Senate approves parents’ rights bill, session is extended, $200M budget penalty killed, and more

Parents’ rights bill approved: State senators voted 22-17 on Tuesday to approve the Parental Rights in Education bill, which 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. It also allows parents to sue schools that violate the law. Democrats were joined by two Republicans in opposing the bill: Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg and Jennifer Bradley of Fleming Island. Supporters say the bill strengthens the rights of parents in their children’s educations, while critics say it will harm LGBTQ students. The bill now goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has voiced support for it and is expected to sign it. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. USA Today Florida Network. Politico Florida. Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics. Florida Phoenix. Capitol News Service. WFSU. What can students and parents expect now that H.B. 1157 has been approved? Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. Florida Politics. The LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida said after the vote that it would pursue legal action against the legislation. Florida Politics.

Budget talks stall: Senate and House negotiators were unable to come to a final agreement on the state budget before midnight Tuesday, which means the legislative session will extend beyond its scheduled Friday close. Once an agreement on overall spending is reached, legislators must wait for 72 hours before taking a final vote. Talks continue today. Before the adjournment, House negotiators agreed to drop the proposal to strip $200 million from the 12 school districts that defied the state’s ban against face mask mandates in schools. Instead, they proposed to direct that money into the Florida School Recognition Program, but only the 55 districts that followed the state’s rules on masks will be eligible for awards for sustained or improving student performances. Senate leaders praised the change, calling it a “cleaner approach.” Other late agreements set a 5.38 percent raise and a $15-an-hour minimum wage for state employees, and established a $100 million fund to help teachers and first responders make down payments on homes. USA Today Florida Network. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics.

Charter school bill: A bill making it easier for charter companies to get approvals for their schools has been approved by both the Senate and House and is headed to Gov. DeSantis. H.B. 225 would allow charter schools to be automatically renewed if local school boards don’t follow state review guidelines or don’t provide 90 days’ notice of intent to terminate, and require boards to approve or deny requests within 60 days of receiving them. reimaginED.

Also in the Legislature: High school seniors will have to take a course in financial literacy to be eligible for graduation if a bill passed in both the Senate and House is signed by Gov. DeSantis. Florida Politics. Juveniles convicted of nonforcible felonies may have their records expunged under a bill approved unanimously Tuesday in the Senate. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. About $2 million is being allocated to the Benacquisto Scholarship Program for scholarships to cover attendance costs for National Merit Scholars at in-state postsecondary institutions that are not covered by Bright Futures or the National Merit Scholar program. Florida Politics. A bill that would have required public union members, such as teachers, to authorize membership yearly is probably dead after receiving no hearings in the Senate. Florida Politics.

COVID vaccines for kids: The Florida Department of Health, headed by Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, officially issued guidance Tuesday that dissuades health children between the ages of 5 and 17 from getting a COVID-19 vaccination. “Based on currently available data, the risks of administering COVID-19 vaccination among healthy children may outweigh the benefits,” Ladapo wrote in the plan. “That is why these decisions should be made on an individual basis, and never mandated.” The decision is counter to current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and has been widely criticized. Politico Florida. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel.

Around the state: Broward school board members approve the superintendent’s proposal to hire two deputy superintendents, Florida’s Supreme Court refuses to hear an appeal from a Palm Beach County principal who was fired after stating that he couldn’t say the Holocaust was a factual event, Sarasota voters approve the extension of a 1-mill property tax for schools, Marion County voters will be asked in November to approve extending the district’s extra tax for schools, Pinellas school officials are preparing a more gender-neutral student dress code, and parents in Brevard County submit books they’d like to see the school district ban. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: School board members approved Superintendent Vickie Cartwright’s plan to hire two new deputy superintendents as part of an administrative reorganization. Each of the deputies will be paid between $160,000 and $236,000 a year, with total compensation including benefits totaling as much as $278,000. “These two positions provide focus for the two main areas of the district: teaching and learning, and district operations,” district spokeswoman Kathy Koch said in a statement. The approval comes at a time of declining enrollment and corresponding funding from the state. Sun Sentinel.

Palm Beach: The Florida Supreme Court has refused to consider an appeal by a former Palm Beach County principal who was fired after telling a parent he couldn’t say if the Holocaust was a factual event, and for his actions after the comments created an uproar. William Latson was the principal at Spanish River High School when he made the comments in 2018. No reason was given for refusing to hear the appeal. News Service of Florida. At today’s meeting, school board members are expected to finalize a rezoning plan for Blue Lake Elementary School in Boca Raton, which opens in the fall. WPTV.

Duval: A First Coast High School student was arrested Tuesday and accused of having a gun on campus. Deputies said they were tipped off by other students. WJXT. Two students were sent to a hospital with minor injuries Tuesday after the school bus they were riding in was involved in an accident with another vehicle in Jacksonville. Drivers of both the school bus and other vehicle were also treated for minor injuries. WTLV.

Pinellas: School officials are preparing changes in the student dress code to make it more gender-neutral. Area superintendent Dwayne Hinds said the guidelines will be rewritten to apply to all students, instead of focusing on specific clothing usually worn by girls. For example, the provision stating that bra straps should not be exposed is being changed to say “no underwear” may be showing. Hinds said feedback on the proposal has been “very, very positive.” The updated code will go before the board later this spring. Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: Newly chosen superintendent Christopher Bernier is being offered a contract that would pay him $255,000 a year, compared with the $209,000 former superintendent Greg Adkins was paid. Bernier would also receive $15,000 to act as a consultant to the district until he officially begins the job in May, $20,000 in moving expenses, $2,400 a year to buy life insurance and an out clause that would allow him to leave the district with 90 days’ notice. The school board’s next scheduled meeting is Tuesday. Fort Myers News-Press.

Brevard: Parents continue to identify school library books they find objectionable and want the district to remove. Members of the Brevard chapter of the conservative activist group Moms for Liberty said over the weekend that they don’t support “banning books,” but do want to remove books with inappropriate material. School board member Misty Belford said she received another list over the weekend of books that reportedly contain sexually explicit material and has forwarded it to district officials to review. Belford didn’t say how many books were on the list, but did say it was fewer than the 156 books challenged recently in Indian River County. Florida Today.

Volusia: A 16-year-old student at Atlantic High School in Port Orange was arrested Tuesday and accused of having a loaded gun on campus. After deputies got a tip, they stopped the student and said they found the gun in his waistband. WKMG. WOFL. WESH.

St. Johns: School board members voted Tuesday to proceed with plans for a new K-8 school in the northwest part of the county. It’s scheduled to open in the fall of 2023 to 1,500 students, and relieve overcrowding at nearby schools. WJXT. More than $5,000 in cash raised for students to visit Sea World was stolen recently from Victory Preparatory School in St. Augustine. One man was arrested. A fund-raiser has been started to replace the money. WTLV.

Sarasota: Voters overwhelmingly approved, for a sixth time, a 1-mill property tax for schools. About 84 percent of more than 100,000 voters voted to renew the tax for four more years. The initiative was first approved in 2001, and generates about $71 million a year that’s used to raise teacher salaries, extend the school day by 30 minutes, improve technology and more. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun. WTSP. Florida Politics.

Marion: Voters will be asked in November to renew a 1-mill property tax for the school district, the school board decided Tuesday in a 4-1 vote. The tax raises about $28 million a year that helps pay for school safety, and music, art, physical education and vocational programs. The tax was first approved in 2014 with 52 percent of the vote, and again in 2018 with 72 percent in favor. The request to put the measure on the ballot must be approved by the county commission. Ocala Star-Banner.

St. Lucie: Incoming superintendent Jon Prince will be paid $190,000 a year, starting July 1, under a three-year contract approved Tuesday by the school board. The salary is about $14,000 less than outgoing Superintendent Wayne Gent is paid. TCPalm.

Escambia: An 18-year-old student at Tate High School in Cantonment has been arrested and accused of having an AR-15 rifle and 34 rounds of ammunition on campus. Deputies said the boy took the gun from the home of his girlfriend’s father, who had reported it stolen. WEAR.

Bay: Waller Elementary School in Youngstown will remain closed today, the third consecutive day students will stay home because of wildfires in the area. All other schools are open. Panama City News Herald. WJHG.

Citrus:  Joseph Faherty has announced that he will be a candidate for the District 5 seat on the school board currently held by Linda Powers. Mary Seader is also a candidate. Citrus County Chronicle.

Flagler: Jack Petocz, the student who organized a statewide student walkout last week to protest the Parental Rights in Education bill being considered by the Legislature and subsequently suspended from Flagler Palm Coast High School, was reinstated after more than 7,000 people signed a petition supporting him. WTLV.

Colleges and universities: University of South Florida trustees have given their blessing to a proposal to build a football stadium on campus where practices are now held. More details and a funding plan will be discussed at June’s meeting, though USF did announce it has received a $5 million donation from the Morsani family for the project, which is expected to cost more than $200 million. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: Once again, with the Parental Rights in Education bill, conservatives who say they aim to limit the size of government and its impact on personal freedoms think nothing of governing in the classroom if the policies align with their beliefs. State Sen. Lauren Book, Tampa Bay Times. The Parental Rights in Education bill isn’t about that at all. It’s about the sponsor of the proposal being uncomfortable with the “real trend change” he sees in society. Miami Herald.