Legislative session comes to a close, Hillsborough schools urge commissioners to maintain sales tax funds and more

In the Legislature: As the legislative session closes today, a variety of items are still uncertain as they head to the governor’s desk. The state Department of Education could soon be responsible for preparing academic standards about the history of communism to be taught in grades as low as kindergarten under a bill that received final approval in the Florida House. The House voted 106-7 to pass the measure, SB 1264. Under the bill, the curriculum would begin in the 2026-27 school year and would have to be “age appropriate and developmentally appropriate” for all grade levels. The lessons would also be required to cover particular topics. Public-school students currently can get lessons about communism in high-school social studies courses, and in a seventh grade civics and government class. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel.  State lawmakers walked back a proposal to restrict how families can spend their state-funded education vouchers. Instead of restricting state-funded scholarship spending to core subject areas as originally introduced, the bill that cleared the Legislature on Thursday only requires organizations that administer the vouchers to produce “handbooks” that detail what expenses are allowed and prohibited. Politico. Tampa Bay Times. While some legislative leaders are highlighting record levels of education spending during the legislative session, the state’s largest teachers union says that won’t remove Florida from low rankings for teacher pay or per-student spending. The budget plan included $1.2 billion toward teacher salaries and a boost in per-student spending. “We are increasing K-12 per student funding to an unprecedented level, including raising the base student allocation, which we know provides important, needed flexibility for our districts,” said Republican Sen. Keith Perry, Chair of the Senate Education Appropriations Committee, in a prepared statement. Florida Politics. K-12 students are a step closer to getting lessons from designated “patriotic” groups. Florida Politics. The Florida Senate gave final approval to a measure designed to keep “identity politics” out of teacher preparation programs that lead to educators getting their professional certificates, preparing the bill to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Senate voted 28-12 to approve HB 1291 a week after the House passed the measure. CBS Miami. WFTV. Politico.

Miami-Dade: A 14-year-old girl had her shoulder dislocated and her thumb broken during an altercation with a Miami-Dade schools police officer at a Miami Gardens school, her family’s lawyer announced. Miami Herald.

Palm Beach: An elementary school teacher in Palm Beach will not be disciplined after she sent a letter to School Board officials asking them to “publicly recognize the Palestinian community” in their communications about the Israel-Hamas war and posted a photo that featured the slogan “from the river to the sea” on her personal Facebook page. Palm Beach Post.

Broward: Fifth-grader Jasmine Perez from Bayview Elementary won the Miami Herald Broward County Spelling Bee held in Ft. Lauderdale on Thursday. Miami Herald.

Hillsborough: The school district here is urging commissioners to maintain the district’s sales tax funds. The Community Investment Tax or CIT has funded schools since 1996, but county commissioners are debating whether to keep the district in its tax plan. The tax is set to expire in 2026. WUSF.

Sarasota: Tashaun Bryant, a senior at Sarasota Military Academy, is recipient of the 2024 STRIVE Award. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Alachua: The organization attempting to convert three public schools in Alachua into charter schools announced their proposal governance structure. There is a split opinion on whether schools in Newberry should turn into charter schools. The new structure would create governing board seats appointed by the Newberry and Archer city commissions. WCJB.

College and university news: Earlier this month, the University of Florida eliminated 13 full-time employees and 15 administrative positions connected with diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives on campus. On Wednesday, the Steamboat Institute Campus Liberty Tour made the first of five national stops at the University of South Florida for a debate on the use of public funds for DEI in higher education. WUSF. The University of Florida is poised to acquire 2,658 acres of land just west of Gainesville after a state appropriations list released this week included funding for the purchase. Main Street Daily News. Florida Politics.

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BY Camille Knox