DeSantis and House differ on school choice expansion, Cartwright settlement and more

Choices on school choice: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed $114.8 billion budget includes money to triple the growth rate of state scholarships, but stops short of committing to the House Republican bill that would make every state student eligible for K-12 scholarships regardless of their family income. “I’m supportive of school choice,” DeSantis said when asked about the House’s proposed legislation. “It depends on how they do it.” He said he wants to see more details on H.B. 1 before committing funding. The House bill could cost about $4 billion next year, according to some projections, doubling the amount spent this year on state scholarships. Politico Florida. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF.

Education in Legislature: The 60-day legislative session doesn’t start until March 7, but at least 33 education-related bills have already been filed. They include the expansion of state scholarships, returning to partisan school board elections, limiting school board member terms to eight years, amending residency requirements for eligibility to run, teaching students how to use social media appropriately, allowing charter school students to play competitive sports at private schools, and more. Tampa Bay Times. Public school cafeterias would be required to have posters with step-by-step directions on how to save a choking person under a bill proposed by state Rep. Dan Daley, D-Sunrise. He said the idea originated with students from McArthur High School who were competing in a Democracy in Action contest. Florida Politics.

Around the state: Broward Superintendent Vickie Cartwright will receive more than $365,000 if the separation settlement she reached with the school board chair is approved by the full board Tuesday, Palm Beach Superintendent Michael Burke is recommending a rezoning plan that will affect thousands of students at eight schools, a Flagler school book review committee agrees to keep the novel The Truth About Alice in school libraries despite protests, and Palm Beach County School Board members are considering a proposed rule that would ban “shouting, heckling, jeering, hissing, booing” and other conduct from public speakers at board meetings. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A 30-year-old teacher at West Homestead K-8 Center was arrested this week after he admitted to detectives that he was having sex with a then-12-year-old student in his classroom. Detectives said the girl, now 13, told them that David Hodges was her boyfriend and they were in a “romantic sexual relationship.” Hodges acknowledged the charges when interviewed by deputies, they said. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ.

Broward: School Superintendent Vickie Cartwright and school board chair Lori Alhadeff have reached a separation agreement that will pay Cartwright $365,646.32. In January, board members agreed to begin talks with the superintendent to end her employment. Cartwright will receive more than $195,000 in severance pay, almost $100,000 for acting as a remote consultant for the next 60 days, $57,000-plus for unused vacation and sick time, and $15,000 for attorney’s fees. She also agrees to take no legal action against the board, which will vote on the agreement and is also expected to name an interim superintendent on Tuesday. Sun-Sentinel. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR.

Palm Beach: Thousands of students at eight schools would be moving under a school boundary rezoning plan that Superintendent Michael Burke is recommending to the school board. The changes will fill Dr. Joaquin Garcia High School, which opens in the fall, and ease overcrowding in other schools. A vote is expected at the Feb. 15 school board meeting. WPTV. School board members are considering new rules that would bar insults, booing, signs and flags during the public comment portion of school board meetings. A vote is expected March 1. Board chair Frank Barbieri supported the proposed rules, saying speakers are too often breaking the rules of decorum. Among the things that could warrant cutting off the microphone are “shouting, heckling, jeering, hissing, booing, engaging in speech that defames individuals or stymies or blocks meeting progress or loud, excessive or prolonged applause that disrupts the meeting.” Speakers who violate the rules will be given two warnings and could be ejected from the meeting if they continue. Palm Beach Post.

Lake: Clermont Elementary School is being closed this summer and converted into the Lincoln Park Education Center, which is expected to open in August 2024. A flexible-day high school program will be offered at the center, along with dual-enrollment career programs and opportunities for students to earn college credits by taking Lake Tech and LSSC courses. WFTV.

Manatee: Students were seen fleeing from Parrish Community High School and jumping over fences in a panic the past two days after lockdowns and medical emergencies. District spokesman Michael Barber said the lockdowns were for medical emergencies and were caused when people pressed the school’s crisis alert buttons. He also said there have been threats that were determined to be unfounded. “I was with my friends and we were talking about it, then everyone just started running out the door,” said one student. “It was just mayhem and chaos and no one knew what was going on. They thought there could be a shooter or something so people just started running, and then we just all went to our cars and just started running away from the school because for all we knew we thought there was a shooter.” Bradenton Herald.

Leon: Nims Middle School has adopted a uniform policy that begins next fall. Students must wear yellow, black or white polo shirts that must be tucked into the required black or khaki shorts, pants or skirts. Black belts are required, and footwear that exposes any part of the feet are prohibited. Tallahassee Reports.

Santa Rosa: Students who participate in after-school activities are now being offered free dinners by the district. Food Services director Leslie Bell said they serve between 300 and 400 students every day at eight schools that are Title I schools where at least half of students are eligible for free and reduced meals. WEAR.

Bay: The reopening of the Oscar Patterson Academy as a K-2 school in Panama City has been a success, say officials of the Patterson Oversight Committee. Patterson had about 260 students as a K-5 school before it was damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018 and subsequently closed. It reopened last fall as a K-2 school and already has 248 students. “So, it’s been going well,” said principal Charlotte Blue. “We have opened the school we started with 252 kids this year. We were only supposed to have 150.” WJHG.

Flagler: The Truth About Alice, a book by Jennifer Mathieu about the effects of false rumors against a female student circulating around a high school, will stay on school bookshelves after a review committee unanimously approved it. The book had been challenged by a parent who called it “pornography.” Flagler Live.

Colleges and universities: University of Florida students and staff are planning a protest Monday against incoming president Ben Sasse during his first day on the job. They will be demanding market equity raises for staff, that Sasse disavow efforts by state officials to place restrictions on academic and free speech, that he maintain pre-existing commitments on inclusivity, equity and diversity, and that he commit to protecting tenure for professors. Gainesville Sun. Florida Polytechnic University president Randy Avent’s contract has been extended by the trustees for a year and his salary was boosted by 4.5 percent, to $478,000 a year. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: There is the idea of public education and then there is the reality of public education. Far too few public schools are bastions of integration, upward mobility and educational excellence. To be clear, great public schools absolutely exist. But there just aren’t enough to meet the wide-ranging needs and priorities of more than 48 million K-12 students across the country. Mike McShane, Forbes. The opportunity for success in school should not be determined by a student’s zip code. We must do better. Jonathan Peacock, Pensacola News Journal. Running a charter school for profit should be illegal. Carol Burris, Sun-Sentinel. It’s astonishing to hear Florida Gov. DeSantis extol Western civilization, and demand that college students learn it, when he so often flouts its ideals of humanism and democratic freedom. Tim Padgett, WLRN.

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BY NextSteps staff