Scholarship bill pricetag estimate is $3.8B by 2028, Broward leader and board agree on exit, and more

H.B. 1 cost estimate: Creating universal scholarships for every K-12 student in the state could cost up to $4 billion within the next five years, according to a financial analysis by the progressive nonprofit Florida Policy Institute, which opposes the bill that was filed last week for the next legislative session. The analysis suggests the proposal would cost the state between $2.4 billion and $3.4 billion by the 2026-2027 school year, depending on the number of students enrolled, and about $3.8 billion a year later. An analysis by the House concluded that the bill would have an “indeterminate fiscal impact.” H.B. 1. would set up education savings accounts, providing state-funded scholarships that families at any income level could use for private-school tuition and other services and expenses such as tutoring, instructional materials, fees for exams and “contracted services” provided by public schools. The bill gets its first legislative committee hearing Thursday. Orlando Sentinel.

Around the state: Broward’s school board and Superintendent Vickie Cartwright mutually agree to negotiate a settlement to end her 17-month tenure, Florida’s Board of Governors expresses support for the idea of banning the app TikTok on college and university campuses, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez confirms the state’s request for college spending on diversity, equity and inclusion is a step toward curbing those programs, Leon County’s school board approves a policy change specifying that students may use only bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their biological sex at birth, a bill has been filed to set school board term limits at eight years, an investigation concludes that a Lee school board member created a hostile work environment for the board attorney, and nearly half the state’s students are using choice to attend a school other than the one they were assigned to. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ latest appointment to the school board is a guidance counselor at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, an all-girls Catholic school, who has worked as a psychologist in the Broward school system and is a supporter of parental rights in schools. Maria Bosque-Blanco, 48, replaced board chair Lubby Navarro, who resigned Dec. 30 to comply with a new law banning elected officials from lobbying. She is widely expected to be part of the 5-4 conservative majority on the board, and in her first board vote on an issue sided with the majority on a policy requiring American and Florida flags to be properly displayed in classrooms and district buildings. Miami Herald.

Broward: Superintendent Vickie Cartwright and the school board mutually agreed during a contentious board meeting Tuesday to negotiate a separation settlement that will end her 17-month tenure with the district. Cartwright will negotiate terms of the separation with board chair Lori Alhadeff in the next 30 days. Once the terms are approved, Cartwright will leave and the board is expected to appoint an interim from within the district until a permanent replacement can be found. Cartwright, 52, was appointed the interim superintendent in August 2021, replacing Robert Runcie, who resigned after being indicted for perjury, and got the permanent job that October. Her tenure was rocky, starting with an administrative shakeup last June that pushed out or demoted several black administrators, followed by a botched search for a facilities chief and an audit that revealed two vendors had overcharged the district. She was fired Nov. 14, but it was rescinded in December after several new board members were elected. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. WLRN. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ. Florida Politics. An 18-year-old student at Everglades High School in Miramar has been arrested and accused of bringing a stun gun to school last week. A security guard who was escorting the student to a disciplinary room found the gun and an empty THC pen in her book bag. WPLG.

Hillsborough: An internal investigation came to no conclusion about whether district leaders encouraged principals to persuade certain students not to take statewide assessments tests in 2021 as a way to improve school scores and grades. Florida requires every willing and able student to take the tests that measure academic achievement in districts. Nine employees were questioned during the investigation, including principals, teachers and assistant teachers, but the report issued no findings on whether principals were pressured or whether region superintendent Lindsey Connor was involved. What is clear is that the district cut the number of D and F schools in half, from 28 to 14, andmoved up from 35th place in a state ranking of school grade points to 19th. Tampa Bay Times. School board members approved a program to help the 4,000 homeless students in the district by offering more services at the schools the students attend. WTVT. Spectrum News 9. New principals have been named at three schools: Jacquelyn Isajar at Davis Elementary School in Tampa, Karen Fletcher at Wimauma Elementary, and Neil Risher at Brewster Technical College in Tampa. Tampa Bay Times.

Pinellas: A 15-year-old St. Petersburg High School student was arrested Tuesday morning and accused of bringing a gun on campus. A school monitor saw the 10th-grader hand the gun to another student in the gym and then run off. Patch.

Lee: A district investigative report has concluded that school board member Chris Patricca created a hostile work environment for the school board attorney. Kathy Dupuy-Bruno filed a complaint alleging that Patricca bullied and demeaned her over a six-month period early in 2022. Board members accepted the findings in a 4-3 vote, and agreed that all members of the board must take bullying and harassment training, and attend a whistleblower and retaliation workshop before Oct. 1. WFTX. High school graduation plans have been announced. Ceremonies will be held May 19, 20 and 21 at Alico Arena, Suncoast Arena, Hertz Arena and the Caloosa Sound Convention Center. WBBH. WFTX.

Brevard: A new school superintendent could be chosen as early as May 2, according to a search timeline presented to the school board by the consultant helping with the search. The Florida School Boards Association timeline starts with a survey of parents, students and employees going online Monday. Applications will be accepted starting Feb. 24, with a list of finalists expected by April 18. WKMG.

St. Johns: A student at Pedro Menendez High School in St. Augustine is in the hospital after falling from a second story walkway at the school. The student is expected to recover. School officials said it’s not clear how the student fell. WJXT. WJAX. WKMG.

Marion: Two Ocala Forest High School students, ages 16 and 14, were recently arrested after a gun was found in a school bathroom. Deputies said the gun had been reported stolen in a vehicle burglary. WESH. WKMG.

Leon: School board members approved a policy change Tuesday that specifies students may use only bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their biological sex at birth. A single stall or “sex-neutral bathroom” to ensure privacy will be offered to transgender students. Superintendent Rocky Hanna said there are plans to increase the number of single occupancy bathrooms available. WCTV. WTXL.

Alachua: The school district’s graduation rate, excluding charter schools, was 91.4 percent in 2022, an increase from the 90.9 percent rate in 2021, according to state data. It’s also 3.6 percentage points higher than the state average of 87.8 percent. Newberry High School had the highest rate at 98.5 percent. Gainesville Sun.

Bay, northwest Florida: Four northwest Florida school districts are delaying school openings today because severe weather is expected in the area. Bay County school openings are being delayed by three hours today, Holmes and Walton counties by two hours and Okaloosa County by one hour. Dismissal times aren’t changing. Panama City News Herald. WEAR. WMBB. WJHG.

Franklin: A teacher who was accused of exposing herself on explicit video chats with her prison inmate boyfriend from her office during school hours has resigned after being told she would be fired. Deputies said they saw Donna Barber, 52, disrobe during video chats and engage in sexually explicit conversations while monitoring inmates’ video chats. New York Post.

Colleges and universities: Members of the Board of Governors expressed support at Tuesday’s meeting for creating a system-wide policy outlawing the TikTok app on the state’s 12 campuses. They asked university leaders to help draft a policy before the next meeting. Politico Florida. Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez confirmed Tuesday that the state’s request for costs of diversity, equity and inclusion programs from state colleges and universities is the first step in rooting out and curbing those programs. Tampa Bay Times. The Board of Governors has postponed consideration of a new policy requiring evaluations of university professors’ tenure every five years after more than 1,300 posted public comments on the state’s proposal. University system spokeswoman Renee Fargason said she doesn’t know when the board will vote on the plan. Higher Ed Dive. Eddie Speir, a recently appointed New College of Florida trustee, complained this week about “woke” pronouns and anti-racism at the college, and said the trustees are on an assignment from the governor “to lead the school out of wokeness and into its mission.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida Phoenix. For the second straight year, the University of Florida’s online bachelor’s degree program has been ranked tops in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University was second, and the University of Central Florida ranked eighth. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics. WCJB. Florida A&M University spends $4.4 million on diversity, equity, inclusion and critical race theory programs, and Florida State University spends $2.4 million, the schools reported to the state. About $4.1 million of FAMU’s total comes from state funds, and $2.4 million of FSU’s. Tallahassee Democrat.

In the Legislature: A bill to cap school board term limits at eight years has been filed for the upcoming legislative session. Legislators approved a bill last year putting 12-year term limits on school board members, but on Monday Gov. DeSantis urged lawmakers to revise the limit. On Tuesday, state Rep. Alex Rizo, R-Hialeah, filed the proposal. The 60-day legislative session begins March 7. News Service of Florida. Legislation requiring school districts to provide free menstrual products to students is widely believed to have a better chance at passage in this legislative session because Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, is now the Senate president. In 2017, she filed a bill to end taxes on menstrual products. Florida Politics.

Suit over AP course: Noted civil rights attorney Ben Crump said he plans to file a lawsuit against Gov. DeSantis over his decision to reject an AP African-American studies course offered by the College Board. Details of the suit are expected to be announced today. WCTV. Florida Phoenix. The College Board said Tuesday that it intends to revise the course. Florida officials called the news “excellent” and said it would be reviewed once the changes are submitted. WTVT.

Education choice in Florida: Nearly half of the state’s K-12 students are taking advantage of education choice to attend a school other than the one they are assigned to, according to data from the Florida Department of Education. The 1,635,429 total in choice programs is 65,000 more than last year. Charter schools enroll 361,902, open enrollment programs total 262,591 students, 252,808 attend district magnet programs, 171,313 attend private schools and 152,109 are educated at home. reimaginED.

Workforce success: A state audit concludes that 65 percent of Florida high school seniors enrolled in workforce programs graduate with at least one industry certification. Almost 800,000state  students between grades 6 and 12 were enrolled in a course under the career and technical education category during the 2021-2022 academic year. The Capitolist.

LGBTQ exodus forecast: About 56 percent of LGBTQ parents said they are considering leaving Florida because they worry about the effects of the state’s Parental Rights in Education law might have on their children and family, according to a survey by Williams Institute, a public policy research institute based at the UCLA of Law, and Clark University in Massachusetts. About 17 percent said they have already made plans to leave the state. The Hill.

Opinions on schools: Good things come at a price in Gov. DeSantis’ administration. His “Teachers’ Bill of Rights” sounds like an overdue effort to give more dignity and pay to the people educating our children. That’s not entirely wrong, it’s just the upside of the education proposal the governor announced on Monday. But it comes with a catch, the dark side, better described as the “Teachers’ Union-Busting Bill.” Miami Herald. Education doesn’t have to be one of society’s defining fault lines. From examples in communities across Florida like DeSoto County, we should take hope that it is possible to forge a new, practical path forward. Richard C. Harwood, Tallahassee Democrat. In the past year, Gov. DeSantis has micromanaged and implemented a barrage of fundamental changes that have affected how the state’s universities and community colleges function. Danielle J. Brown, Florida Phoenix.

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BY NextSteps staff