Biden’s education plans, storm threat closing some school districts, hiring discrimination and more

Biden and education policy: The election of Joe Biden as president is expected to bring a massive shift in priorities for education in the United States. Billions more in funding is expected to be made available for both K-12 public schools and higher education to increase teacher salaries, help states establish universal preschool, eliminate tuition costs for families making less than $125,000 a year and make community college tuition free. Some degree of student loan forgiveness will be considered, and a crackdown on for-profit education is likely. Biden has also said he’ll fire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, replace her with someone who has been a public school teacher, and reverse some of her more controversial decisions, such as the rules for dealing with sexual misconduct in schools, deregulation of colleges, and the restriction of civil rights for transgender students. Politico. Washington Post. Education Week. Chalkbeat. The 74.

Storm closing schools: At least 18 school districts and several colleges and universities are closed today because of Tropical Storm Eta: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Monroe, Lee, Collier, Sarasota, Charlotte, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Glades, DeSoto, Hendry, Highlands, Hardee and Okeechobee. Eta is expected to produce heavy rain, strong winds, a storm surge that could flood some low-lying streets and widespread power outages. The longer-term path of the storm is uncertain, but it could affect more northerly school districts along the Gulf Coast later in the week. Weather Channel. Florida Department of Education. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Key West Citizen. TCPalm. Florida Today. Fort Myers News-Press. Charlotte Sun. WLRN. WPLG. WPBF. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT. WFTS. WWSB. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ. WPTV. WPEC. WOFL. WINK. WFTX. WBBH. Miami HeraldSpectrum News 13. Miami Herald.

Around the state: The Department of Justice has concluded that the Palm Beach County School District discriminated against job applicants who were born in foreign countries, Manatee County School Board members will consider updates to the district’s face mask policy, the teacher retention rate in Collier County is more than 94 percent and is up from a year ago, coronavirus cases are still rising in many districts, starting teacher pay is going up in Citrus County, and a school bus driver in Levy County revived a boy who had stopped breathing. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: About 83 percent of Broward’s students are learning remotely. The state has yet to announce if it will continue to fund districts’ online programs for the second semester, and parents of those students are starting to explore their options. Here are some of the choices they can consider. Sun Sentinel. The school district is expanding its free meals program to include all children under the age of 18, and to offer afternoon distributions at designated high schools. Miami Herald.

Tampa Bay area: The total number of coronavirus cases reported in the Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando school districts was more than 300 last week. When schools first reopened in late August, about 120 cases a week were being reported. Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: The school district discriminated against job applicants born in foreign countries, according to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. Those applicants were required unnecessarily to show documentation proving they were authorized to work, which DOJ termed “unfair documentary practices against non-U.S. citizens.” School officials have agreed to pay $190,000 and retrain the human resources department employees. Palm Beach Post. Twenty-seven more coronavirus cases were reported Friday, moving the total in the district to 426 since late September. Students made up 234 of the infections, and employees 192. Boca News Now. Coronavirus rapid results tests will soon be offered in the Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River and Okeechobee school districts. WPEC.

Lee: More than 10,000 students switched from online to in-person learning last week, with the district putting an emphasis on having students with D or F grades in at least one class or weren’t signing in virtually to return to classrooms. The district didn’t say how many students fell into one of those categories, but an Oct. 14 district email indicated that more than 41,700 students had a D or F in at least one class or were no-shows for classes. Fort Myers News-Press.

Volusia: Fifty-eight new coronavirus cases were reported in Volusia schools last week and eight in Flagler, bring the total for both districts to 303 since Sept. 6. That number includes private schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WOFL. An unused classroom at Citrus Grove Elementary School in DeLand has been transformed into a version of the board game Candy Land, with interactive lessons. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee: School board members are considering Tuesday whether to make any changes to the policy requiring students, staff and visitors to wear face masks on school property, in classrooms and on school buses. Patch. A student at Lincoln Memorial Academy and another at Samoset Elementary School tested positive for the coronavirus last week, sending 25 people into quarantine. Bradenton Herald. Newly elected school board member Mary Foreman said she supports the district’s mask mandate for students, hopes to conduct a national search for a superintendent, and wants a closer look into spending before asking voters to increase taxes. Bradenton Herald.

Collier: Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the retention rate of teachers stands at 94.26 percent this year after being 89.9 percent last year, district officials have reported. “We’re seeing, due to the pandemic, the uncertainty of the future, a lot of teachers holding off on potential retirements,” said Valerie Wenrich, the district’s executive director of human resources. “And there are no other industries that have continued the stability that school districts are able to give their employees.” Naples Daily News.

St. Johns: Nearly 50 new coronavirus cases were reported last week in the school district. The number of students under quarantine is now at 835, and 55 employees have also been isolated. St. Augustine Record.

Sarasota: The school district’s number of coronavirus cases is rising, and so is the need for substitute teachers. Thirty-three cases were reported last week, which is more that double the weekly rate reported at the beginning of the school year. The total number of cases is 225. More than 40 of those are teachers, which has contributed to a shortage of substitute teachers. On an average day, 45 teaching positions are going unfilled because subs can’t be found. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Marion: The number of coronavirus cases in the school district has declined for a second straight week, according to school officials. During the week of Oct. 16-22, 30 cases were reported. That dropped to 23 the week of Oct. 23-29 and 16 last week. Eleven of last week’s cases were of students. Ocala Star-Banner.

Leon: The school board is looking for a new attorney after Opal McKinney-Williams said she is switching law firms in January. She advised the board that it could hire an in-house attorney, contract with an outside attorney, or do both. McKinney-Williams’ firm, Ausley McMullen, has represented the district for about 60 years but does not have another attorney who is certified in educational law and can replace her. Tallahassee Democrat. A student at SAIL High School in Tallahassee will be disciplined by the school instead of criminally charged after he made a threat in a text message to another student. Principal Matt Roberson said the decision was made after law enforcement officials decided the threat was not credible. WCTV.

Bay: Tommy Smith Elementary School in Panama City has received a $2,500 grant from the Kiwanis Club that will be used to restart the school’s food pantry. The Title I school has a high percentage of students who live in low-income households. “We have a lot of families that have been impacted by the catastrophes over the last couple of years and we felt that that would be a great way to help our families even more than we are able to help them now,” said teacher Jodi Cowling. WJHG.

Martin: In 2018, voters approved a property tax increase that stated teachers would receive most of the money raised by the hike, which was expected to be about $8 million a year. But in 2019, teachers received just $6.6 million of the $7.5 million raised, and this year they’ll split about $6 million of the $7 million the tax generated. The reason it’s less than many people expected? After the measure was passed, the district and the union agreed on a contract that provided raises for everyone in the union, including teachers, counselors, deans and problem-solving coaches. TCPalm.

Citrus: District officials said they hope to have an agreement soon to raise starting teacher pay from $38,400 to $46,000 a year. The funding was provided by the Legislature, as part of a goal to raise the pay of every teacher as close as possible to $47,500. The deal would also give teachers making at least $46,000 a year a $1,500 raise, and support staff would be paid 46 cents more an hour. A final vote is scheduled Nov. 17. Citrus County Chronicle.

Flagler: Two new principals were appointed in the district last week. Jessica DeFord, who has been the acting principal at Belle Terre Elementary, had the acting removed from her title. And Cara Cronk takes over at Buddy Taylor Middle School, where she has been an assistant since 2018. Flagler Live. Palm Coast Observer.

Levy: School bus driver Tanya Rivenburg is being hailed as a hero after saving a 7-year-old boy who had stopped breathing after choking on a piece of candy. Rivenburg performed CPR to revive the boy just before paramedics arrived. A few days after the incident, she was presented with the school board’s “Impact Award” for her actions. WCJB.

Okeechobee: Sheriff’s deputies captured a 4-foot, 6-inch alligator that was on the playground of Everglades Elementary School during a school day last week. Deputies named the gator Everglades and relocated it to a nearby river. Associated Press. Miami Herald.

Colleges and universities: College and university officials said they will have to make deep cuts in their budgets in they don’t get financial relief soon from Congress. Some advocacy groups are lobbying for at least $120 billion in aid. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wants to have a coronavirus relief bill passed before the end of the year, but Republicans and Democrats are far apart in the proposed amount. Education Dive. The University of South Florida faculty recently passed a resolution condemning racism. The vote was 38-33, and passed only after the language was toned down because many professors objected to the strident tone. Tampa Bay Times. A Florida Atlanta University student’s racist rant on social media has triggered a debate on campus about freedom of speech. Sun Sentinel. The University of Florida is asking a court to dismiss a lawsuit over excessive fees it charged for more than decade for a student orientation program. Gainesville Sun.

Opinions on schools: Is the pandemic pod a problem or an opportunity? John E. Coons, redefinED. Results show that Florida’s K-12 scholarships are indisputable positives for state students, particularly low-income students. State Sen. Joe Gruters, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The pandemic has been awful in so many ways, but if it causes people to become more involved in schools at least something good will come from it. Nathan Crabbe, Gainesville Sun. In order to reduce overcrowding in Alachua County’s public schools while maintaining diversity and spending taxpayer money wisely, the school board will need to make difficult decisions on regulating development and rezoning schools. Gainesville Sun.