Veto and deal expected on social media bill, passing tests put back in graduation requirements, and more

Social media bill: A plan is in place for Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a bill banning students under 16 from using social media platforms that use “addictive features,” then work with House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, to reshape another bill to include some of the features of HB 1 and still be compatible to the governor, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said Thursday. Renner and DeSantis are “fairly close to an agreement on what the bill will look like,” she said. The bill was passed by both the Senate and House last week, but DeSantis suggested it might be unconstitutional and infringed on parental rights. He has until today to sign or veto the bill. The legislative session is scheduled to end March 8. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. USA Today Florida Network. Florida Politics.

Graduation requirements: Florida students would still have to pass statewide algebra 1 and 10th-grade English language arts exams to be eligible to graduate under a bill unanimously approved Thursday by the House. Senators had proposed removing the requirement of passing the tests to qualify for a diploma as part of a plan to cut back on regulations of public schools. But House members were adamantly opposed to what they called the “watering down” of the state’s accountability standards. “In Florida, high standards in education help ensure that students will be adequately prepared for their future,” said state Rep. Dana Trabulsy, R-Fort Pierce. “Lowering our standards here is just absolutely not an option in my opinion.” The bill now goes to the Senate for a vote. Politico Florida. Florida Phoenix.

Also in the Legislature: A controversal bill prohibiting colleges and universities from using “identity politics” in teacher training courses is now headed to the House floor for a vote, perhaps as early as today. Also banned would be any instruction that is “based on theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities.” A series of amendments offered by Democrats on instruction of such subjects as Jim Crow laws, Japanese internment camps and the federal Civil Rights Act were rejected. A similar bill also is ready for a floor vote in the Senate. News Service of Florida. Many of the same lawmakers who pushed for a universal school voucher program in the 2023 legislative session are now backing a bill that would impose some limits on what families can buy with the money they receive. “Unfortunately, oftentimes the bad actors, the abuse, leads to restrictions,” said Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee, referring to purchases of such things as 55-inch TVs, paddleboards, theme park tickets and more. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the state: Hillsborough school officials are planning to rebuild two schools on a shared campus in west Tampa, some residents of Archer are unhappy with announced plans to turn three public schools in Newberry into charter schools, Martin County School Board members vote to include every school in the district’s open enrollment program, Hillsborough schools are spending about $4 million a year on ride-sharing services for mostly special-needs and homeless students, and a Palm Beach County high school teacher was reprimanded for handing out religious pamphlets to her students. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Hillsborough: District officials are proposing to rebuild Stewart Middle School and Just Elementary on a combined campus in West Tampa. Cost of the project would be about $70 million, and would be paid with revenues from existing special taxes. The projected opening is the fall of 2027. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT. The district is spending about $4 million a year on ride-sharing services to transport 4oo to 500 students to and from school every day. Most of the students have special needs or are homeless, according to school officials. Spectrum News 9. An employee at Chamberlain High School in Tampa, two adults and three students were arrested after a fight in the halls of the school Thursday morning. Police said the off-duty employee, Jynessa Brown, helped two 19-year-old men get into the school, where they got into a fight with 14-, 15- and 16-year-old students. The students were also charged with possession of a weapon. No one was seriously hurt. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT.

Palm Beach: A math teacher at Santaluces High School in Lantana has been reprimanded for handing out religious pamphlets in four of her five classes just before the winter break. Wendy Williams gave students candy canes and a booklet proclaiming “Jesus is the reason for the season.” District policy prohibits employees from using their positions to “advance or disparage” any religion or religious belief. Palm Beach Post.

Lee: Thirty-five percent of high school students, 29 percent of middle school students and 12 percent of elementary students said adults are not making decisions to keep them safe, according to a survey conducted by the district during the 2022-2023 school year. Twelve percent of districts employees said no when asked, “Do we think of everyone’s safety when making decisions?” Disciplinary data from the first semester of the current school year also showed that the three most common student infractions were up significantly since the same period a year ago. Disruptive behavior jumped 22 percent, insubordination and disrespect increased by 52 percent, and skipping school or classes was up 86 percent. WINK.

Lake: Since speed detection cameras have been placed in Eustis school zones Feb. 21, they’ve registered 166 violations, according to Eustis Police Chief Craig Capri. Once the 30-day warning period ends later this month, drivers going 11 mph over the posted speed limits will receive a $100 ticket in the mail. The cameras will be operational only on school days. Daily Commercial.

St. Johns: School district officials are planning to turn the historic Hastings High School, which closed in 1985, into a second campus for First Coast Technical College. In addition to developing workforce educational programs, the school will provide child-care, said Nicole Cubbedge, the school district’s executive director for planning and government relations. It’s expected to open in 2027. WTLV.

Sarasota: Stacy Lahdenpera, the administrative assistant to the principal of Riverview High School in Sarasota, has been chosen as the district’s school-related employee of the year. She’s now eligible for the same honor on the statewide level. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. SNN.

Leon: Star Swain, the elementary school principal at Florida A&M University’s Developmental Research School, has announced her candidacy for the job of school district superintendent. Incumbent Superintendent Rocky Hanna and Chiles High principal Joe Burgess also are in the running. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: Residents of Archer whose children attend schools in nearby Newberry are criticizing the plan to turn that city’s three public schools into charters. They said they worried about transportation for their children and having the city commission also acting as the temporary school board. The next community meeting is Wednesday, and a vote is scheduled in April. WCJB.

Bay: Panama City commissioners have tentatively approved placing speed detection cameras in school zones throughout the city to deter drivers from speeding. Once cameras are installed and a 30-day warning period has ended, drivers going 10 mph or more over the speed limit in school zones would receive a $100 ticket in the mail. The ordinance is up for a second reading March 12. Panama City News Herald.

Martin: All district schools will now be included in the controlled open enrollment process, the school board decided this week. Under that process, students can apply to attend any school in the county if there is space available. School officials are also hoping to draw students from other counties. About 200 students of the district’s 17,000 took advantage of the program last year. WPTV.

Colleges and universities: A Portland State University political science professor who once wrote a paper arguing that it “was high time to re-evaluate the pejorative meaning” given to colonialism has been named a presidential scholar in residence for the 2024-2025 New College of Florida school year. Bruce Gilley will take a one-year sabbatical to teach at New College. Terms of his contract were not made public. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Members of the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency turned down a request for $15 million from Florida A&M University to make repairs to its football stadium, saying it didn’t have the money in its infrastructure budget. Blueprint suggested the school look for funding from other sources, such as the Office of Economic Vitality. Tallahassee Democrat. WCTV. A camera built by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students that was supposed to be ejected as the lunar lander approached the moon’s surface and take photos of the landing did not deploy during the hard landing. While it was later ejected from the lander, it still has not taken photos. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

IB’s path through laws: While new Florida laws restricting discussions of race and gender have caused problems for Advanced Placement courses, teachers in International Baccalaureate say they have not been similarily affected because they are strictly following the IB framework. Doing so allows them to engage students in evidence-based discussions and presentations on complex philosophical concepts while abiding by state law. Education Week.

Schools honored: Twenty-two Florida schools have been chosen to receive exceeding expectations awards given by the East Coast Technical Assistance Center of Florida, an organization that monitors school improvement. Title I schools are judged by state test scores, student demographics, English and math proficiencies, learning gains and school grade history. ECTAC Florida. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: No legislature ever should command any subject to be taught in the slanted way the Florida bills prescribe schools instructing K-12 students about the history of communism and its “atrocities.” Politicians are the last people who should be dictating classroom content. Sun-Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff