State tells Broward district to pay charters $80M or face sanctions, pronoun law in court, and more

Around the state: Broward’s school district is being threatened by the state with sanctions if it doesn’t pay charter schools $80 million as their share of local education taxes, a federal judge will hear arguments Friday about a temporary injunction requested against part of a 2023 state law that restricts how teachers can use pronouns and titles in the classroom, New College has been granted $1.1 million in performance-based funding from the Florida Board of Governors, an 18-year-old Polk County student was struck and killed by a car as he walked to school Wednesday, and a charter school company based in New York City has been approved into the state’s Schools of Hope program. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Broward’s school district has “knowingly and willfully refused to comply” with a state law requiring districts to share local education taxes with charter schools, Florida education officials charged Wednesday. Since voters approved a 2018 referendum to boost taxes to improve teacher pay and school safety, the district has collected $455 million and distributed $4.6 million to charter schools. State law calls for charters to be funded at the same rate as other schools. The district has been given until April 17 to come to an agreement to pay about $80 million to 87 charters or face sanctions from the state, which could include losing state funding and being eliminated from competing for state grants. All the money owed must be paid by Dec. 17. School officials said they are working to comply, but might not be able to make the April 17 deadline because they have to negotiate with every charter school. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Politico Florida.

Polk: An 18-year-old Bartow High School student who was walking to school Wednesday was killed when he was struck by car that was fleeing from a minor crash at the school, according to Florida Highway Patrol troopers. Edgardo Joel Rosado Perez, 41, was arrested at the Brandon Mall and is charged with leaving the scene of a fatal crash. Killed was Bartow High senior Zachariah Mark Clabough. Lakeland Ledger. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTVT. WKMG. WTSP.

Pinellas: District officials are struggling to meet their goal of having at least one nurse on every school campus. As of last week, 32 of the 123 positions were unfilled. Nurses point to pay as the primary problem. Licensed practical nurses are paid $20.29 an hour to work fulltime for 10 months, which totals $30,730 a year, compared to the $23.02 average hourly wage for LPNs in the Tampa Bay region. “If you want to hire professionals, you have to pay professional wages,” said Jennifer Reznick, a nurse at Cypress Woods Elementary in Palm Harbor who has just been assigned to cover a second school. Tampa Bay Times. Mayme Hodges, a Clearwater teacher for 34 years and the first black woman on the Clearwater City Commission, has died at the age of 94. Tampa Bay Times.

Volusia: An autopsy has confirmed that an 11-year-old student at Burns Science and Technology Charter School in Oak Hill died in February of bacterial meningitis, which is contagious and spread by respiratory droplets and close contact. Daytona Beach News-Journal. An unknown number of teachers will have to move to a new school or teach a different subject when schools start in the fall, said school board member Ruben Colon. The changes are necessitated by the end of federal pandemic funding, he said. Principals are now trying to decide what teachers will have to transfer or switch subjects, and what programs or electives will end. WESH.

Alachua: Voting on a proposal to convert three public schools in the city of Newberry into charter schools by the fall of 2025 has been extended for three days. Parents of students at Newberry Elementary, Oak View Middle and Newberry High will receive one ballot per household. They can be submitted by mail or in person. Only ballots postmarked no later than April 12 and received at the schools by April 16 will be counted. Those voting in person can do so at one of the schools starting April 5 and continuing through April 12. Votes will be counted at a public meeting April 17. Mainstreet Daily News. Gainesville Sun. The mother of two Newberry students has filed an ethics complaint against school board member Tina Certain, alleging that Certain has violated the state’s Sunshine Law by making comments in private Facebook groups that include at least two school board members. Certain denies she’s violated any laws. WCJB.

Flagler: School board members voted 3-2 this week to close the district-owned Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club to the public. Starting in July, it will open for use only to district students, clubs that rent the pool as a training venue, and by private parties. The club had been run by the district for 28 years, but has had financial problems for the past decade. The board majority called this decision a financial one, though a district analysis suggested the move will save only $34,000 a year. Flagler Live.

Hendry: Two 10-year-old students at Country Oaks Elementary School in LaBelle have been arrested and accused of having a firearm and ammunition at school. Deputies said one of the boys sold the gun to another boy in February. Ammunition was found in his backpack, and the gun was later found buried under a shed in his back yard. WFTX. WBBH.

Gadsden: The district is asking the state for permission to use federal pandemic funds to give one-time $3,500 bonuses to teachers and noninstructional employees. School board members made the decision after saying they didn’t have the funds to cover the payout. WFSU.

Jefferson: Jackie Pons, the principal of the Jefferson County K-12 School and the former superintendent of schools in Leon County, has filed to run in November for the superintendent’s job. Pons is challenging incumbent Eydie Tricquet, who is running for re-election after winning the seat in 2020. Also in the race are LaClarence Mays, Michael Sneed Jr. and Al Cooksey. Tallahassee Democrat.

Colleges and universities: New College of Florida has been granted $1.1 million in performance-based funding after the Florida Board of Governors signed off Wednesday on the school’s “student success plan monitoring report.” News Service of Florida. The BOG also approved the University of Florida’s request to open the Florida Semiconductor Institute next fall at a temporary campus in Jacksonville. WJXT. Florida State University’s faculty union is accusing the school of unfair labor practices because it started post-tenure reviews before collective bargaining talks with the union were completed. Tallahassee Democrat. Tommy Gregory, Martyn Clay and Anthony Iacono have been selected as finalists to replace State College of Florida President Carol Probstfeld, who is retiring July 1. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Broward College will soon open a national search to find a replacement for interim president Barbara Bryan, whose last day is April 3. WLRN. Tallahassee Community College’s name will become Tallahassee State College on July 1 after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill permitting the change. Tallahassee Democrat. WCTV.

Pronoun law in court: A federal judge will hear arguments Friday about a temporary injunction requested against part of a 2023 state law that restricts how teachers can use pronouns and titles in the classroom. A transgender teacher and a nonbinary teacher  contend that the law’s restrictions violate a federal civil rights law and the First Amendment. The law states that a school employee “may not provide to a student his or her preferred personal title or pronouns if such preferred personal title or pronouns do not correspond to his or her sex (at birth).” News Service of Florida.

Teacher raises: Members of the Florida Board of Education want to put pressure on teachers unions and school districts to more promptly get state money allocated for raises to teachers. Legislators approved $200 million in raises in the ongoing effort to get starting salaries up to $47,500, but contract negotiations with unions are complicated because union leaders push for experienced teachers to get higher raises. News Service of Florida.

Schools of Hope: The Florida BOE also approved an application from the New York City-based Success Academy charter school company to become the state’s sixth Schools of Hope operator. That designation allows nationally recognized charter networks with a proven record of raising student achievement to receive startup funding and a streamlined approval process to open schools in areas with persistently struggling public schools. NextSteps.

DeSantis defends Ladapo: Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo’s decision to advise Broward County parents to continue sending their children to an elementary school that reported several cases of the measles has been vindicated because the outbreak was confined to 11 children, Gov. DeSantis said Wednesday. “The whole corporate media … smeared our surgeon general for putting out very well thought out, balanced guidance. Flash forward, there was no outbreak, additional outbreak. So, his response was correct,” DeSantis said. Florida Phoenix.

Around the nation: Alabama’s Birmingham-Southern College announced Wednesday that it was closing its doors May 31 because of declining enrollment and financial problems. The private liberal arts school was founded in 1856, and has about 1,300 students. Fourteen nonprofit, four-year colleges closed in 2023, according to Inside Higher Ed. Florida Phoenix.

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BY NextSteps staff

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