Education budget progress, school chaplains, measles cases, black history curriculum, and more

Progress in education budget: Senate and House negotiators said they are getting closer to reaching an agreement on preK-12 spending for the 2024-2025 fiscal year. The chambers are in agreement on school security and spending for mental health, but remain at odds over increasing teacher pay. The House plan puts $1.25 billion for salary increases, a bump of $202 million over last year, but specifically directs the funds to salary increases. Senators have no increase in their allocation for teacher raises, but are offering to include money intended for raises within the Florida Education Finance Program spending, which allows districts discretion on how to spend the funds. Negotiatiors said they hope to settle all the differences without forwarding unresolved issues to the full Appropriations Committee. A final budget will have to be passed by March 5 for the Legislature to adjourn as scheduled March 8. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida. Florida Policy Institute.

Also in the Legislature: A Senate committee voted 14-5 on Monday to approve a bill allowing schools to have volunteer chaplains to provide services to students. SB 1044 now goes to a floor vote in the Senate. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Revisions in a bill governing child labor would allow teenagers to work seven days a week, though current restrictions capping a teens’ weekly work hours at 30 and no more than eight hours in a day when there’s school the following day remain in place. Florida Politics. “Identity politics” would be prohibited in teacher training programs under a bill approved Monday by a Senate committee that is now ready for a full Senate vote. News Service of Florida. WJAX.

Around the state: A coalition of Florida church leaders are presenting a black history curriculum to Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. today, the ninth case of measles confirmed in the state since last week was reported in Polk County, Hernando’s school board is asking voters in November to renew a 1-mill property tax for schools, New College of Florida is sanctioned by a national organization of professors, and the Florida Athletic High School Association agrees to continue discussing how to allow high school athletes to be compensated for use of their names, images and likenesses. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Orange: Students at 13 district schools will be able to get free after-schools snacks and meals as part of a Florida Department of Health program. The meals must include milk, a fruit and vegetable, grains, and meat or a meat alternative. Participating schools are Village Park Elementary, Timber Creek High, West Creek Elementary, Boone High, Moss Park Elementary, Audubon Park School K-8, Innovation Middle, Sun Blaze Elementary, Timber Lakes Elementary, Timber Springs Middle, Blanker School K-8, Dommerich Elementary and Sunrise Elementary. WMFE.

Lee: The school district is receiving a $1.2 million state grant to add or expand career programs in advanced manufacturing technology, especially in the semiconductor industry, firefighting, electricity and more. New programs would include manufacturing at Gateway High School, and medical laboratory assisting at Gateway, East Lee County and South Fort Myers high schools. WGCU.

Brevard: A 17-year-old senior at West Shore Jr./Sr. High School in Melbourne is one of just 25 U.S. students chosen as a 2024 Prudential Emerging Visionary. Anjani Sharma was honored for co-founding and acting as executive director for the nonprofit Minds Without B0rders, which focuses on destigmatizing mental health issues. She was awarded $5,000 for the nonprofit, and an all-expenses-paid trip for a three-day coaching summit in April with Prudential employees. Florida Today.

Volusia: Rezoning 1,700 students to new schools to alleviate overcrowding could result in resegregation, say some critics of the school board’s just-approved plan. While the district argues that placing students closer to schools in their neighborhoods is a way to cut travel costs and time and increase community involvement in schools, some members of those communities say the plans will “pack” and “stack” students in the Halifax area, leading to segregated schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Escambia: Pickleball is becoming part of the school district’s physical education program. Charmain Sutherland, physical education subject area specialist for the district, said it wants to expand pickleball options for students. In 2022, the district used federal funding to buy the equipment, and teachers were trained on how to play and how to help students learn. “I believe it’s growing to grow and the students are going to want more,” Sutherland said. “Everyone enjoys the thought of pickleball. The possibilities are endless.” Pensacola News Journal. A Bellview Middle School student has been arrested and accused of physically assaulting a school bus driver last week. The student attacked the driver after they exchanged words about the girl having a beverage without a lid on the bus. Pensacola News Journal.

Leon: District teachers and students are trying to figure out what they can safely present during Black History Month and what they should avoid because of new state laws. Some teachers say they are changing their lesson plans to err on the side of caution because they’re worried something they say or do could cost them their teaching licenses. Tallahassee Democrat. A United Way reading program is showing promising results at Springwood Elementary School, with 84 percent of the school’s students improving their reading scores through use of the ReadingPals program. “For some of these students it’s the first time anyone shows up for them, and gives them one hour of individualized attention,” said Berneice Cox, president and CEO of United Way of the Big Bend. Her goal for the program is to be in every school in the county. WTXL.

Hernando: A proposal to ask voters this November to renew an extra 1-mill property tax was recently approved by the school board. Half the money will go to raise salaries and add positions, while 25 percent would go to mental health and safety, 15 percent to technology and 10 percent to help maintain academic programs. Suncoast News.

Flagler: School Superintendent LaShakia Moore meets Wednesday with County Administrator Heidi Petito to discuss the county’s intention to consider ending $1.38 million in funding for school resource officers and other school-related programs. In a letter to the district, Petito said, “We can no longer sustain annual legacy expenditures that are not directly aligned with our strategic plan or mandated by state statute.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Hendry: A water main break Monday in LaBelle closed all county schools at about 1 p.m. School officials said later Monday that all schools will reopen today. A boil water notice remains in effect until further notice. WINK. WFTX. WBBH.

Jefferson: A water line broke at the Jefferson K-12 School on Monday, and students were sent home at 12:30 p.m. Classes resume today. WTXL. WCTV.

Colleges and universities: A national organization of professors has voted to sanction New College of Florida for “substantial non-compliance” with academic governance standards. The American Association of University Professors said the conservative takeover of the small Sarasota school was “one of the most egregious and extensive violations of AAUP principles and standards at a single institution in recent memory.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tampa Bay Times. WMNF. Six students at Florida A&M University are appealing a federal judge’s decision to dismiss their lawsuit that alleges the state has systematically discriminated against the school. News Service of Florida.

Measles spread: Another case of the measles has been reported in Polk County, the ninth in the state since the outbreak began last week in Broward County. This is the first case reported of an adult, a male in the 20-24 age range, after eight previous cases involved children, including six from a single elementary school in Weston. The cases are the first reported in Florida since 2020. USA Today Florida Network. WKMG. Florida Phoenix. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. WFOR.

Black history curriculum: A coalition of Florida church leaders plan to present a black history curriculum to Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. today. The Teaching Our Own History task force has curated black history curriculum resources. “We want to teach an accurate factual history,” said the Rev. R.B. Holmes, the pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee and task force chair. “So I’m not going to give the governor a pass. You know, he’s a politician, I’m a prophet. So the prophet’s going to  go to the Capitol on Tuesday, to give him a comprehensive curriculum that should be used in the public school system.” WTXL.

NIL for preps discussions: A preliminary Florida Athletic High School Association discussion about paying high school athletes for use of their name, image and likeness ended Monday with a lot of questions and an agreement to continue the discussion. FHSAA executive director Craig Damon said there are many unknowns with the proposal. “When I talk to other states, and there are 30 states that are doing it, but they have their own sets of rules and regulations they deal with,” he said. “Our biggest concern is transfers. Will this increase the already large number of transfers we have in the state of Florida? That’s definitely a fear.” More information will be gathered and presented April 21. Orlando Sentinel. WESH.

Opinions on schools: Why not pay public school teachers $100,000 a year, but tie it to a longer school year and greater accountability? Daniel Pink, Washington Post.

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BY NextSteps staff