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Graduation rate hits record high, raising school taxes could become more difficult, and more

Record graduation rate: 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. That’s an increase of 0.7 percentage points over last year and 1.1 percentage points over the pre-pandemic rate in 2018-2019. The 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years had higher graduation rates, but those were the years students were exempt from having to meet standardized test requirements for earning a degree. Wakulla County posted the highest rate at 97.6 percent, while Jefferson County’s rate of 66.7 percent was the lowest. Florida Politics. WPEC. Florida Department of Education.

Tax hike restrictions: School and other property taxes could be raised only by a supermajority vote of school board members and officials from other government agencies under a bill that was approved Monday by the House Ways & Means Committee. Those boards would have to approve any increases by a two-thirds vote instead of a simple majority. “I think this bill strikes a nice balance between allowing local governments the ability to get the revenue necessary to provide core services, but also making it clear that if you’re going to raise the property taxes you better have a darn good reason,” said House bill sponsor Sam Garrison, R-Fleming Island. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Florida’s Voice.

Also in the Legislature: College teacher preparation courses could not “distort significant historical events or include a curriculum or instruction that teaches identity politics” or be “based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities” under a bill approved Monday by the Senate Education Postsecondary Committee. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. “Patriotic” groups would receive special access to schools to pass out instructional material under a bill being considered today by a Senate committee. Groups considered patriotic would include youth membership organizations serving people under 21 that are chartered under a section of federal law for “patriotic and national organizations,” such as the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Tallahassee Democrat. A law restricting teachers unions would be revised to exempt several more types of public employee unions and drop the requirement that union finances be audited annually by a certified public accountant. Politico Florida. A bill that would award tax credits to businesses that make payments on behalf of employees to child-care centers was approved Monday by the House Ways & Means Committee. News Service of Florida. Free speech advocates said they are fighting against several bills in the Legislature that they call “dreadful.” Florida Phoenix.

Around the state: U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona tours the Parkland school building where 17 people were shot to death almost six years ago and urges politicians to do more to protect students, an Alachua elementary school becomes the district’s first to start an International Baccalaureate program, a Volusia schools program provides student mentors to help their homeless classmates, Pinellas County schools name their teacher of the year, and three finalists are chosen for the same award in Alachua County. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, toured the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building Monday where 17 students and staff were gunned down almost six years ago. They then met with survivors of the shooting and family members of those who died to discuss safety concerns and how to avoid complacency. “To say this morning was one of the most impactful moments in my life was an understatement,” Cardona said. He advocated for communities and government officials to do more to stop school violence, saying, “I’m tired of the rhetoric. I’m tired of thoughts and prayers. Do something.” Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WTVJ. WSVN. WPEC. WPLG.

Hillsborough: A Newsome High School book review committee’s decision to keep the book Identical, by Ellen Hopkins, in the media center has been appealed and will be reconsidered by another district review committee Wednesday. The book is about 16-year-old twin girls whose mother is running for a U.S. congressional seat and father is a district court judge. Contents include discussions of sexual abuse, drug use and eating disorders. Patch.

Duval: Elizabeth Andersen, the former chair of the school board who lost a re-election bid in 2022, has been appointed the chief executive officer of OneJax, an organization that promotes diversity in the community. Andersen is a licensed mental health counselor who has been on the OneJax board since July. Jacksonville Today.

Pinellas: Gerard Madrinan, a music teacher and band director at Seminole High School, has been chosen as the school district’s teacher of the year. He’s now eligible to be considered for the state teacher of the year award. Tampa Bay Times.

Volusia: More than 3,000 Volusia students experienced homelessness during the 2022-2023 school year, according to school district officials. For some of them, the organization known as known as PETALS (people experiencing transition and loss of shelter) provides three student advocates who help mentor homeless classmates to stay on track to graduate. Florida Today.

Alachua: Three finalists have been named for the school district’s teacher of the year award: Dwynette Smith, a music teacher at Metcalfe Elementary School; Sarah Rendek, a middle school reading teacher at High Springs Community School; and Jenifer Knowles, a science teacher at the Professional Academies Magnet at Loften High. The winner will be announced Thursday and go on to compete in the statewide contest. Gainesville Sun. Main Street Daily News. Williams Elementary School in Gainesville will become home to the district’s first International Baccalaureate primary years program this fall. District officials said they wanted to establish the program “at an existing school with a diverse student population, staff and infrastructure already in place and room for students zoned for other schools who may be interested in applying.” Gainesville Sun. Main Street Daily News. A long-term substitute teacher at Idylwild Elementary School has been arrested and accused of stalking an 11-year-old student. Brandon Jo Finley, 28, won’t be allowed back on campus, said district officials. Gainesville Sun. WCJB.

Indian River: An 18-year-old Vero Beach High School student was arrested Monday and accused of having a handgun at school. School resource officers suspected the boy of vaping, and found the gun when they searched his school bag. TCPalm. WPTV. WPEC.

Flagler: An agreement between the school district and the county over the funding and control of the Carver Center in Bunnell is being held up by school board member Cheryl Massaro. She objects to a line in the agreement that would take away the school district’s ability to set fees for certain school events. The county owns the property while the school board staffs and runs the facility. Board members were expected to discuss the contract at today’s meeting, but Massaro is trying to get the item removed from the agenda. Flagler Live.

Around the nation: A proposal has been filed in the U.S. Congress that would use federal tax credits to create school choice scholarships. The program would be funded through private donations, and those donors would then receive a break on their federal taxes. An estimated 2 million students would be eligible. Cox Media Group.

Opinions on schools: Removal of the Introduction to Sociology course as a core course option will serve a misguided political purpose and threaten to devolve the university system into a set of glorified trade schools. Matthew D. Marr, Miami Herald. Our antiquated schooling model, complete with geographic assignment, fixed pricing and union-driven service, is far from the market economy model enjoyed in every other aspect of American life. But that is ripe for change. Erika Donalds, Tampa Bay Times. Tax dollars are wasted in Florida and other states on vouchers for private school students. John Schaaf, Florida Phoenix.

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BY NextSteps staff

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