DeSantis now supports $200M cuts to 12 districts, rancor drives out Lake board member and more

DeSantis flips on district penalties: Just four days after Gov. Ron DeSantis said he opposed a House budget proposal to cut $200 million from 12 school districts that defied his ban on face mask mandates, the governor has changed his mind and now favors it, according to his press secretary Christina Pushaw. DeSantis changed his mind after talking with state Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, who made the proposal, she said. “The governor has been clear that he doesn’t want to take away any funding from students or teachers,” Pushaw wrote in an e-mail. “He is on board with the FEFP (Florida Education Finance Program) adjustment following discussions with Rep. Fine. The fines in this proposal would only impact administrators making $100k+, who were actually making the political decisions to force-mask children.” DeSantis tweeted his support for the cuts on Tuesday, writing, “Most students didn’t want to wear masks in the first place!” and that the cuts were aimed at “union-controlled politicians and bureaucrats.” The amount each district loses would be based on how many administrators are making over $100,000. Miami-Dade would lose $71.9 million, Broward $32.4 million, Palm Beach $28.4 million, Orange $16.5 million, Hillsborough $14.2 million, Sarasota $12.1 million, Duval $10.6 million, Brevard $4.5 million, Volusia $3.2 million, Leon $2.7 million, Alachua $2 million and Indian River $1.3 million. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Orlando Sentinel. USA Today Florida Network. Florida Politics.

Also in the Legislature: The “Parental Rights in Education” bill, which is called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by its critics, could violate the federal Title IX law and other civil rights protections such as the First and 14th amendments, according to legal experts. The bill would would regulate discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in K-3 classrooms and give parents the rights to make “critical decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.” State Rep. Joe Harding, R-Williston, the bill’s cosponsor, said, “The bill is designed to keep school districts from talking about these topics before kids are ready to process them.” K-12 Dive. Members of the House and Senate are scheduled to vote today on their budget proposals. WFSU. Districts around the state are pulling books from school libraries over complaints, and concerns that the books will be found in violation of state law. Bills are moving through the Legislature requiring that new books or teaching materials be made easily available for public review and comments. Florida Phoenix.

Around the state: Duval County’s school superintendent wants to ask voters to increase property taxes by 1 mill to raise money for the district, a Lake County School Board member has cited political divisiveness for her decision to resign May 1, Osceola’s school board will vote next month on a proposal to begin board meetings with a prayer, April 4 has been set for the start of the sentencing trial for the Parkland school shooter, members of Alachua County’s school unions protest a wage offer from the district, and charter schools are being developed with state grants at state colleges in Miami-Dade and Alachua counties. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A technology-oriented charter high school opens this fall in Miami that will allow students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree from Miami Dade College. The school is being financed with a $2 million grant from the state, and is expected to have 200 freshmen when it opens. The city of Miami is looking for a private-sector “operator” of the school, said Mayor Francis Suarez. Miami Herald. A 37-year-old man who reportedly threatened to burn down his son’s private Jewish school in Miami has been arrested. Police said Mark Polyakov was angry that his son had been expelled last week because of remarks Polyakov made during an online chat with other school parents. He was angry that the school was making students wear masks. WPLG. WFOR.

Broward: Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer has set April 4 as the date when the sentencing trial of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gunman will begin. Nikolas Cruz has admitted killing 17 students and employees and wounding 17 others on Feb. 14, 2018, and the trial will determine if he spends the rest of his life in prison or is executed. WFOR. The school district is starting a drive to fill about 1,200 open jobs, starting with a job fair for all positions on Feb. 26 at Western High School in Davie. WTVJ.

Duval: Superintendent Diana Greene is proposing a 1-mill property tax hike to raise money for the school district. Speaking to school board members at a meeting Tuesday, Greene said the money is needed to stem the critical shortage of teachers and improve arts and athletics programs for students. The tax would raise an estimated $81.8 million a year, and Greene wants 65 percent to go to higher salaries for teachers, 12.5 percent for arts and athletics, 12.5 percent to charter schools and 10 percent to school staff. If the school board and Jacksonville City Council approve the request, it could appear on the primary election ballot in August. Florida Times-Union. WJXT.

Lee: A Bonita Springs High School student was arrested Monday after allegedly threatening someone with a pocket knife. He was pulled out of class after the threat, and a school resource officer reported finding two pocket knives on the boy. WINK. WFTX.

Osceola: School board members will vote next month on a resolution to start board meetings with a prayer instead of a moment of silence. “Let’s have a moment when we can all appreciate each other and I think that’s a great way to set the tone,” said board chair Terry Castillo, who proposed the change. “It’s inclusive, and I think it’s a really great way to celebrate our community.” WOFL. More than 10 percent of the school district’s 242 bus routes do not have a driver, and school officials are recruiting heavily to try to fill the vacuum. Bus drivers are being forced to make additional stops and are arriving at their stops after the scheduled pickup and dropoff times, which means many students are missing time in class. Randy Wheeler, the assistant director of transportation, said he’d like to see starting pay go up from the current $13.80 an hour, but doesn’t believe that alone will solve the crisis. “I believe because so many people are choosing to shy away to this type of work, it’s not going to cure the problem for us,” he said. Spectrum News 13.

Lake: District 2 school board member Kristi Burns said this week that she is resigning May 1 because “the general political discourse and the divisiveness is just too much for me to continue in my seat at this point.” Burns was first elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020, and would have been on the ballot again in 2024. Voters will now choose her replacement this November. “I’m trying to do this in the most respectful way possible for the district,” she said. “At this point, I’m going to step back from all of this divisiveness and really be able to focus on my family.” Daily Commercial. WMFE.

Okaloosa: The number of coronavirus cases reported in county schools dropped to 117 last week, down from 347 the week and the lowest total in the district since the first week of the second semester. WKRG.

Alachua: Union members protested at Tuesday’s school board meeting against the district’s proposed raises. The district is offering the equivalent of 20-cents-an-hour raises for education support professional and 17 cents for teachers, according to union officials, who will make a counterproposal at Thursday’s bargaining session. WCJB. Santa Fe College will open a charter school in the fall of 2023 that focuses on program in career and technical education. Dual-enrolled students will be able to graduate with industry certifications and an associate’s degree. “The mission of this school is to help our students get through with their high school graduation requirements as well as an A.S. degree in one of two pathways, either health sciences or informational technology,” said Jen Homard, director of the college’s dual enrollment program. WCJB.

Monroe: The race for the District 1 seat on the school board has gained another candidate. Gabrielle Brown, a mom and a bookkeeper, is challenging attorney Darren Michael Horan in the election to replace incumbent Bobby Highsmith, who said he isn’t running for re-election. Florida Keys Weekly.

Suwannee: The assistant principal at Suwannee High School is on paid administrative leave while allegations made in January against him are investigated. Sheriff Sam St. John said deputies are investigating an altercation between Gary Caldwell, who has worked for the district since 1992, and another person last month. WCJB. WCTV.

Colleges and universities: A recently released audit disclosed that the University of Central Florida Athletics Association violated naming rights agreements for the Addition Financial Arena in 2017 and 2018 that jeopardized the relationship with the naming partner and sponsorship revenues. Florida Politics. Hispanic college students who want to pursue a career in health care are getting help paying for their education from the Tampa Bay Latin American Medical Society. The group, founded in 1980, is a philanthropic society of Hispanic physicians that has awarded $225,000 in scholarships since 1995. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: The families of nine victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre have agreed to a $73 million settlement with Remington, the maker of the rifle used to kill 20 children and six adults in Connecticut. Associated Press.

Opinions on schools: Do you know which Americans have for decades been increasing their control over the kind of education their children receive? Not only the which schools their children attend, but also how much access their children will have to a rich array of extracurricular learning opportunities? You guessed it: well-to-do Americans. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. Just as democracy is consistent with freedom and pluralism, it is consistent with freedom of choice in education. James V. Shuls, RealClear Education. For at least two decades, there has been a steady push to micro-manage, dismantle and disrespect public education, as if our state’s agenda is for public schools to eventually fail and the private sector to profit as if “school choice” was the best answer. Phyllis Erney, Gainesville Sun. Learning about Reconstruction and its legacies disrupts both the myth that U.S. history is one long victory march from slavery to a post-racial present and the complacency that myth is designed to produce. Mimi Eisen, The 74.