Around the state: The University of Florida’s Faculty Senate approved a resolution of no confidence in the process the university followed that resulted in Ben Sasse being chosen as the sole finalist for the school presidency, a tentative contract agreement was reached between the Monroe County School District and its teachers union that will boost the base pay of teachers from $51,800 a year to $56,800 and increase the top end of the scale from $87,500 to $92,500, a Seminole County School Board member requests a review of eight library books to determine if they comply with state laws, enrollment is down more than 5,300 students in the Palm Beach County School District, two districts warn of significant cutbacks if voters don’t approve school tax issues Nov. 8, and a charter school company asks its parents to thank Gov. Ron DeSantis for his education policies. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Miami-Dade: Even as state Republicans focus on educational issues and tout their initiatives, the Miami-Dade County Republican Party is urging voters to reject the school district’s request Nov. 8 for an increase in the property tax millage rate for schools from 0.75 to 1.0 for the next four years. If approved, the tax would generate about $400 million to boost teacher pay and support school safety. Rene Garcia, Miami-Dade GOP chairman, said the reason for the opposition is simple: It’s against raising taxes “at a time when people are hurting” and worried about a recession. Miami Herald.
Broward: A former Broward County charter school president who was convicted of stealing more than $622,000 from the school was sentenced Thursday to 40 months in prison. Jamika Williams, the former president of nonprofit corporation Advancement of Education in Scholars Corp., was convicted in March of 18 counts of wire fraud and embezzlement from the now-defunct Paramount Charter School in Lauderhill. Prosecutors said Williams used the money for personal expenses, such as a Range Rover, rent for a luxury home in Davie and her daughter’s sickle cell anemia treatment. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WPLG. U.S. Department of Justice.
Hillsborough: While the district has made significant progress in student achievement, it’s not done quite as well as it indicates on its website. On Oct. 5, school officials said the number of schools with grades of D or F from the state had decreased 82 percent, “going from 28 schools to 5 in a two-year span.” The actual number is 14. District officials are citing numbers about a subset of “transformation” schools that get extra attention and resources. But their statements don’t make that distinction clear, though they contend they are not misleading. Tampa Bay Times.
Orange: Today is a hurricane makeup day for the school district, and officials issued a recording Thursday to parents warning them there would be transportation problems because of the school bus driver shortage. District officials asked parents to drive their children to school if they can. Other makeup days are Nov. 9, Dec. 7, Jan. 18, Feb. 1, Feb. 15, March 22 and May 10. WKMG. WFTV.
Palm Beach: Enrollment in district schools is down 5,356 students from 2019 to 187,011 this year, according to the annual October head count. About 22,000 of those students attend charter schools. Virtual school enrollment also dropped from 433 students last year to 267 this year. The largest gains were in pre-K, with 163 more students enrolled. Eighteen of the district’s 23 high schools are at 90 percent capacity or more, and nine of those schools are over 100 percent filled. Palm Beach Post. If voters don’t approve the renewal of a 1-mill property tax for schools on Nov. 8, the district will have to make “severe cuts to its operating budget,” including “significant reductions” to art programs, school board members said in a resolution this week. The tax generates more than $200 million a year, which is used to hire mental-health professionals and school resource officers, continue funding teachers in art and specialty programs and provide salary supplements for more than 11,700 teachers. Palm Beach Post.
Polk: A new elementary school opens next fall in Winter Haven, and school officials are still developing a rezoning plan that will fill it and ease overcrowding at Chain of Lakes Elementary School. The current plan is to send students who live in the Hart Lake Hill and Savanna Pointe subdivisions to the new “Elementary 21-C,” although school board member Lynn Wilson expressed concerns about the safety for students who would have to walk or bike to the school because they would be too close to be eligible for busing. The rezoning discussion will continue at future board meetings. Lakeland Ledger.
Seminole: School board member Amy Pennock wants eight school library books reviewed to see if their availablity to students complies with state law. “I am asking for a review of the book to take place, and a process for which this book can be marked sensitive in nature and we follow any appropriate parental notification of a minor checking out this book,” Pennock wrote on the forms requesting a review. “I AM NOT asking for the removal, banning or censorship of this book.” She said the books, which have themes of prostitution, sexual slavery, rape, teen pregnancy and masturbation, were brought to her attention by a parent who didn’t want to file a complaint because she feared retribution. WKMG. Parents and teachers complained to the school board this week that students at Evans Elementary School in Oviedo are getting sick because the portable classrooms they’re in have air quality and mold issues. Parent Krysten Bair said the air-conditioning problems have been ongoing since schools opened, and that the school’s response has been to “put 40 kids in a classroom. This is not fair to teachers. It’s not fair to students. Students can’t focus, they cannot learn and the teachers cannot adequately teach when they are being forced to have 40 kids in one classroom.” WFTV.
Volusia: An Ormond Beach parent has filed federal and state complaints against the school district, alleging that it discriminates against her son with Down syndrome and other students with disabilities at Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach. Anni Suadi says the district “warehouses” students with disabilities into a segregated building, and that it hasn’t followed her son Lance Avery’s individualized education plan as it is required to by the state. She called the district’s actions “immoral” and “illegal.” District officials said 82 percent of students with disabilities are included in general education, but that some transitional students like Lance, who is 21 years old, don’t regularly receive electives or have general education peers and spend a lot of time in Building 15 because it contains a mock apartment set up to teach those students everyday household skills. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
St. Lucie: Three Treasure Coast High School students were arrested Thursday and accused of possession of a firearm on school property and unlicensed carry of a concealed firearm. Port St. Lucie police said two 16-year-old students and a 15-year-old attempted to hide the weapon and ammunition by passing the backpack they were in back and forth. TCPalm. WPTV. WPEC.
Escambia: More than 100 school bus routes are uncovered on any given day because of a shortage of drivers, said transportation director Darlene Hart. Six more drivers have quit since the minimum wage in the district was increased to $11 an hour on Sept. 30, she said, because they can make as much money in another district job that is far less stressful. “We knew that it was coming five years ago,” said Hart. “We started to see the dwindling of employees to other industries with better packages.” Pensacola News Journal. A fight on a county school bus Thursday sent one person to the hospital for treatment, according to deputies. The investigation is continung and charges are pending. WEAR.
Flagler: Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt warned this week that if voters don’t renew a half-cent sales tax for schools on Nov. 8, “our school district will look very different over the course of the next couple of years.” The 10-year tax was first approved in 2002, and the district relies on the $8 million a year it raises to pay for technology, safety upgrades, building renovations, energy efficient upgrades and buses. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Monroe: A tentative contract agreement was reached between the district and its teachers union that will boost the base pay of teachers from $51,800 a year to $56,800 and increase the top end of the scale from $87,500 to $92,500. School-related personnel would receive a pay increase of $1.25 an hour. The agreement still must be ratified by union members and approved by the school board. Key West Citizen.
Colleges and universities: The University of Florida Faculty Senate voted 72-16 Thursday to approve a resolution of no confidence in the process the university followed that resulted in the selection of Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, as the sole finalist for the school presidency. Trustees hold their final interview with Sasse on Tuesday, and are expected to then vote on his appointment. Politico Florida. Gainesville Sun. WUFT. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Phoenix. Associated Press. WCJB. WGFL.
Mental health survey: When the state decided to stop participating in an annual federal survey that track troubling behaviors in high school students, it said Florida Department of Education officials would collect that state-specific information using questionnaires they created. Six months later, they still have not created that questionnaire. DOE spokeswoman Cassandra Palelis said that the state intends to assemble a “work group” to create a new system. Health News Florida.
Effects of hurricane: Students most directly affected by Hurricane Ian may develop long-term problems with their physical and mental health and academic performance, according to a 2021 study of math and reading scores in 15 school districts heavily affected by hurricanes Matthew and Florence. “Students who were lightly affected, it’s easier to bridge that gap,” said Diane Kratt, a professor in the College of Education at Florida Gulf Coast University. “However, there are students who will have to relocate. Their lives have changed, their living arrangements have changed. … those students are going to need a lot of support and time so they can feel safe and get in a mindset to learn.” WUSF.
Politics and charters: Two weeks before the election, the charter school company Charter Schools USA e-mailed parents with children in its schools and encouraged them to thank Gov. Ron DeSantis for his education policies. While the e-mail didn’t ask parents to vote for DeSantis, its timing irked some. Jonathan Halpert, whose son attends the Renaissance Charter School in Palm Beach County, called it “100 percent inappropriate, especially the timing. Send it to me in May. Send it to me in April. Don’t send it to me two weeks before the vote.” WPTV.
Around the nation: An analysis of district-level National Assessment of Educational Progress data shows that urban districts that spent a majority of the 2020-2021 school year learning remotely lost more ground in 4th-grade math scores than districts that reopened sooner. For every 10 days of school closures, students lost about 0.2 points on the NAEP from 2019 to 2022, according to the analysis. The 74. The number of LGBTQ candidates for school boards around the country has more than doubled since 2018, according to a report from the LGBTQ Victory Fund political action committee. The increase comes at a time when many boards are battling over gay rights and education in schools USA Today.
Opinions on schools: The pandemic solidified certain truths about education that we all have known for centuries: education is a social process, which requires interactions of a very specific nature (not just frequency and duration). And education also is unforgiving, meaning that there are critical periods for the acquisition of certain skills. Oksana Hagerty, Orlando Sentinel.