Legislative session to continue into Monday, vote on race discussion expected, testing bill and more

Session going into Monday: Senate and House negotiators reached an agreement on the state budget late Wednesday and will publish and distribute the final document to lawmakers later today, said Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby. Because there’s a 72-hour waiting period required between the time a budget agreement is reached and legislators can vote on it, Simpson said lawmakers would adjourn over the weekend and return to Tallahassee on Monday for the final debate and vote. The budget is expected to top $100 billion and will go into effect July 1. As part of the deal, negotiators agreed to spend $24.3 billion on K-12 education, including $800 million to boost teacher pay, an increase of $385 in per-student spending to bring the total to $8,143, and another $214-per-student increase to help districts raise minimum pay for all workers to $15 an hour. It also restores the proposed $200 million cut to 12 districts that didn’t comply with the state’s ban on face mask mandates. Politico Florida. USA Today Florida Network. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Associated Press.

Race discussion bill: The Senate could vote today on the bill that would ban the use of critical race theory in school classrooms and in corporate training, after all proposed amendments were turned away Wednesday by senators. Specifically, the bill prohibits lessons and training that tell students and employees they are inherently racist, sexist or oppressive and should feel guilty for the past actions of members of their race, color, sex or national origin. If approved and then signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the law would become effective in July. Politico Florida. Florida Phoenix. News Service of FloridaFlorida Politics. WSVN.

Testing overhaul: A bill that will change the way the state tests its K-12 students was approved Wednesday in the House and now goes to the governor. Florida Standards Assessments testing will be replaced by a computer-based progress monitoring system that will periodically measure student performance. School districts will have a one-year grace period before the results of the new system are used for accountability measures such as school grades. Supporters say the measure will streamline the testing process, while critics say it’s unlikely to cut back on the amount of time students spend preparing for and taking the exams. Politico Florida. Florida Phoenix. News Service of Florida.

Also in the Legislature: The state’s tax cut package is now ready after negotiators decided to suspend collection of the 27-cent-a-gallon gas tax for the month of October. Legislators chose that month because it’s when the fewest tourists are in the state. Gov. DeSantis had asked for a six-month suspension of the tax. Among the other components of the package is a two-week back-to-school tax holiday in the summer. Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. USA Today Florida Network. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. The House has approved the bill that will prohibit colleges and universities from using the same agency for consecutive accrediting cycles, require them to make public additional information about textbooks and instructional materials at least 45 days before classes start and for five years after, and allow the Florida Board of Governors to create a uniform standard for post-tenure reviews of faculty, with “consequences for underperformance.” It now goes to Gov. DeSantis. Politico Florida. A nonprofit tied to former president Donald Trump is lobbying Senate President Simpson to consider a bill that would require public employees, including teachers, to authorize membership every year. It has not received a single committee hearing in the Senate. Politico Florida. Students at several schools around the state continued Wednesday to protest the passage this week of H.B. 1557, the bill that would ban classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for K-3 students and limit instruction for older students to “age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate” levels that align with state academic standards. WPLG. WTVJ. WPTV.

Around the state: A Miami high school student was shot in the leg while he was sitting in class Wednesday by someone in a passing car, Palm Beach County School Board members approve a rezoning plan for a new elementary school, St. Johns school officials and the teachers union meet today to try to conclude contract negotiations, members of the Alachua County School Board submit their recommendations for an interim superintendent, Citrus school board members approve a pay raise for substitute teachers, and a Collier County school bus driver is honored for saving a woman who was being attacked by dogs as he drove by. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: An 18-year-old student at North Gardens High School in Miami Gardens was shot in the leg at around 2 p.m. Wednesday while he was in class. He was taken from the school by a rescue helicopter after being wounded by gunfire from a passing car. At least two suspects are in custody, and the investigation is continuing. WFOR. WTVJ.

Broward: An assistant principal at Olsen Middle School in Dania Beach has been temporarily reassigned after he was seen on video pushing a 13-year-old female student to the floor as he tried to break up a fight in the cafeteria Wednesday. District officials said they are investigating Charles Zimmerman’s actions. WSVN. WPLG.

Hillsborough: A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Wednesday for 1Voice Academy in Brandon, a school for children with cancer. 1Voice Foundation founder Mary Ann Massolio said her goal is to provide a sense of normalcy for pediatric cancer patients and their parents. “We want to accommodate without them feeling accommodated,” she said. The ceremony was held 25 years to the day that Massolio’s 9-year-old son Jay died from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. WFLA. WTSP. WFTS. District officials said there are more than 16,000 lunch accounts with unclaimed money totaling $170,108. Spokeswoman Erin Maloney said most of the accounts are worth $10 or less, but parents can still apply for a refund. WFLA.

Palm Beach: School board members unanimously approved a rezoning plan for Blue Lake Elementary School in Boca Raton, which opens in the fall. The new boundaries were drawn to help with overcrowding at Calusa Elementary and Verde K-8. Blue Lake will accommodate about 730 students in its first year and up to 1,000 eventually. Sun Sentinel. WPEC. At least 10 people were taken to a hospital after being pepper-sprayed by a school police officer during a fight Wednesday at Royal Palm Beach Community High School. Four to six girls got into the fight at lunch, and the officer said he used the pepper spray to “regain crowd control,” according to principal Michelle Fleming. WPTV. WPEC. WESH.

Collier: A school bus driver was recently honored by the sheriff’s department for saving a woman and her dog from an attack by several large pit bulls. Fabian Golac was at a stop sign when he saw the attack. He grabbed the bus fire extinguisher and began spraying the dogs, which drove the dogs away long enough for the woman to get into her house and Golac to resume his route. WINK.

St. Johns: District officials and teachers union officials meet today to try to finish negotiating a contract agreement. Last week, the sides tentatively came to terms on boosting starting teacher pay from $45,535 to $47,500 and increasing pay between $2,185 and $3,423 for most veteran teachers with positive evaluations. It would also increase supplements for athletic coaches, club sponsors and department chairs by 27.5 percent. WJXT.

Alachua: Members of the school board have submitted their recommendations for an interim superintendent who could replaced the fired Carlee Simon as early as Tuesday. At least one board member said she will submit the name of deputy superintendent Donna Jones, who has been running the district in an acting capacity since Simon was terminated March 1. WCJB.

Bay: All district schools will be open today for the first time this week. Three schools were closed Monday because of the wildfires, and Waller Elementary School in Youngstown was also closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Bay County School District.

Indian River: Five 8th-graders at Oslo Middle School in Vero Beach have now been arrested for their involvement in a fight Friday that began outside the school. All the students involved were suspended for 10 days. TCPalm.

Citrus: School board approved a new pay scale for substitute teachers this week that district officials hope will cut down on the shortage of subs. Pay will be increased by $15 to $25 a day, depending on a sub’s degree level and certification. The change began Wednesday. Citrus County Chronicle.

Colleges and universities: The two finalists for the University of South Florida’s presidency will tour the school’s three campuses and sit for another round of interviews March 21 and 22. The finalists are interim president Rhea Law and Jeffrey Talley, the former chief and commanding general of the U.S. Army Reserve and a former department chair at Southern Methodist University. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: The number of coronavirus cases was significantly lower in school districts that required masks than in those that didn’t, two more recent studies have concluded. The 74. Education Week. The oft-forecast exodus of teachers from the profession during the pandemic has not happened, according to data from five states and 19 large U.S. school districts. Many showed a slight uptick in resignations, but “it is not some kind of broad-stroke, red-alert type of concern,” said Mohammed Choudhury, Maryland’s state superintendent. Chalkbeat and Associated Press.

Opinions on schools: The endgame of the school choice movement is changing the model of how Americans educate their children. Sitting in judgment of parents’ reason for wanting to avail themselves of choice distracts from that mission. It’s an act of self-sabotage. Robert Pondiscio, American Enterprise Institute. The challenges for the next president of the University of South Florida remain universal. It must further its ambitions to become a top-tier university, defend the rights of faculty and students to speak freely, keep the university free of political manipulation, and continue contributing to the public welfare far beyond the campus boundaries. Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff