School board terms limits: A bill that had intended to end salaries for local school board members has been changed and now calls for term limits for board members. The House Education and Employment Committee approved the resolution that would limit a school board member to eight years of consecutive service, sending it to the House floor. Sixty percent of legislators in both chambers have to pass the resolution to get it on the 2022 ballot, where 60 percent of voters would then have to approve it to add it to the state constitution. A similar proposal was approved by the House last year but died in the Senate. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.
Sex education bill also revised: In an effort to attract support for passage of a sex education bill, legislators removed a provision requiring parents to give written consent for their children to receive any instruction on reproductive health or sexually transmitted diseases. Instead, the opt-out provision currently in place would remain, and schools would have to notify parents that they have that option. The bill would also make sex-ed teaching materials accessible online, and require school boards to approve the curriculum at a public meeting every year. Supporters of the early version of the bill were unhappy. The Florida Citizens Alliance’s Keith Flaugh called opting out “government control” and opting in “parent control.” The bill now is aligned with the Senate’s version, which is awaiting a hearing by the rules committee. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida.
Sales tax holidays: A $61.5 million tax holiday package is expected to be introduced today in the House Ways & Means Committee. Part of the package is seven tax-free days in early August when residents can buy school clothes, supplies and technology. There were also be tax-free periods for disaster preparedness and a “freedom week” in early July for people to buy such tickets to live music events, athletic contests and in-theater movies. Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, also told legislators that formal budget talks will be held this weekend. News Service of Florida.
Also in the Legislature: Children under the age of 7 could not be arrested by police under a bill approved Thursday by the House Judiciary Committee. The proposal is called the Kaia Rolle Act, named after a 6-year-old girl who was arrested and led out of her Orlando school in 2019 in zip-tie restraints after a temper tantrum. WKMG. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a bill that would require colleges and universities to disclose where their grant money comes from and ban some agreements between schools and China and six other countries. Florida Politics. A bill that would require the Department of Education to develop a K-12 civics education curriculum civics education has been approved by a Senate committee and now goes to the floor for a final vote. The House has already passed its version of the bill. Florida Politics. The House State Affairs Committee approved a bill that would require public union employees, such as teachers, to sign a form authorizing a union to deduct dues from their paychecks and to require those workers to be told annually that they don’t have to join a union. Florida Politics. Capitol News Service.
Around the state: More than 50 percent of black students in the Miami-Dade County School District are failing state tests, Broward teachers and the district reach a tentative agreement on raises for veteran teachers, districts around the state saying they will be cautious about ending face mask mandates after the state’s request to make wearing them optional for the next school year, Lake County is offering substantial financial incentives for teachers to work at one of two struggling elementary schools, and more districts are announcing that they won’t offer their hybrid learning programs for online learners next fall. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Miami-Dade, south Florida: Most black students in the Miami-Dade County School District are failing state language arts, math and science tests even as district graduation rates have improved to 85 percent. In 2019, just 40 percent of black students in grades 3-10 passed the language arts exam, compared to 77 percent of whites and 61 percent of Hispanics. And only 44 percent of blacks passed the math exam, compared to 78 percent of whites and 68 percent of Hispanics. “Reading this data, it doesn’t feel good,” said school board member Luisa Santos. “When we see there are four out of 10 students who are proficient. That means if I walk into a classroom of 20, that means 12 aren’t proficient. That hurts. And I know everyone in this room feels that way. It’s unacceptable.” Miami Herald. District leaders in south Florida counties said they aren’t ready to immediately end face mask mandates at schools, despite Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s request this week that they do so. All said they would follow the guidance of the CDC and local health officials before changing policies. Sun Sentinel.
Broward: The school district and the teachers union have reached a tentative contract agreement that will give veteran teachers a 2.26 percent pay raise and a $1,500 bonus. Also receiving the bonuses are education support professionals and technical support professionals. The sides previously agreed to raise the minimum salary for a teacher to $47,500 a year. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. WLRN. The district’s chief information officer is asking for $20 million to bolster the security of the computer system. It was recently hacked into, and the hackers demanded a $40 million payment or have student and staff confidential information published. District officials said they would not pay the ransom. Sun Sentinel. Members of the community are expanding the private Jack & Jill Center in Fort Lauderdale for infants through 3rd-graders to include a K-5 school called the Madelaine Halmos Academy. It will have 12 classrooms, labs, a dining area, a wellness room and a rooftop play area and can seat 220 students. redefinED.
Palm Beach: School officials said there will be no immediate change to the policy that face masks must be worn in schools. “I think it’s premature to make a decision to make masks voluntary,” said school board member Debra Robinson, a retired physician. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. WPTV. WPEC. The chief of the school district’s police department has resigned “to take on new challenges,” the district announced Thursday. Frank Kitzerow, 63, has been on the job less than three years. He’s expected to remain in office at least two more weeks. He’s clashed with the union, which called the department top-heavy, and last month school board member Karen Brill suggested the board consider letting the sheriff’s office take over the department. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel.
Duval: The first of Jacksonville’s IDEA charter schools will be built off Lem Turner Road and will open for students in the fall of 2022. It will open as a K-6 school for about 500 students, and has plans to grow into a K-12 school. IDEA, a Texas company, is also planning a second school in the city to open in 2022, but has not yet chosen a site. The school plans to offer free transportation and lunch, and said that every student from an IDEA school has been accepted to college since the company was started in 2000. WTLV. A student was shot and seriously wounded as he waited for his school bus Thursday morning outside an apartment complex in Jacksonville. His injuries are considered life-threatening. No other information was released. Florida Times-Union. WTLV.
Pasco, Tampa Bay area: Education leaders in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties said they were taking a wait-and-see approach before deciding whether to go along with the state’s request to drop their face mask mandates for the 2021-2022 school year. “Our district will continue to work closely with public health experts and local government entities to re-evaluate mask guidelines as we move toward next school year,” said Hillsborough Superintendent Addison Davis. Tampa Bay Times. An instructional assistant and assistant girls basketball coach at Land O’Lakes High school was among 79 people arrested during a sex crime sting in the days leading up to Wrestlemania 37, which was held last weekend at Raymond James Stadium. Christopher Ray, is charged with soliciting another to commit prostitution after deputies said he answered an ad on an escort service website. He’s been suspended by the school district. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTVT.
Volusia: Volusia Live, the school district’s hybrid remote learning program, will not be offered to students next year. District officials said students can either return to the classroom for instruction or enroll in the Volusia Online Learning remote option. At the beginning of the school year, about 16,000 students were enrolled in Volusia Live, in which they followed their classes in real time, and 9,000 were in Volusia Online Learning. Those numbers have fallen to 7,000 for Volusia Live and 4,000 for Volusia Online Learning. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WKMG.
Manatee: The school board will review the district’s policy that face masks be worn in schools at a meeting April 27, said board chair Charlie Kennedy. But Kennedy and a fellow board member, Scott Hopes, urged caution before making a change. “I’m hopeful that we can safely accommodate that,” Hopes said of the state’s request to end the mandate. “We’ll see how the vaccination runs through the summer and where we are with cases.” Bradenton Herald. The school district is asking the community to make nominations to rename Lincoln Memorial Academy. The former charter school had its contract terminated, and the state requires it to be renamed. WWSB.
Collier: Champions for Learning has announced that instead of holding the traditional Golden Apples awards dinner, it will give $2,000 to each of the district’s 58 schools to be used for Teacher Appreciation Week from May 3-7. “We did come to that understanding with them that we would make a commitment to helping the community really understand what it’s been like this year, maybe not by picking just teachers of distinction individually but by our organization really committing to putting a whole different process in place,” said Susan McManus, president of Champions For Learning. Naples Daily News.
Lake: The district is offering financial incentives for teachers to work at Leesburg and Beverly Shores elementary schools. New teachers will receive a bonus of $2,000 if they stay through the first semester and $10,000 if their school receives a C grade from the state, and would be eligible for up to $15,000 more based on student testing scores. Leesburg last received a D grade from the state, and Beverly Shores an F. “We’re looking for a special teacher to work with these children,” said teachers union president Stuart Klatte. WOFL. High school graduations will be held throughout May and into early June, and most will be held outdoors in football stadiums. Social distancing will be observed, but at 3 feet instead of the previous standard of 6 feet. The number of tickets each graduating senior can get for guests will vary by school. Orlando Sentinel. WFTV.
St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: School officials in each district said they will make no immediate change in policies requiring face masks to be worn at schools, and will probably wait to make a decision about next year. “No decision will be made until we’re closer to the start of school,” said Martin County School Board chair Marsha Powers. And when it’s time, she added, “the board will make a decision based on what the circumstances are at that time.”
Escambia: The dean of a private school in Pensacola is under investigation by the Florida Department of Children and Families after allegations that he “engaged in gestures of warmth and affection that made the students uncomfortable, including hugs and shoulder massages of students, both male and female.” Steve Thomas been placed on paid administrative leave by East Hill Christian School pending the outcome of the investigation. Pensacola News Journal. The Escambia County School District confirmed that racial slurs were included in messages recently sent by members of the Escambia High School baseball team, and that there were consequences. But Superintendent Tim Smith did not disclose what those consequences were. WEAR.
Leon: School district officials said they would not commit to complying with the state’s request to make face masks optional during the 2021-2022 school year. Superintendent Rocky Hanna also took exception to a statement made by Education Commissioner Corcoran that face masks inhibit classroom learning and may stop a family from returning to the classroom. Hanna call that “a heretical statement that should be immediately recanted. He’s not qualified to make that statement, just like I’m not qualified to make that statement.” Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. Leon High School principal Billy Epting said Thursday that because of the pandemic, the school will not sponsor a prom again this year. WTXL.
Bay: School officials said when Oscar Patterson Elementary School reopens in August 2022, it could have a different name as part of a rebranding campaign. The school was closed two years ago because of declining enrollment. WMBB. WJHG.
Hernando: School officials have announced they will not offer the district’s remote Digital Home Learning virtual option when schools resume next fall. Hernando eSchool, the district’s virtual school, will continue as a remote option. “We believe offering in-person learning or Hernando eSchool options is what best serves our students when it comes to providing the absolute best education we can,” said Superintendent John Stratton. Hernando Sun.
Charlotte: School board member Kim Amontree suggested this week that the district remake its dress code because it “seems to unfairly single out the dress that women wear and … it does so in a way that’s subjective.” She said it should be made gender neutral. District officials will work on revisions. Charlotte Sun.
Citrus: After deciding not to hire any of the five original candidates for the principal’s job at the Academy of Environmental Science charter school in Crystal River, the school’s board will now interview the only person who applied in the second round. Ernie Hopper, the assistant principal of Lecanto High School, will meet with the board April 27. The permanent job has been open since January, when Zachary Leonard resigned while he was being investigated for alleged policy and conduct violations. Citrus County Chronicle.
Colleges and universities: University of South Florida faculty and students are protesting the school’s decision to ask for bids from developers to submit plans for building on a 769-acre parcel just north of the school that’s home to a forest preserve and the university’s golf course. USF officials said they’re simply exploring options. Tampa Bay Times. Eastern Florida State College in Cocoa has announced it will hold three graduation ceremonies at the Maxwell C. King Center in Melbourne on May 13. Florida Today.
Around the nation: One hundred and thirty-two private schools in the United States have closed in the past year at least partially because of the pandemic, according to a new report from the Cato Institute. redefinED. Four charts show how the coronavirus pandemic changed education in America. Politico.
Opinions on schools: Children have been through a lot with school closures during the pandemic. It is incumbent on us to see that they catch up, and that in reading, they do not fail, but rather greatly succeed. Nicole James, Orlando Sentinel. Practical math – the math of daily life – should be taught as a required course in every secondary school in the nation. Michael Sanders, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.