DeSantis asks Legislature to ‘stay course,’ Passidomo pushes public school deregulation, and more

DeSantis urges to ‘stay the course’: In his annual State of the State address Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis recounted what he described as five years of accomplishments and urged legislators to “stay the course. The state of our state is strong. Let’s keep doing what works.” He said Florida was the “envy of the nation” after enacting universal school vouchers, fighting the “woke mob,” banning diversity and equity programs at state universities and more. The only initiative mentioned in his speech was to call on university officials to welcome out-of-state Jewish students who want to leave their current schools because of anti-Semitism. Hours later, Chancellor Ray Rodrigues issued an emergency order waiving fees and deadlines for those transfer students. In a rebuttal to DeSantis’ speech, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, and House Minority Leader Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said the governor’s remarks shadow a “darker reality.” Axios. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. USA Today Florida Network. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. Florida Phoenix. NextSteps. WPEC. WUSF.

School deregulation pushed: Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said in her opening remarks Tuesday that it’s time to cut regulations on public schools so they can compete for students who can otherwise use state vouchers to attend private schools. “With universal school choice now a reality for Florida families, reducing bureaucratic red tape will give neighborhood public schools that have served our communities and families for generations a meaningful chance to compete right alongside other school choice options,” she said. For House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, protecting children from the effects of social media and online pornography is among his highest priorities. “Children have always faced mean girls and boys, but social media has changed the game and causes unprecedented damage to children’s mental health. And here’s the truth — the social media companies know this,” he said. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Florida Politics.

Around the state: Broward school board members unanimously reject the superintendent’s proposal to replace school resource officers from cities and the county with a district police force, the Jackson County School District is the only district in the state with schools closed again today after Tuesday’s severe storms battered the area, Okeechobee’s school board names an interim superintendent to replace the retiring Ken Kenworthy, the former general counsel of the Florida Virtual School acknowledges violating the state’s ethics law by having a FLVS employee do clerical work for his private business, Suwannee County Superintendent Ted Roush says he won’t run for re-election this year, and University of Florida President Ben Sasse promotes interim provost Scott Angle to the provost position. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: The school district is partnering with the University of Miami Health System Pediatric Mobile Clinic to offer required vaccinations and immunizations for students at dozens of schools this month. COVID-19 vaccinations also will be offered. WTVJ.

Broward: School Superintendent Peter Licata’s proposal to replace school resource officers provided by cities and the county with a district-run police department was rejected Tuesday by the school board. The vote was unanimous, with board members saying the plan was rushed and didn’t have public support. “It isn’t broke. I don’t think we need to be in a rush to fix it,” said board member Debra Hixon. Law enforcement, city and county officials were among those criticizing the idea, saying the current setup works well and the district would struggle to fill the needed positions. Sun-Sentinel. WLRN. WFOR. WPLG. WSVN. WTVJ.

Orange: The former general counsel of the Florida Virtual School has acknowledged violating the state’s ethics law by having a FLVS employee do clerical work for his private business. Frank Kruppenbacher, who left his post in 2018, had previously denied a Florida Commission on Ethics finding in 2021 that there was probable cause of violation. On Jan. 26, the commission will decide Kruppenbacher’s case. If it adopts the recommendations in the report,  Kruppenbacher would face public censure, receive a reprimand and be ordered to pay a civil penalty of $5,000. Orlando Sentinel. Recent, random enrollment audits requesting proof of address for students attending Timber Creek High School revealed no responses from 300 families. Until the addresses are provided and verified, schedules for dozens of students are being put on pause. WKMG.

Collier: A 15-year-old student riding a bicycle to school Tuesday morning was hospitalized after she was hit by a school bus that had just dropped students off at Aubrey Rogers High School in North Naples. Florida Highway Patrol troopers said the girl is in stable condition. The driver will be tested for drugs and alcohol, and the crash remains under investigation. Naples Daily News. WBBH. WINK.

Okaloosa: Two district schools are getting new principals. Dawn Johnson, who has been the assistant principal at Elliott Point Elementary for the past three years, has been named principal of Mary Esther Elementary, and Nathaniel Chapman, who led the Richbourg School and Fast-Track North for the past two years, is the new principal at the preK-8 Lewis School in Valparaiso. Okaloosa County School District.

Alachua: School board members are expected to cast a final vote Thursday on a proposed school rezoning plan. Impetus for the plan was to relieve overcrowding at five elementary schools, a middle school and two high schools that are over capacity by moving students to underenrolled schools. Even if the plan is approved and goes into effect for the 2024-2025 academic year, four elementary schools and one high school will still be over capacity. Main Street Daily News. Andres Correa III, a 3rd-grade teacher at Stephen Foster Elementary School in Gainesville, has been placed on administrative leave after being arrested and accused of driving under the influence, possession of bath salts and resisting arrest. WUFT.

Martin: School board members decided Tuesday against applying to participate in the state’s pilot program for year-round schools. Deputy superintendent Tracey Miller said there was no state money for participating schools, and the 2024-2025 academic calendar would have to be reworked. “If there’s no money attached to being a pilot program from the Department of Education, there’s no sense of urgency (to participate),” said board member Christia Li Roberts. “The time frame to implement this for this coming school year is just too short,” said colleague Marsha Powers. “Had we started on July 1, when we knew this was coming, it would be a different story.” TCPalm. WPTV.

Okeechobee: Superintendent Ken Kenworthy is retiring, effective Feb. 29, and on Tuesday the school board chose Dylan Tedders, the current assistant superintendent of administrative services. to replace Kenworthy on an interim basis starting March 1. Kenworthy has been superintendent for more than a decade. WPEC.

Jackson: District schools are closed again today after Tuesday’s severe storms spawned tornadoes that caused heavy damage across the county. Jackson is the only district in the state closed Tuesday that won’t reopen today. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. WMBB. Jackson County School District. Florida Department of Education.

Suwannee: School Superintendent Ted Roush has announced that he will not run for re-election this year when his term ends Nov. 18. Roush has led the district for seven years. WCJB.

Colleges and universities: University of Florida President Ben Sasse has appointed  interim provost Scott Angle to the provost position. “Many of the folks on our excellent search committee recommended that we take the ‘interim’ out of his title. Effective immediately, we’re doing just that,” Sasse said Tuesday. “Scott has earned the trust and admiration of his colleagues in each of UF’s 16 colleges.” Gainesville Sun. Tampa Bay Times. James Gwartney, a Florida State University professor emeritus who taught economics at the school for more than 50 years before retiring in 2022, has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 83. Tallahassee Democrat.

Around the nation: The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it was making $1 billion available for schools in 37 states, including Florida, to buy more than 2,700 electric and low-emission school buses. Florida Phoenix. Thousands of U.S. K-12 schools are at risk of closing because of rapidly declining enrollment, according to a new analysis of national enrollment data prepared by researchers at the Brookings Institution. Miami-Dade’s and Duval’s school districts made a list of the largest school districts with the heaviest concentration of schools with falling enrollment. Both have 11 percent of their schools with a 20 percent or more decline. The 74. Education Week.

Opinions on schools: Will the Florida Senate respond to the effects of the pandemic by lowering educational expectations for K-12 students, teachers and schools or investing in improved instructional opportunities? Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. In the weeks to come, legislators must avoid distractions and remain laser-focused on aligning the budget and related policy bills with the interests of our state’s future — our children. Carolyn Nelson-Goedert, Sun-Sentinel. There’s no way we should want Bridget Ziegler to step down from the Sarasota County School Board – because there’s no way we should want to give Gov. DeSantis yet another opportunity to appoint yet another buffoon to yet another public position they have no business holding. Roger Brown, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff