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State says fewer teachers quitting, more funds available for budget, new superintendent, and more

Around the state: The number of Florida teachers leaving their jobs is down slightly this year, state economists told legislators Tuesday that a new budget forecast for the next 18 months shows that the state will bring in about $2.18 billion more than expected, Escambia’s school board appoints Keith Leonard as superintendent, starting school times are being pushed 10 minutes later next fall in Martin County, Escambia schools are closed today because severe weather is forecast, and a 9-year-old Orange County student was killed Tuesday when he was struck by a school bus. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: School board chair Mari Tere Rojas said she will request that audits be conducted of the purchasing process, and spending by school board members, the superintendent and the district’s general counsel. The review is prompted by the arrest last week of former board member Lubby Navarro, who is accused of grand theft and fraud for allegedly making more than $100,000 worth of personal purchases on her school district credit cards in 2022. Board members will consider the request at today’s meeting. WPLG. The union representing district teachers said it has gotten signed statements from 30 percent of its members to affirm they want to keep their union. That threshhold is the first step toward getting the union recertified after it failed to reach a state-required minimum of dues-paying members. WLRN. WFOR. WTVJ.

Hillsborough: Johnny Bush, an educator in the district for 30 years and a former principal at Plant High School, has announced his candidacy for the District 5 school board seat. He joins Alene Atkins, Karen Bendorf, Jen Flebotte and Ashley Hartfield-Viewins in challenging Lynn Gray, who was elected to the seat in 2016. The primary is Aug. 20, and if no one wins a majority of the vote a runoff election will be held on Nov. 5. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: A 9-year-old Lawton Chiles Elementary School student who had just gotten off a school bus at an apartment complex Tuesday afternoon was killed when he then crawled under the bus and was struck by the right rear tire. The 54-year-old bus driver has been interviewed and a video from a nearby apartment clubhouse is being reviewed by state troopers. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WOFL. WESH.

Palm Beach: A Santaluces Community High School math teacher who handed out religious pamphlets to students in class is under investigation by the district. The pamphlets encouraged students to “join us as we worship our Savior Jesus” and included service times at an evangelical church. A parent filed a complaint with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which brought the matter to the attention of Superintendent Michael Burke. School board policy states that “because of their special relationship to their students, school administrators and teachers must (at) all times be mindful of their roles and not use their position to advance or disparage any religion or religious belief.” Palm Beach Post.

Pinellas: Ongoing problems with school bus driver shortages and late arrivals are triggering a re-evaluation of the transportation system, says Superintendent Kevin Hendrick. A reorganization of jobs is one of the options. Others include refocusing on training, introducing electric buses, using vans to pick up students living at the edge of the county, and making an app available that would let parents track their children’s buses in real time. WFTS. A teacher with Pinellas County Job Corps has been fired after being arrested for possessing and transmitting child pornography. Ralph Kitzmiller, 54, had worked since 2021 for the free career training and education center for 16- to 24-year-olds from low-income backgrounds. Its students can earn a high school diploma and certification in trades such as plumbing or carpentry. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: School board attorney Kendall Moore advised board members that they need to act with more civility to each other if they want to be looked at more favorably by the public. “You cannot be upset about the way the public reacts, if they treat you the same way you treat each other,” Moore told the board. “You’ve got to be careful about that. Some of them mimic the behaviors that they see from you … it’s hard for you to tell a person at the microphone that it’s not going to be tolerated when they just listened to you do it to each other.” Florida Today.

Seminole: Millennium Middle School, Midway Elementary School and Midway Safe Harbor School are closed today because of a water main break in Sanford. Residents in the Midway area are under a boil-water notice for drinking and cooking for at least the next two days, and schools in the city will turn off all water fountains until the boil-water notice is lifted. WKMG. Spectrum News 13. WOFL. WESH.

Sarasota: For the second meeting in a row, a parade of speakers at the school board workshop meeting Tuesday called on Bridget Ziegler to resign. About 70 people spoke during the three-hour meeting, and most urged the embattled board member to step down. Most of them called Ziegler a distraction and a hypocrite for admitting to a three-way sexual relationship with her husband and another woman while supporting legislation restricting classroom discussions about LGTBQ topics, and posting anti-transgender comments on social media. School board members did agree to try to improve internal communications, to consider implementing a new program to provide more support to reading teachers, and tentatively agreed to join other districts in suing social media companies for the negative impact their products have on students. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun. WTVT. WFLA.

Escambia: Keith Leonard’s job title was changed from interim superintendent to superintendent by the school board at Tuesday’s board meeting. Leonard was an assistant superintendent when he was tapped in May after Tim Smith was fired as leader of the district. The vote for Leonard was 5-0. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR. The threat of severe weather is closing district schools and canceling all activities today. The area is under a hard freeze warning, with low temperatures of about 20 forecast for this morning with wind chill values in the single digits. Schools are expected to reopen Thursday. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR. Escambia County public schools coordinator Cody Strother said even though the district has missed school for storms the past two weeks, the district won’t have to make up the days. Schools are required to have 180 days of instruction, or the equivalent in hours in a school year. Pensacola News Journal.

Clay: Parents asked school board members Tuesday for a larger role in determining what school library books are removed and restricted by age. Tia Bess, a parent and Moms for Liberty national director, said a system should be in place that allows parents to decide what books their children can read. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel because if you look at movie rating systems, you can never take a 12-year-old to a rated R movie unless you go with them,” Bess said. “So there is some material that is not age appropriate. And a lot of parents agree that we should have the right to either opt in or opt out. But ultimately parents should know.” WJXT.

Martin: School board members approved a proposal to start all schools 10 minutes later in the 2024-2025 academic year. The new schedule has middle schools beginning at 9:20 a.m., high schools at 8:30 a.m. and elementary schools at 7:40 a.m. It complies with a state requirement that by the fall of 2026, middle schools have to start at 8 a.m. or later and high schools at 8:30 a.m. or later. TCPalm. WPTV.

Franklin: School openings are delayed today until 11 a.m. because of the weather, according to district officials. They cite the possibility of roads and bridges icing over. Bus pickups begin at 10, when the temperature is forecast to be 34 degrees. Dismissal will be at the normal time. Franklin County School District. Florida Department of Education.

Colleges and universities: Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College have made their specific legislative budget requests. FSU’s top priority is $50 million in funding to improve the university’s national prominence in student success and hire “prominent” research faculty. FAMU is asking for $13 million to help it become one of the top 50 engineering colleges in the nation in the next five years, while TCC is requesting about $9 million to expand its Gadsden Center. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida A&M trustees called on the school’s athletic department to create a plan to balance its budget before it enters into a multi-year contract agreement with a new football coach. Tallahassee Democrat.

In the Legislature: State economists told legislators Tuesday that a new forecast for the next 18 months shows that the state will bring in about $2.18 billion more than expected at the estimates made in August. The projected increases are based on a rise in sales tax collections and an increase in the amount of money taken in from taxes charged on insurance premiums. Lawmakers will use the new forecast in drawing up a budget for the 2024-2025 fiscal year. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. The Senate Committee on Postsecondary Education approved a bill Tuesday that would create a graduation alternative for students 16 to 21 who want to pursue career and technical education programs. Florida’s Voice.

Exiting Florida teachers: About 18,000 public teachers in Florida have left their jobs, according to data from the Florida Department of Education. That’s a slight drop from the 19,000 who quit last year. The state says the No. 1 impetus for leaving was personal reasons, followed by retirement and “reasons not known.” WFTS.

Around the nation: Florida is one of 12 states nearly always addressing five key areas that provide teachers with better skills to teach the fundamentals of literacy and to support those teachers during implementation, according to a report from the nonprofit National Center on Teacher Quality. The 74. Non-traditional school calendars, such as those including fewer but longer school days, have a negative impact on older students and increase teacher turnover, according to a new study from the University of Maryland. Education Next. About 68 percent of Americans surveyed agreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2023 decision to end affirmative action in colleges and universities, according to a Gallup Center poll. Black Americans offered the least support, but still approved the decision by a 52-48 percent margin. Politico.

Opinions on schools: Policymakers need to balance all stakeholder interests in education as carefully as they can. That balance is part of the fundamental mission of American public schools. To drop the balancing act in order to favor just one group, such as parents, is to change public education’s mission. Peter Greene, Forbes.

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BY NextSteps staff