Palm Beach proposes $54M for charters, Hillsborough asking voters for higher taxes, and more

Around the state: Palm Beach County School Board members vote today on a proposed legal settlement that would pay charter schools $54 million, Hillsborough’s school board is asking voters to approve higher property taxes so it can pay its teachers and other employees more, Duval’s school board approves the merger of two elementary schools but delays implementation by a year to give parents more time to prepare, Orange County teachers overwhelmingly approve a contract that gives them raises of nearly 10 percent, Gov. Ron DeSantis appoints a replacement for an Indian River County School Board member who resigned after mistakenly thinking his new home was not in the district he was elected to represent, and finalists are named for the state’s principal, assistant principal and school-related employee of the year awards. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: A 10-year-old boy who was hit by a van while he was walking to school in Coral Springs on Tuesday morning was airlifted to a hospital. “Luckily, it appears he is going to be okay,” said police Sgt. Ernesto Bruna. The driver stopped at the scene and cooperated with officers, and the investigation is continuing. Miami Herald. WPLG. WTVJ.

Hillsborough: County voters will be asked in November to approve higher property taxes to help the school district better compensate its teachers, administrators, school bus drivers and other employees. School board members voted 5-2 to approve the request, which Superintendent Van Ayres said is vital to retain workers. The district has a teacher shortage of 473, and thousands of children arrive to school late each day because of the dearth of bus drivers. If approved, the tax would raise an estimated $177 million a year. Most of the money, $139 million, would go toward bonuses of $6,000 for teachers and administrators and $3,000 for all other workers, with $27 million going to charter schools and $11 million to other district expenses. Today, the county commission will decide whether to ask voters to renew its community investment tax, which might include money for school construction. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT.

Orange: Teachers overwhelmingly approved a contract with the district that gives them pay raises of nearly 10 percent, school and union officials announced Tuesday. Union president Clinton McCracken called the salary increases, which average about $5,400 per teacher, “one of the great wins of the year.” Pay for starting teachers jumps to $49,375 from $48,400, but family health-insurance premiums will also go up. Raises will be in teachers’ paychecks next week, and are retroactive to the beginning of the school year. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WFTV. WOFL. WMFE.

Palm Beach: About $54 million would be paid to 45 charter schools if the school board approves a proposed settlement of a lawsuit filed when the district decided not to share money generated from a 2018 property tax increase with the schools. The district pitched the referendum as a way to support “non-charter district schools,” but two charters sued for shares and in 2021 a federal appeals court ruled in their favor. About $200 million a year is generated by the tax hike, which was approved again by voters in 2022. The school board vote is today. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel. WPEC.

Duval: A proposal to merge R.L. Brown and R.V. Daniels elementary schools was approved Tuesday by the school board but pushed back a year to give parents more time to prepare for the change. The schools, which are each underenrolled by hundreds of students and are only about 4 miles apart, will now be combined in August 2025 at R.L. Brown instead of this fall. Jacksonville Today. WJXT. WJAX. WTLV.

Seminole: A 17-year-old former student at a Sanford charter school was arrested Tuesday after allegedly going onto the campus this week and threatening three students with a handgun. He’s been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, and possessing or discharging weapons or firearms at a school-sponsored event or on school property. WOFL. WKMG.

Volusia: A Cypress Creek Elementary School teacher who was accused of using a derogatory term for one of her students with disabilities will not be returning to the school, district officials said Tuesday. Samantha Fuster will move to another school, said district spokewoman Danielle Johnson, but she did not say which school. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Lake: During the 30-day probationary period when speed detection cameras were placed in Eustis school zones, 767 warnings were issued. Cameras recorded vehicles that were going more than 11 mph over the speed limit when schools were in session, and sent drivers warnings. Starting today, offenders will receive $100 tickets in the mail. WKMG.

Escambia: District middle and high school students will soon be randomly screened for weapons by a new system called OPENGATE. Twenty-five of the devices have been purchased at a cost of $16,500 per unit. They’re supposed to detect weapons, vape devices and other prohibited items. “We can deploy these in any part of the school we need to,” said Kyle Kinser, the district’s director of protection services. “So with our students right now, we want them to know that at any point during the day, they could be randomly selected for a screening.” WEAR.

Alachua: Tensions are rising just days before the vote to convert three public schools in Newberry into charter schools. Proponents say they improve on such issues as maintenance, discipline and classroom size. Opponents contend the advocates are making promises they can’t possibly keep. Voting runs Friday through April 12, and votes will be counted at a public meeting April 17. A majority of school teachers and students at each school must cast a ballot for the election to be valid, and a majority of those voting is needed for the conversion to move forward. WUFT. A group opposed to the conversion has filed a complaint against Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe and city commissioner Ricky Coleman, charging that they’ve violated the state’s Sunshine Law and misused government resources. WCJB. Gainesville Sun. WUFT. Consideration of a proposed year-round academic calendar for Metcalf and Rawlings elementary schools has been put on hold so the school district can get parent feedback. WCJB.

Martin: Former school superintendent John Millay has announced his candidacy for the District 2 school board seat currently held by Marsha Powers. Sydney Marie Thomas also has filed to run for the seat in the Aug. 20 primary election. Millay was hired in 2020 as the district’s first appointed superintendent after voters decided in 2018 to make the job an appointed one. He stepped down last year, saying it was a “good time” in his career to leave. About four months later he was named senior vice president of the Boys & Girls Clubs. TCPalm. WPTV.

Indian River: Kevin McDonald was appointed Tuesday by Gov. Ron DeSantis to replace Brian Barefoot in the school board’s District 5 seat, effective immediately. Barefoot resigned in February because he thought his new home was outside of District 5. When he discovered it wasn’t, he unsuccessfully tried to rescind his resignation. McDonald was chairman, president and treasurer of the Geneva School of Manhattan before retiring. He has also filed to run for the District 5 seat in this fall’s election, against businessman David Dyer. TCPalm. Florida Politics. WPTV.

Jefferson: Cafeteria workers at Jefferson County K-12 School went on strike Tuesday to support their manager, Mary Singleton, who was put on administrative leave Friday by Superintendent Eydie Tricquet. Singleton said she was accused of stealing $27 from the school’s snack stand, and denies the charges. WCJB.

Colleges and universities: Florida’s Supreme Court will hear arguments June 5 to determine whether the University of Florida breached a contract when it continued collecting student fees when the school was closed during the pandemic. An appeals court has already dismissed the case, brought by a student, ruling that there was was no written contract to breach. News Service of Florida. Costs for the 2024-2025 academic year are running as high as $95,000 a year at some U.S. private colleges. Financial aid is expected to knock down those totals significantly for most students, but the U.S. Department of Education’s delays in rolling out the the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is complicating things for the 2 million students expected in enroll in college in the fall. Associated Press.

Finalists for state awards: Finalists have been named for the state’s principal, assistant principal, and school-related employee of the year awards. Principal finalists are Michael George of Atlantic Coast High School in Duval County, Marlene Straughan of Mount Dora High in Lake, and Kirk Hutchinson of Venice Elementary in Sarasota. Assistant principal finalists are Kristin Stevens of East Lee County High School in Lee, John Michael Chaires of Palatka Junior/Senior High in Putnam, and Holli Winter of Fruit Cave Middle in St. Johns. School-related employee finalists are Terri Bagby of Quest Elementary in Brevard, James Sorrentino of Buddy Taylor Middle in Flagler, Jennifer Fries of Florida Atlantic University High in Palm Beach, Edward Lanza of Saddlewood Elementary in Marion, and Doris Cabrera-Jerez of Wellington Elementary in Palm Beach. Florida Department of Education.

Around the nation: Oklahoma’s Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday for and against the creation of the nation’s first publicly funded Catholic charter school. If it’s allowed, Attorney General Gentner Drummond told the justices, there would be no grounds to deny the creation of, for example, Islamic or satanic charter schools. Michael McGinley, an attorney for the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School that was approved by a state board last June, argued that it’s unconstitutional to reject its application simply because it’s a religious school. The court gave no indication when it will rule. Associated Press.

Opinions on schools: Children are resilient, but we owe it to them to integrate their needs into our emergency preparedness for the hurricane season. Let’s give kids everything we’ve got and support their physical and mental wellness before, during and after disaster events. Remember, the time to prepare is now. Brittany Perkins Castillo, Sun-Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff