Proposed tax cut bill could be trimmed, social media ban bill coming up, vouchers and more

Tax cut cutbacks: The House’s proposed tax cut bill, released Monday, is significantly smaller than the version Gov. Ron DeSantis pitched in his budget. Taxes would be trimmed by about $700 million instead of the $1.1 billion the governor requested. Among the cuts is one of the two, two-week back-to-school tax holidays proposed by DeSantis. Just one two-week period is in the House bill, though it also makes computers costing up to $1,500 exempt. Also gone is a one-year suspension of state taxes and assessments charged on insurance policies. The Senate’s tax-cut package is still taking shape, said Sen. Blaise Ingolgia, R-Spring Hill, who chairs the chair of the finance and tax committee Politico Florida.

Social media ban bill: A House bill aimed at keeping students under 16 years old from having social media accounts will be considered Thursday by the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee. It has already been approved by the full House, and could be ready for a Senate vote if it’s approved by the committee. Meanwhile, a campaign against the ban has been launched by Meta Platforms, the nation’s top social media company. “Parents know best — not the government,” the website reads. “Social media reforms should guarantee parental consent and give parents the tools they need to ensure healthy social media habits.” News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. USA Today Florida Network.

Around the state: The number of Palm Beach County students using state vouchers has more than doubled since last year, a Broward family struggles to find an outlet for their grief after losing their son in the Parkland school shooting six years ago, more than 30 unions representing teachers in Florida school districts have been decertified since a state law went into effect requiring unions to have at least 60 percent of potential members paying dues, and the Manatee, Levy and Bradford school districts name their teacher of the year. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Many parents and loved ones of the 17 victims gunned down Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School launched campaigns to improve school safety, ran for school board seats, set up foundations and filed lawsuits. For the family of Peter Wang, though, the past six years have been a struggle to keep up. Their 15-year-old son was their bridge to a language and culture they barely understand, and they’re at a loss at finding an outlet for their grief. “All I want is to be able to do something for Peter,” said his father, Kong Feng Wang. “But how can we? We don’t speak the language. We don’t know the culture.” New York Times.

Palm Beach: The number of county students using state vouchers to attend private schools has more than doubled in the year since a law offering the scholarships to all students in the state was approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. DeSantis. In the 2022-2023 school year, almost 4,000 district students used vouchers to attend private schools. This school year, it’s 10,838, according to Step Up For Students, the organization that helps administer the scholarships for the state and hosts this blog. Palm Beach Post. Miami-Dade County has the most private schools in the state with 602, followed by Broward at 286 and Orange with 246, according to the Florida Department of Education. But Martin County has the highest percentage of students in private schools, at 44.4 percent, followed by Jefferson at 38.2 percent and Escambia at 21.2 percent. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: An administrative judge is expected to make a recommendation within the next two months whether former high school teacher Amy Donofrio should lose her state teaching certificate. Donofrio was let go after  placing a Black Lives Matter flag in her classroom, but received a $300,000 settlement when she sued the school board for wrongful termination. Now she wants to return to the classroom. Her case, and the state’s, were detailed in a hearing last week. Jacksonville Today. Several students from Twin Lakes Middle School in Jacksonville were taken to a hospital Monday for treatment after ingesting “unknown gummy substances,” according to principal Aurelia Williams. None of the injuries is considered life-threatening, said a Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department spokesperson. WJXT. WJAX. WTLV.

Pinellas: Five candidates are now declared in the campaign for the District 5 school board seat being vacated by Carol Cook. Dawn Douglas, a teacher at Oak Grove Middle School in Clearwater, says she’s running as a counter to the conservative push to control the board. She’s joined on the political left in the race with retired Tarpon Springs Middle teacher Brad DeCorte. On the right are Republicans Stacy Geier and Bronson Oudshoff, with Geier saying she hopes to “flip the board” to a “true conservative” majority. A third Republican, Katie Blaxberg, is the fifth candidate, though Geier’s backers are calling her a “fake Republican” for taking a more moderate position on parental rights in schools. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics.

Volusia: Former high school teacher Arin Hankerd, accused of having sex with students, has until Wednesday to decide whether to take a plea deal or go to trial. Prosecutors have offered Hankerd, 43, a deal calling for a prison term of 25 years plus 10 years of sex offender probation. A judge said Monday that Hankerd can take the deal or go to trial and face a possible sentence of 186 years if convicted. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WFTV.

Manatee: Katie Bagley3rd-grade teacher at Prine Elementary School in Bradenton, has been chosen as the school district’s teacher of the year. Also honored was Denise Costello, a paraprofessional at Sea Breeze Elementary, as school support employee of the year. Both are now entered into the statewide competition. WWSB. Manatee County School District.

Bay: Bay Haven Charter Academy in Panama City will break ground Thursday on a $10 million classroom building that will be filled primarily with 4th- and 5th-graders. Those students have been in portable classrooms since 2007. Panama City News Herald.

Hernando: School board members unanimously approved a resolution to renew the half-cent sales tax for school repairs and renovations, after amending the language to include the option of using the money to build new schools. The resolution now goes to county commissioners, who must approve its placement on the November ballot. Hernando Sun.

Citrus: A proposal raising the pay of substitute school bus drivers by $1 an hour will be considered today by the school board. Bus operators who work extra or on field trips would also get a boost from $15 to $16 an hour. District officials hope the move will help them recruit and retain those drivers. Citrus County Chronicle.

Flagler: School board member Sally Hunt said she lost trust in board attorney Kristy Gavin and accused her of favoritism among a list of 10 reasons to fire Gavin. Hunt said Gavin mishandled public records requests, was derelict in her duties, made ageist comments, and more. Hunt said she did not know the list, which was sent to the law firm preparing Gavin’s termination letter, would be a public record. The Observer. Flagler Live.

Levy: Arelis Roldan-Rosario, who teaches at Williston Middle High School, has been chosen as the school district’s teacher of the year and is now eligible for the statewide competition. The school-related employee of the year is George Douglas, who works in the maintenance department. WCJB. Levy Citizen.

Bradford: Natalie Whytsell, a kindergarten teacher at Starke Elementary School, has been named the school district’s teacher of the year. She now moves on to compete for the statewide award. WCJB. Bradford County School District.

Colleges and universities: Bethune-Cookman University has settled a lawsuit against a former alumni organization that had criticized school officials over leadership, legal, financial and accreditation issues. The group has agreed to disband and B-CU announced that the only authorized alumni organization is the Bethune-Cookman University Alumni Association. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A camera built by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students will be on the lunar lander that’s aboard a SpaceX rocket launch to the moon Wednesday. The camera will be ejected from the lander about 100 feet from the surface and take photos as the lander makes its descent. Orlando Sentinel. Free menstrual products are being placed in many women’s bathrooms at the University of Florida, with the help of Planned Parenthood. Gainesville Sun. The University of Florida leads the state with an endowment fund of $2.4 billion, while the University of Miami is second with $1.4 billion, according to federal education data. Harvard University has the largest fund in the country at $20.7 billion. Palm Beach Post.

Teacher union troubles: More than 30 unions representing teachers in districts in the state of Florida have been decertified since a state law went into effect requiring unions to have at least 60 percent of potential members paying dues. The law also forbids union dues being withheld by payroll deduction. Orlando Weekly.

Opinions on schools: The phrase “a trade in other people’s children for sacrifice” is perhaps a bit strong to describe what happened to students during the COVID-19 debacle, but perhaps not, especially considering the minimal value derived from billions of federal education dollarsMatthew Ladner, NextSteps. Pilot tutoring programs in Duval County and in Texas show why every U.S. school district should tie independent contracting fees to student outcomes. Liz Cohen, The 74. Most Americans agree that our universities are an utter mess. But the university has been a bedrock of Western civilization since the Middle Ages. It would be foolish to surrender such a necessary and foundational institution simply because radicals successfully hijacked it half a century ago. Recapturing these institutions will require courage, will, persistence and thoughtful innovation. Jonathan Barth, Real Clear Education. This is a state in which Republicans want to raise the age to become a stripper and lower the age to buy a rifle, ban abortion from the moment of fertilization, turn our universities into conservative re-education camps, and make our schools patriotic indoctrination centers. And the Moms For Liberty are all in. Diane Roberts, Florida Phoenix.

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BY NextSteps staff