DeSantis announces $1.25B in budget for teacher raises, book about book bans banned, and more

Budgeting teacher raises: The next state budget includes $1.25 billion for teacher raises in public and charter schools, an increase of about $200 million from last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday. “Florida’s education system is no. 1 in the nation,” DeSantis claimed, “and we want to make sure good educators are attracted to Florida with attractive compensation.” The governor also took a shot at teachers unions, and specifically Miami-Dade’s, saying he didn’t “want (higher pay) to go to the head of the teachers union, I want it to go to the teachers,” and “you don’t need (unions) to raise pay. We’re raising pay in spite of those unions, not because of them.” Florida’s average teacher pay of $53,098 ranks 50th in the country, though the average starting teacher pay of $47,178 is 16th, according to a survey by the National Education Association teachers union. DeSantis has disputed the NEA’s findings, calling the organization “a very partisan teachers union.” Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times. Tallahassee Democrat. Sun Sentinel. WJXT. WKMG. Spectrum News 13. Central Florida Public Media. DeSantis also said his overall state budget review is “in the last stages” and should be finished this week. The 2024-2025 fiscal budget year begins July 1. News Service of Florida. Florida Phoenix.

Around the state: Indian River County School Board members vote to ban a book about book bans, Gov. DeSantis has started a political action committee to get involved in local school board races and work against constitutional amendments that would allow recreational marijuana and ensure access to abortion, Duval’s school board and the incoming superintendent reach an agreement on a contract, Flagler’s sheriff wants the school district to pick up 60 percent of the costs for school resource officers instead of splitting it with the county, and the Biden administration wants a federal judge to deny a request to block a new federal rule adding Title IX discrimination protection for gender identity and sexual orientation. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: The school district is offering free breakfasts and lunches to children 18 and under this summer through the federal Summer Food Service Program. The meals will be available at more than 180 schools, and must be eaten on site. WTVJ.

Broward: High schools in the county have announced the names of their valedictorians and salutatorians. Sun Sentinel.

Palm Beach: Florida Atlantic University has received a $2 million grant to build  the Marcus Research and Innovation Center at FAU’s lab schools: A.D. Henderson University School and FAU High School campus in Boca Raton. The new center will add 12,000-plus square feet of STEM and research space to the schools that will be dedicated to bioimaging, neuroscience, ocean science, conservation and health care. Palm Beach Post. County high schools have released the names of their valedictorians and salutatorians. Sun Sentinel. A school district employee who was taking a civilian training exercise at the sheriff’s gun range has been hospitalized after an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound in the hip. The wound is not considered life-threatening. WPBF. WPEC.

Duval: School officials and incoming superintendent Christopher Bernier have reached a contract agreement. Bernier will be paid $320,000 a year, less than the $350,000 he was seeking but more than the $280,000 the district offered. He’ll also be eligible for up to $20,000 in performance bonuses, will receive $15,000 for relocation expenses, and can use a district vehicle or get mileage reimbursement. School board members will vote on the contract at a special meeting Wednesday. WJXT. Florida Times-Union. Two more public meetings are planned this week and three will be held next week to discuss the district’s master facility plan, which includes a proposal to close nearly 30 schools. WJXT.

Indian River: A book about book bans was recently removed from three school libraries by school board members who didn’t like how it referenced other books that had been removed from schools and accused it of “teaching rebellion of school board authority.” A district book review committee had recommended keeping Ban This Book, by Alan Gratz. USA Today Florida Network. School officials are proposing changes to Dodgertown and Pelican Island elementary schools to boost enrollment. Dodgertown, a STEAM community partnership school, would become a magnet school with additional STEAM programs, said Superintendent David Moore. Pelican Island would become the district’s fourth magnet school by adopting a non-religious classical education model, and also convert to a K-8. TCPalm.

Flagler: Sheriff Rick Staly is recommending in his budget request to the county commission that 60 percent of the costs for school resource officers be paid by the school district and 40 percent by the county. Right now, those costs are shared 50-50. His request came as a surprise to Superintendent LaShakia Moore, and would add $300,000 a year to the school district’s budget. The district now pays $1.19 million a year for SROs. Flagler Live.

Jackson: School board members are considering merging the Jackson County Alternative School (JAS) with the newly renovated Hope School. “When they drive up to the old JAS they just see dilapidated buildings and some of them already have behavioral problems and when they see these old buildings, it’s just not enticing to them,” said Superintendent Steve Benton. A vote is scheduled Thursday. If it’s approved, JAS could move as early as this fall. WMBB.

Gadsden: State law requires later start times for middle and high schools in the fall of 2026, but the school district has decided to make the change this fall. Shanks and West Gadsden middle schools and Gadsden County High will change their hours to comply with the new law that requires middle schools to start no earlier than 8 a.m., and high schools no earlier than 8:30. WTXL.

Colleges and universities: Florida Gulf Coast University is considering offering an “intensive” English language program to help fill a gap created when Hodges University closed. If the school’s trustees approve the proposal at today’s meeting, the program would begin in the fall. News Service of Florida. The contract of the coach of the University of Florida-affiliated men’s water polo club has not been renewed after he was accused by some members of the team of sexual harassment. David Huelsman was an information security analyst at UF who also coached water polo and baseball at Gainesville High School. WCJB. Independent Florida Alligator. Mainstreet Daily News.

Education in the courts: The Biden administration is asking a federal judge to deny a request from Florida and other states to block a new federal rule adding  federal Title IX discrimination protection for gender identity and sexual orientation. U.S. District Judge Annemarie Carney Axon scheduled a hearing July 1 in Alabama on the request by the states and other plaintiffs for a preliminary injunction. The rule is scheduled go into effect Aug. 1. News Service of Service.

DeSantis starts PAC: A new political action committee started by Gov. DeSantis will get involved in local school board races and “champion issues and candidates committed to preserving Floridians’ freedom,” said Taryn Fenske, a spokeswoman for the governor. Florida Freedom Fund began last month and is chaired by James Uthmeier, the governor’s chief of staff. It will also target constitutional amendments that would allow recreational marijuana and ensure access to abortion. Polls show both passing, but DeSantis has called them “radical” and “extreme.” Politico Florida.

Around the nation: Chronic absenteeism among the nation’s K-12 students nearly doubled during the pandemic, according to a 50-state data analysis by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Pre-pandemic chronic absenteeism rates of 16 percent soared to 30 percent in the 2021-2022 school year. Part of the problem, according to an NPR/Ipsos poll, is that only about a third of the nation’s parents understand that their children missing two school days a month makes them chronically absent and increases their chances of learning setbacks and dropping out. K-12 Dive. NPR.

Opinions on schools: The enrollment reduction in 2021-2022 may have been the first in charter school history. Time will tell if it was an COVID anomaly or a start of a worrisome trend. Matthew Ladner, NextSteps.

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BY NextSteps staff

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