FAMU receiving federal grant, union challenges, new report from the Florida College Access Network and more

Around the state: Members of the Alachua County Education Association are expressing concerns as they struggle to meet a membership threshold, pandemic funding is running out nationwide, Florida tops the nation in teacher vacancies and Florida A&M is receiving a federal grant. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Brevard: Both Melbourne High and Viera High were placed on lockdown earlier this week as local law enforcement responded to what they suspect to be “swatting,” a viral trend of making hoax calls of threats or scenarios that draw a large presence of emergency services or authorities. “We’re not sure where the calls came from,” said Sgt. Ben Slover, spokesperson for the Melbourne Police Department. Florida Today.

Pasco: A Beacon Christian Academy teacher was arrested this week after deputies say he used artificial intelligence to generate child pornography on yearbook photos of students at the school. Steven Houser of New Port Richey is a third grade science teacher at the school, authorities say. Tampa Bay Times.

Volusia: School officials here answered questions about an alternative school’s transfer to Osceola. The Volusia County School Board made a decision in late February to relocate the Riverview Learning Center’s alternative education program to the Osceola Elementary campus at the start of the 2024-25 school year. The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Alachua: Members of the Alachua County Education Association are expressing their concern as they struggle to meet a membership threshold. Members of the ACEA teachers union talked about changes they want in their contract during the school board meeting and mentioned the union is in danger of being abolished. WCJB.

New report: Community college enrollment rates have dipped 25% nationwide since 2011, according to a new report released by the Florida College Access Network. That has led FCAN to make a case to expand dual enrollment classes to all eligible middle and high schools statewide, allowing students to take college-level courses while still in middle or high school. “Dual enrollment provides a pathway to success for some of those underrepresented groups that might not otherwise start a pathway towards an associate’s or, ultimately, a bachelor’s degree,” said Dave Bush, the network’s director of research and policy. WUSF. WUWF.

Adults arrested: Two adults were arrested Tuesday after being accused of fighting a child at a school in South Florida. Germikia Denise Freeman, 32, and Charles Nathaniel Webb Jr., 37, were charged with child abuse with no great bodily harm, trespassing on school grounds after being given a warning and education institution interference. WSVN. KRDO.

Pandemic funding: The $190 billion in emergency funds given to schools during the pandemic is ending. NPR.

Teacher vacancies: Florida tops the nation in teacher vacancies. Florida has the highest demand for teachers, while Utah has the lowest. USA Today.

Principal news: The turnaround principal of Jefferson County K-12 school and a former longtime superintendent of Leon County Schools says he is keeping his options open amid community chatter that he plans to run for superintendent in Leon or Jefferson. Under Jackie Pons, the school earned a “C” grade from the state education department in 2023 after decades of lower grades. Tallahassee Democrat.

Colleges and universities: Allyson Watson, Florida A&M’s vice president for academic affairs, announced this week that the university will be receiving $9 million to build community schools for young kids in the Big Bend. The award is part of a statewide partnership called Unlimited Potential Initiative that is shared between several colleges across the state, including the University of Central Florida and Florida International University. It’s meant to offer kids from low-income areas an opportunity to attend university-affiliated schools with the hopes of getting them more interested in going to college. WFSU. The Florida Institute of Technology soon will offer a degree in artificial intelligence. WFTV.

Opinions on schools: The year 2024 will be monumental for Florida International University. In addition to continuing to top the state’s performance-based funding metrics, the university is anticipated to be named a preeminent state university by the Florida Board of Governors at its June meeting.  Kenneth Jessell and Brian Lamb, Miami Herald. Florida is ranked the No. 1 state in education, according to U.S. News and World Report. Florida is also ranked tops in education freedom and parent empowerment, according to separate reports, and we have undertaken the largest expansion of school choice in the nation’s history while breaking our own teacher pay records year after year. Manny Diaz, The 74th. Florida’s online schools have grappled for years with a logistical challenge: Getting their students to the campuses of brick-and-mortar schools, operated by school districts, to take their standardized tests. Travis Pillow, NextSteps. 

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BY Camille Knox

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