DeSantis signs $100B state budget with $22.8B for K-12 education, COVID cases, school financing, and more

DeSantis signs budget: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the record $100 billion state budget into law on Wednesday, saying it “really reflects a state government that is meeting the core concerns of Floridians.” He vetoed about 150 projects totaling $1.5 billion in spending from the measure approved by the Legislature, but the budget is still $8 billion more than this year’s spending, in large part because of the approximately $10 billion the state received from the federal stimulus package. Education spending will total about $22.8 billion, which includes $550 million to continue raising teacher salaries, $1,000 bonuses about 180,000 public school teachers and principals,  a $39 boost in per-student spending to $7,795, $464 million as a “safety net” in case more students return to public school classrooms than the state expects, and $6.5 million to train and arm guards for schools. The budget takes effect July 1. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. USA Today Network. Florida Politics. WPTV. A number of education initiatives were vetoed from the budget by DeSantis. Here’s a full list of the projects vetoed. News Service of Florida.

Around the state: Florida receives a D+ in financing in the Quality Counts 2021 rankings by the EdWeek Research Center, only 13 Broward school district employees applied to become the interim superintendent, the relatively low rate of coronavirus cases in Tampa Bay area schools raises questions, the Orange County School District’s medical advisory committee suggests face mask mandates should remain in place for elementary students, a lawsuit is filed by dozens of parents against Polk schools’ face mask mandate, the first meeting in the state’s listening tour on the proposed new academic standards was not recorded in video or audio, and Martin County district officials are considering converting a middle school into a high school. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Only 13 employees of the school district applied for the job as interim superintendent by last Friday’s deadline. And only two of them have management jobs now: Brian Katz, the chief of safety, security and emergency preparedness, and Michael Blanchard, an area security manager. Other applicants are teachers of guitar, math, science and 6th grade, a literary coach, a computer micro tech, a speech-language pathologist, two support facilitators for special needs students and two classroom assistants. Board members will review the applicants at today’s meeting. If they don’t like the choices, they could open the jobs to people outside the district or simply appoint someone. Current Superintendent Robert Runcie’s last day is Aug. 10. “I didn’t want to just appoint someone. I wanted to have a good pool of people where we could weigh the pros and cons and pick the right person,” said board member Debbi Hixon. “But I’m disappointed by this list.” Sun Sentinel. Runcie’s attorney argued in court Wednesday that the perjury indictment of the superintendent is too vague to be valid, and Circuit Judge Martin Fein suggested it was a strong argument. But the judge didn’t indicate whether it was enough to dismiss the case, and said he will issue a written ruling. Sun Sentinel. WPLG. WSVN.

Tampa Bay, Pinellas: Tampa Bay area school districts have about 400,000 students and more than 50,000 employees, and through the end of May reported 18,000 cases of coronavirus. That’s about 1 case for every 27 people, which was not the catastrophe that some people feared. Was it because of the safety protocols, such as mandatory face masks and social distancing,  put into place and strictly enforced by schools, or was it because COVID-19 is not a big problem among children and the threat was exaggerated? Tampa Bay Times. Pinellas County is using federal aid to expand its Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program to 25 elementary schools with mostly low-income students. Many of the schools have large percentages of children who aren’t considered ready to enter kindergarten. “In any given year, we have 25 to 30 percent of children that don’t attend, and we know from the data if they complete a VPK program they’re much more likely to be ready for kindergarten,” said district early childhood specialist Gail Ramsdell. “By offering it for free, we’re eliminating one of the barriers that may be preventing families from participating.” Meals will be included in the programs, but not transportation. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: Members of the school district’s medical advisory committee are urging school board members to not make face masks optional for all students right now. Instead, they advised, the board could consider making masks optional for middle and high school students, who have access to vaccinations, but keeping the mandatory mask policy in place for elementary students who are not yet eligible to get a vaccine shot. The recommendation came during a public hearing this week. The board is considering a district proposal to make masks optional this summer. Spectrum News 13. WKMG. The district and the health department said they are setting up rapid testing for COVID-19 for the school year that begins in August. WMFE.

Palm Beach: School board members unanimously decided Wednesday to join a partnership that would offer coronavirus vaccinations to students over 12, their families and other members of the community at four district properties. Shots should be available at the sites this month. The partnership with the Health Care District of Palm Beach County extends until June 30, 2022. WPEC.

Polk: Nearly four-dozen parents who oppose the school district’s face mask mandate have filed a lawsuit against the school district to end it. They’re asking for $100,000 in damages. “Just how much harm to children is acceptable to achieve (the district’s) stated goal of ‘slowing the spread of Covid-19′ at this stage of the pandemic? The only civilized answer must, of course, be ‘none,’ ” attorney Jeff Childers wrote in the lawsuit. “Undoubtedly, (the district) has good intentions. But this lawsuit perfectly illustrates the risks of giving unilateral ‘emergency powers’ to well-meaning but poorly-informed, fast-reacting and unwise executive agents.” Lakeland Ledger. County commissioners have rejected a private school’s bid to move into a residential area off U.S. 19 south. Residents in the area protested the proposed move of WonderHere, which is now in downtown Lakeland, and the commission overturned an earlier vote by the planning commission and rejected the recommendation of the county staff. “This is a residential area,” said Bill Braswell, one of the four commissioners who voted against the concept. “It sounds like the school is a fantastic school, a great program, but it’s still a business. This would be a non-residential use dropped into a residential area. I don’t see it as compatible.” Lakeland Ledger.

Lee: Vaccinations for students will be available through the summer from a mobile clinic setting up at schools. The first clinic continues today and tomorrow at Three Oaks Middle School. The district is partnering with Lee Health to offer the clinics. WFTX. WINK.

Brevard: The school district is one of five in the United States to win a $500,000 grant from IBM to improve their computer system security against hackers. IBM said the districts were chosen by their “cybersecurity needs and experiences, community resources and potential risks.” Technology For You. Middle school students have been learning how to write computer code in one of many one of many district career and technology classes and built computer games for their final assignment this spring. The district plans to offer coding classes in elementary schools in the fall. Florida Today.

Sarasota: School board members announced their intention to make face masks optional for students and employees after the current policy mandating the use of masks expires June 30. The change has to be advertised for 30 days before a final vote can be taken. Board members decided to formally change the policy instead of simply letting it expire so it will be clear that students and staff are within their rights to wear or not wear masks next fall. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun.

Alachua: A petition with more than 1,000 signatures expressing a “vote of no confidence” in Superintendent Carlee Simon was presented to the school board this week. It criticizes Simon’s “leadership, specifically concerning trust, collaboration, decision-making, vision, communication, her lack of respect for parents and staff, and her inability to create positive working relationships with staff members and the community.” Since her appointment in December, Simon has called for an administration reorganization, declined to renew the contracts of nine administrators and has announced her intention to rezone school boundaries around the county. The board decided to delay her evaluation until November because of her mid-year appointment and a lack of measurable data because of the pandemic. Gainesville Sun. More than 10,500 backpacks filled with educational materials will go home with select Alachua students this summer. The project is costing the district $414,381 and is aimed at keeping students educationally stimulated during the break and providing parents tips to help their children. WUFT.

Martin: School board members said they might consider converting Dr. David L. Anderson Middle School into a high school to alleviate overcrowding and allow for future growth at Martin County and South Fork high schools. Superintendent John Millay also said renovating Anderson instead of building a new high school would save the district about $70 million. It’s “an effective use of our facilities (and) it would take all of our high schools within the range of planned enrollment,” Millay said. TCPalm. A record 2,500 students have enrolled in summer learning programs. WPEC.

Monroe: School administrators will meet Tuesday with Key West city and housing authority officials to discuss the future of a 6-acre waterfront property owned by the district. It was once used as a school bus depot, but is now vacant. “We want to be working in tandem with the city as much as possible to create a community resource on this property and to understand the City of Key West’s and the Housing Authority’s future plans for the area as well,” said Superintendent Theresa Axford. “This meeting is to open a dialog; it is not to make a plan. We are not in the planning phase yet. We are exploring possibilities together.” Key West Citizen.

Schools get D+ on finances: Florida received a grade of D+ on financing in the Quality Counts 2021 rankings by the EdWeek Research Center. The average grade in the nation was C. Florida is one of 19 states that need to improve their education funding policies and results, the analysis suggests. Grades are figured by combining the result of spending and equity indicators. Florida’s grade on equity was an A, but it received an F on spending for an overall score of 68.5. The average score was 76.1. Education Week.

Academic standards tour: The first of three stops on the state’s “listening tour” to take comments from the public on the proposed academic standards Monday in Miami was not recorded, either on video or audio. “Unfortunately, the event was not recorded,” said Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters. Miami-Dade teachers union president Karla Hernández-Mats said about 30 people attended the meeting and 12 spoke. None of the comments were in favor of the new standards, she said. The Florida Channel is working to broadcast the next two meetings, tonight in Osceola County and Tuesday in Baker County. Florida Phoenix.

Civics and debate initiative: Phase 2 of the state civics and debate initiative will be introduced into 102 more schools in August, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced Wednesday. This year, the initiative helped establish speech and debate teams in 59 schools, and more than 2,000 students participated. “The Florida Civics and Debate Initiative supports student academic success while building great citizens,” Corcoran said. “Research shows the many benefits that participating in debate has on critical thinking, test scores, graduation rates and college acceptance.” Florida Department of Education.

Colleges and universities: One of the provisions of the new education law signed by Gov. DeSantis this week gives colleges and universities the ability to sponsor and operate charter schools in any district within its defined service area, after getting the approval of the state Department of Education. redefinED.

Around the nation: The backlog in school maintenance and repair projects in the United States is at least $500 billion, according to estimates by the nonprofit 21st Century School Fund. NBC News.

Education podcasts: Jessica Bianchi, whose husband Juan Santana is a chief petty officer in the Navy and stationed in Jacksonville, talks about how a change in the law governing state scholarships will benefit her two children, her entire family and other military families across Florida. redefinED.

Opinions on schools: Barring high-performing and/or willing students from attending a magnet school simply because of where they live or their ethnicity is antithetical to the very point of such schools. It would be foolish to sacrifice the success of magnet schools across the country to target a problem not in sight. Sean-Michael Pigeon, redefinED.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff