Governor signs $109.9 billion budget, punishment for districts over mask mandates voided, and more

DeSantis signs budget: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a $109.9 billion budget on Thursday that is about $8 billion and 8 percent higher than this year’s state spending. He also vetoed $3.1 billion worth of projects that had been approved by legislators in the legislative session, compared to $54 million in items vetoed last year. The budget, which goes into effect July 1, includes $24.3 billion for K-12 schools, a $1.7 billion increase from this year. It boosts per-student funding by about $385 to $8,143, and allocates $800 million to improve starting teacher salaries closer to $48,000 a year, $579 million for workforce education programs, $396 million for school safety and mental health initiatives, and $202.5 million to support literacy achievement. The budget also includes about $4.7 billion for higher education. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. USA Today Florida Network. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. WKMG. Florida Governor’s OfficeFlorida Department of Education.

Districts’ punishment vetoed: Gov. DeSantis killed a budget provision that would have penalized 12 counties that imposed face mask mandates by making them ineligible to receive funds from the state’s $200 million recognition program. The program rewards A-rated schools and those that show improvement. That proposal was made by state Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay. Thursday, DeSantis said schools, not districts, would be penalized by the provision, which he opposes. Among other education items vetoed were $75 million for the University of South Florida’s new Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences Research and Teaching Facility, $30 million for the University of Florida’s new music building, $250,000 for teacher recruitment in Duval, Miami-Dade and Orange counties, and $5 million for a business school at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Politico Florida. Sun Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

Around the state: A Seminole County student finishes in a tie for fourth place in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the chair of the statewide commission that investigated the Parkland school shooting praises Broward’s superintendent for changes being made in security in schools, Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning announces he won’t run for a fourth term, Palm Beach County School Board members will decide this month whether to buy ID badges that have panic buttons for employees, the number of COVID-19 cases was up 176 percent this year in Volusia and Flagler counties, and federal data indicates that about 10 percent of Florida K-12 students in the fall of 2019 were considered to be English language learners. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A 19-year-old man was arrested this week for having a gun on the campus of Miami Palmetto Senior High School in Pinecrest. According to the arrest report, Ethan Duey threatened to shoot his girlfriend, who attends the school. Police found the weapon when they searched Duey’s car. WPLG. WSVN. WTVJ.

Broward: The chair of the statewide commission that investigated the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018 that killed 17 people said the school district finally is making changes in security and could become a model for dealing with school safety. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri praised the leadership of new Superintendent Vickie Cartwright, saying she has adopted reforms that her predecessor, Robert Runcie, was reluctant to enact. “I give her a lot of credit,” Gualtieri said. “She’s holding people’s feet to the fire, and I think the district has made more progress under Dr. Cartwright in the last six months than I’ve seen in the previous four years. It’s a totally different climate now. A totally different culture. One of accountability.” Sun Sentinel.

Palm Beach: School board members will decide June 15 whether to buy an emergency alert system that give every employee an identification badge with a panic button that can immediately alert police and provide the location. School officials have been using a phone app as a panic alarm. WPTV.

Duval: Three parents whose children attend Mandarin Middle School said they will file a lawsuit against the district for racial discrimination. The parents want a school teacher and two administrators fired over allegations of racism, violence and threatened school shootings. “Mandarin Middle School is failing. It’s failing its students, it’s refusing to take responsibility for the safety of its students, which is their duty. It is their duty to uphold the law to protect those students from violence,” said one of the parents, Jasmine Rand. District officials said they are investigating the specific allegations. WJXT. WJAX. WTLV.

Lee: Four students from Dunbar High School in Fort Myers have won state titles in the Certiport Microsoft Office Specialist Florida State Championships. Andrew Chaung Saladin, Carson Mulvey, Isabel Liu and Jaansi Parsa won for the mastery of separate Microsoft programs. All four have been invited to compete in the Microsoft Office Specialist U.S. National Championship in Dallas June 20-22. WFTX.

Pasco: Kurt Browning, who was first elected school superintendent in 2012, has announced he won’t run for a fourth term in 2024. “This allows us to have minimum disruption and to stay focused on the work,” said Browning, who will 66 at the end of his term. “We’re not slowing down. I will probably even push on the gas pedal even harder.” Browning has been in public office since 1980, as the Pasco elections supervisor and as secretary of state for six years under two governors and as superintendent. Former state senator John Legg declared his candidacy for the job shortly after Browning’s announcement. Legg is a former legislator who co-founded and operates the county’s oldest charter school, Dayspring Academy. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP.

Volusia, Flagler: The number of COVID-19 cases in the Volusia and Flagler school districts was up 176 percent this year over last year, according to data provided by the school districts and local health departments. Volusia schools counted 6,186 cases among students and employees, compared with 2,467 cases last year. Flagler reported 2,156 cases, up from 552 a year ago. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Escambia: A custodian at Beulah Elementary School in Pensacola was arrested Wednesday and accused of being in possession of child pornography. Deputies said DeAntonio Jackson, 35, had more than 200 child pornography files on a memory card for portable devices. He resigned Thursday. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Nassau: Yulee High School will get a new principal in the fall after the district declined to renew the contract of Yvon Joinville. He was widely criticized last fall for his response to a video on social media that showed two teens, one with a white hood, making racial slurs. Football players reacted by planning to sit out of the homecoming game as a protest to the way black students are treated. Joinville told them if they refused to play, the team would forfeit the rest of its season. WJXT.

Jackson: School board members have toughened the district’s punishment for students who bring alcohol or drugs on campus. For the first alcohol or drug offense, students will be sent at an alternative school for 90 days. Expulsion is an option for a second offense. The change, approved in a 4-1 vote, takes effect immediately. WMBB.

Jefferson: School Superintendent Eydie Tricquet has announced several administrative appointments as control of district operations passes from the charter school company Somerset Academy Inc. to the school board. Jackie Pons has been named  the preK-12 principal, Beverly Faxon-Burnett and Daniel Moore the assistant principals, Rodell Thomas dean of students, and Allyn Howard director of special education. Monticello News.

Colleges and universities: Gov. DeSantis had an aggressive agenda before the 2022 legislative session that proposed centralizing more power in boards run by the governor’s political appointees, making colleges and universities more dependent on money controlled by politicians, imposing more restrictions on what schools can teach and even stripping the ability of university presidents to hire professors, according to state records. Most of the ideas did not make it into bills, but could be resurrected. Seeking Rents. Civil rights groups are asking the U.S. Education Department to to prohibit colleges from requiring students to sign confidentiality agreements before their Title IX complaints will be investigated. Politico.

English learners in Florida: About 10 percent of Florida K-12 students were considered to be English language learners in the fall of 2019, according to federal education data. Florida’s rate is just slightly lower than the national average of 10.4 percent. Nearly 80 percent of those students are Hispanic, the data show. Florida Phoenix.

National Spelling Bee: A Seminole County student advanced to the final eight in the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night, but was tripped up in the ninth round when he missed the meaning of the word remoulade (a pungent, egg-based sauce with savory herbs). Ekansh Ratogi, a 13-year-old who just completed the 8th grade at Markham Woods Middle School in Heathrow, finished tied for fourth place with four other spellers. Last year he tied for 51st place. The winner was Harini Logan, 14, of San Antonio, Texas. Associated Press. Orlando Sentinel. CNN. Scripps National Spelling Bee

Around the nation: In the 11 days since 19 students and two teachers were killed in an attack on an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, violent threats against schools have spiked in Florida and across the United States. “School shootings and other violent incidents that receive intense media attention can generate threats or copycat violence elsewhere,” reads a school shooter threat assessment authored by the FBI. “Anecdotal evidence strongly indicates that threats increase in schools nationwide after a shooting has occurred anywhere in the United States.” K-12 Dive.

Opinions on schools: When I started teaching in Broward County in 1999, top-end teachers with more than 20 years experience could make over $70,000, or the equivalent to paying a teacher $121,000 today. Right around when I was approaching 15 years teaching, the “step program,” which had led to raises on the order of $5,000 to $10,000 for the final teacher steps was eliminated. So my salary basically topped out at about $56,000. Now, there is no system to reward those who have truly stuck it out. Adam Horowitz, Sun Sentinel. The disruptive cultural battles over the past few years have monopolized our attention so much that school privatization schemes have been able to move forward with little scrutiny. Carol Lerner, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Arming teachers is a recipe for disaster. Jim Stewart, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff