriculture science classes are now available in every district high school and 11 middle schools, and school officials say they are working on expanding to the rest of the middle schools. “Agriculture is in everything. It’s in our clothes, our food, our housing. Almost every service in our county is related to agriculture in some way,” said Jessica Long, who teaches the subject at Avalon Middle. “It is science taken and actually used so kids can have that perspective of this is the real world this is what we’re doing.” WKMG.

Brevard: Black students continued to be disproportionately given discipline referrals during the first semester of the school year. Overall referrals were up from the last semester, according to a report presented to school board members this week. A risk-ratio factor is used by the state on suspensions within a certain demographic. Those under 1.0 are getting a lower percentage of referrals compared to other groups. White Brevard students and other groups were under 1.0. The ratio for black students, who make up 15 percent of enrollment, was over 2.5, triggering an “alert status.” Board member Matt Susin contends the problem is a societal one and not a bias against black students. Florida Today. Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel Slaughterhouse-Five and The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, will stay on high school bookshelves, school board members decided this week in following the recommendations of a district book review committee. Florida Today.

St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: While Martin County school officials have already approved a plan to change school start times in the fall to comply with later start times required by the state by 2026, St. Lucie and Indian River district officials are still working on their plans. The new law requires high schools to begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m., and middle schools no earlier than 8 a.m. TCPalm. None of the three teachers unions in Treasure Coast counties has yet met the 60 percent dues-paying membership of eligible employees the state requires to retain certification. Indian River County’s union has until March to hit that standard or start the recertification process, while St. Lucie’s and Martin’s unions have until May. TCPalm.

Escambia: A Pensacola charter school is receiving a nearly $7.5 million grant from the nonprofit organization that distributes settlement funds the state received after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Warrington Preparatory Academy, which is operated by Charter Schools USA, will use the money to provide career training and certifications to nearly 3,500 students and their families. Pensacola News Journal.

Okaloosa: Four administrators have been honored with administrator of the year awards. Charlie Marillo of Nice High School is the secondary principal of the year, while Jason McClelland was the choice for elementary principal of the year for his work at Mary Esther Elementary. McClelland now leads Pryor Middle. Jordan Berry of the Lewis School was picked as the elementary assistant principal of the year, and Lucretia Waskow of Rukel Middle is the secondary assistant principal of the year. Northwest Florida Daily News. Three district schools are getting new leaders. Thomas Harvell was appointed as the principal of the Richbourg School, Amy Klugh will lead Shalimar Elementary, and Morena Mannucci becomes the assistant principal at Elliott Point Elementary. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Alachua: Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville has announced it will open a K-8 Christian school in the fall. Lead pastor David Chauncey said demand for spots is so strong that church leaders scrapped their plan to start with a kindergarten and 6th grade only and then add a grade each year. Main Street Daily News.

Santa Rosa: Christal Bennett, a music teacher at Central High School in Milton, has been named the school district’s teacher of the year. She’s now eligible for the statewide teacher of the year award. WEAR. Kasie Windfelder, the principal at Navarre High School, has been named Florida’s innovative principal of the year by the Florida Council of Instructional Technology Leaders. WEAR. A $9 million grant from the Triumph Gulf Coast will allow the school board to expand its career technical education program at the Santa Rosa Center for Innovation. District officials will use the money to buy and renovate a building in Milton and to purchase curriculum, materials and equipment, and hire instructors in such fields as coding, 3D printing, robotics, engineering, electronics, artificial intelligence, health-care, agriculture, automotive, energy, construction and trades. Pensacola News Journal.

Citrus: Starting next fall, Lecanto High School will be home to a new International Baccalaureate program called the IB Career-Related Program. The initial programs will be culinary arts and the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Students in those programs will have more flexible schedules that can help them with career readiness. Citrus County Chronicle.

Flagler: School board members approved an agreement for control of the Carver Center in Bunnell even though the county did not relinquish its authority to set fees for school-related events, as board member Cheryl Massaro sought. “The county is reserving its right to set the fee schedule for it,” said school Superintendent LaShakia Moore. The district, county, city of Bunnell and the sheriff’s Police Athletic League share the costs of the center, with the county paying the majority. Flagler Live.

Hendry: An impact fee on new residential housing development has been approved by the school board to help support school construction to keep up with enrollment growth. Superintendent Michael Swindle said the district is getting more students from a steadily increasing population and from neighboring counties and overseas. Much of the growth is in LaBelle, and Swindle said the district is planning to build a new high school in the city. The next step is setting a fees schedule, which Swindle believes will be done in March, then holding public hearings. WFTX.

Colleges and universities: A new $5 million science and technology building has been opened on the Venice campus of the State College of Florida. Charlotte Sun. U.S. Education Department officials say they are working to fix an error in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid formula that determines how much financial aid a student can get. The error could have shorted students $1.8 billion in aid they’re entitled to. Inside Higher Ed.

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 this week. Here are reports on graduation rates from school districts around the state. Broward. Palm Beach. Duval, Clay, Nassau, St. Johns, Putnam, Baker. Florida Department of Education.

Opinions on schools: The focus on a culture war agenda is detrimental to education at the local level. The governor’s policies have resulted in an exodus of public school teachers who fear lawsuits and disciplinary action for actively or inadvertently violating DeSantis-inspired legislation and administrative policies. Goliath J. Davis III, Tampa Bay Times. For those parents who believe that inclusive public education is our children’s best hope for the future, it is time to speak out and fight back — for public education, for equity and inclusion, and, most importantly, for all our children. Margaret Huang, Tallahassee Democrat. The “free state of Florida” wants to ban kids from social media. Politicians who call themselves “conservative” don’t dictate to families how to raise their children. Howard Simon, Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff

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