A high school graduation ‘fix,’ replacement tests proposed, education spending, Duval’s Greene target of DOE letter, and more

Graduation ‘fix’ proposed: Members of the Florida House have approved a “temporary” revision to H.B. 1537 that will ease the standards required for high school graduation this spring. Scores needed on alternative tests such as the SAT or ACT used to qualify for graduation were scheduled to go up significantly, and school districts around the state lobbied lawmakers to delay their implementation or warned that graduation rates could drop by 10 percentage points or more. If approved by the House today and then the Senate, the changes will apply to students graduating this year and next. “This is the thing that they need to get over the finish line,” said state Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida.

Bill would change testing: Legislators negotiating a state budget have agreed to spend $2.8 million to develop or buy high-level courses and exams to replace those now supplied by the College Board. The move was expected after Gov. Ron DeSantis rejected an Advanced Placement course on black history earlier this year, calling it political indoctrination. “This College Board, like, nobody elected them to anything,” DeSantis said in February. “They’re just kind of there. They’re providing service — and you can either utilize those services or not.” One of the options being considered to replace the SAT and ACT exams as a graduation requirement, a college entrance exam or to qualify for a Bright Futures scholarship is a “classic and Christian” exam alternative called the Classic Learning Test. Politico Florida. Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times.

Education spending: State budget negotiators agreed Tuesday to set aside $350 million in next year’s budget to cover any potential cost overruns in the universal school choice program recently signed into law by Gov. DeSantis. That’s on top of the $26.8 billion in spending agreed to for K-12 education next year. The choice expansion is projected to bump the number of students receiving scholarships or education savings accounts by 117,000. Negotiators also agreed on budgeting $350 million for performance-based incentives for universities, $2 million to defend court challenges to new laws, and $100 million for pre-eminent state research universities. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida. Members of the conference committee have agreed to allocate $44 million for the Florida School for Competitive Academics, a public magnet school in Alachua County that would open in the fall of 2024 for about 400 students in grades 6-12. Florida Politics.

Also in the Legislature: Members of the House are expected to vote today on a bill that would require school districts to share local property-tax revenue with charter schools. The money can be used for such things as purchasing property and constructing facilities. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. The bill requiring people to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender assigned at birth in most public buildings, including schools, was approved Tuesday by a Senate committee and is now ready for a vote by the full Senate. News Service of Florida.

Around the state: Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said Duval Superintendent Diana Greene has failed to follow state law in reporting educator misconduct and could face financial penalties, a judge has dismissed a perjury charge against a former Broward County superintendent by a statewide grand jury looking into school safety issues, Martin County selects a new school superintendent, Hernando Superintendent John Stratton has withdrawn his name from consideration for the same job in Brevard County, five finalists are chosen for the Charlotte County school superintendent’s job, the private sports academy and school IMG Academy has been sold to a Swedish private equity company for $1.25 billion, and a new report indicates that Florida ranks 48th among the states in average teacher salaries. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Daniel Mateo, an assistant superintendent for Miami-Dade County School District, has been named the national magnet school district administrator of the year by the national nonprofit education association Magnet Schools of America. reimaginED.

Broward: A circuit court judge has dismissed perjury charges against former district superintendent Robert Runcie, who was indicted by a statewide grand jury that was investigating school safety issues and concluded he lied about being prepped for his testimony. Broward Circuit Judge Martin Fein ruled that the grand jury wasn’t authorized to indict him for the charge due to jurisdictional issues. The Attorney General’s Office has 30 days to decide if it will appeal. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WPLG. Associated Press. A father whose child took a gun to Park Lakes Elementary School in Lauderdale Lakes on Tuesday has been arrested and accused of putting the gun in the child’s bag. Rasheed Anderson, 34, told deputies that he placed the gun in the wrong bag. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ.

Palm Beach: Two middle school principals have been removed and are under investigation by the district. Watson B. Duncan Middle principal ​​Phillip D’Amico, 56, was arrested March 29 after his wife told police he threw a picture frame at her and kicked her during an argument, though the charges were dropped. And Lake Worth Middle principal Michael Williams, 52, was removed after a video surfaced of him using racist slurs and yelling at a woman in the school’s parking lot around March 16. Interim principals have been appointed. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: School Superintendent Diana Greene failed to follow state law when reporting “educator misconduct” incidents and may face financial penalties, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said in a letter Tuesday to the district. He called the failure to inform the state of 50 previously unreported campus incidents “completely unacceptable,” and demanded an immediate response from the district. School board members meet today to discuss the next step in dealing with a series of sexual misconduct allegations against teachers at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, and also are expected to discuss Greene’s future. WTLV. WJAX. Jacksonville Today. Florida Times-Union. A fourth teacher from Douglas Anderson has been removed from the classroom and reassigned while the district conducts a professional standards review against him. Corey Thayer is the chair of the cinematic arts department. WJAX. WJXT. WTLV.

Polk: A shortage of teachers and substitutes has meant some students spend hours a day in the auditorium instead of in classes. Billy Stephenson’s grandson attends Tenoroc High School in Lakeland and has sat in the auditorium for several hours a day several times a week. “Why are we sending them to school if they’re just going to sit in the auditorium and socialize? They’re not getting an education,” said Stephenson, who said the principal told her “there was nothing he could do about it. They don’t have teachers.” WFTS.

Pinellas: School board members have approved new school start and finish times for three schools, starting this fall. Times for East Lake Middle School and Pinellas High Innovation will go from 7:25 a.m. to 1:55 a.m., and Bay Point Middle will open at 7:15 a.m. and dismiss at 1:45 p.m. WUSF. WTSP. The St. Petersburg branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History has announced that it will conduct a summer “Freedom School” to make sure students get a conclusive review of black history since the state has placed restrictions on teaching about race. Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: Tuesday’s scheduled school board vote on the future of the hurricane-damaged Fort Myers Beach Elementary School was postponed. District officials have been working with Fort Myers Beach leaders on an interlocal agreement that would detail how the community will help the district increase enrollment, but decided the deal needs more work. The school has been closed since Hurricane Ian struck in September, and its students have been going to San Carlos Park Elementary. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. A district proposal to arm school employees ran into questions from several school board members at a meeting this week. The primary concern is having final authority on which employees could be armed in the hands of the superintendent, which currently is an appointed position, with no appeals allowed. “I would think that I would want someone with law enforcement expertise involved in the final decision,” said board member Chris Patricca. WFTX. WBBH.

Brevard: One of four finalists for the superintendent’s job has withdrawn his name from consideration after his handling of complaints about a teacher who reportedly threatened students drew national attention and intervention from the Florida Department of Education. John Stratton, the superintendent of the Hernando County School District, withdrew Tuesday without comment. He cleared the teacher to return to the classroom when no charges were filed after the district and sheriff’s office investigated. Parents demanded the teacher be removed, and a few days later the DOE announced that had happened but only after it intervened. Florida Today. Suncoast News.

Manatee: The owner of the UFC and WWE has sold the Bradenton-based private sports academy and school IMG Academy to a Swedish private equity company for $1.25 billion, according to reports. Endeavor Group Holdings Inc. had owned IMG for nine years. The 400-acre school has about 1,400 students. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Business Observer. WWSB.

Collier: A former middle school math teacher has been convicted of deliberately driving his car into two men he fought with at a bar on Dec. 22, 2019. Christopher Patrick Lee, 38, was found guilty of two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and will be sentenced June 8. Naples Daily News.

Sarasota: At two town meetings this week, about 30 people offered opinions on the types of qualities they’d like to see in the new superintendent. Many of the speakers said they want the school board to put education over politics when making the hiring decision. Two more community meetings are scheduled, May 8 at Riverview High School and May 9 at North Port High. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WTVT.

Escambia: Starting May 1, the district will offer parents greater control over what books their children can check out of school libraries. A new online form called “library access” will be available through the parent portal or by scanning a QR code. Parents can select limited or unlimited access. If they choose limited, they can then specify what categories of books they don’t want their child to check out. WEAR.

Bay: Every school in the county will have Narcan available on campus this fall to reverse an opioid overdose, school board members decided this week. School nurses or a certified health tech will be trained to administer the drug. WMBB.

Martin: Deputy superintendent Michael Maine has been named acting superintendent to replace John Millay, effective immediately, the school board decided unanimously on Tuesday. Millay, who announced his resignation in February, will continue as a consultant until the end of the school year. At that time Maine will take over as the permanent superintendent. Maine, 42, has been with the district for about two and a half years. He will be paid $235,000 annually. TCPalm. WPTV.

Charlotte: Five finalists are under consideration to become the next school superintendent, district officials announced Tuesday. They are: Ernie Lozano, executive director of behavioral threat assessments, for Broward County schools; Robert Bedford, principal at Lemon Bay High School in Charlotte; Scott Schneider, chief of schools in Duval County; Kim Moore,  assistant superintendent of career/innovation progress for the Pasco school district; and Mark Vianello, chief operations officer for Marion County schools. Finalists will be interviewed by the school board and attend a community meeting on May 4. Charlotte Sun.

Jefferson: Harry Jacobs, a longtime teacher and legendary track and field coach at Jefferson and FAMU high schools, has died at the age of 81. He led the FAMU High track team to 13 state track and field state championships, including 10 straight from 1987 to 1996. Tallahassee Democrat.

Colleges and universities: In the four-plus months when the state’s Stop WOKE Act was being enforced, only seven people reported potential violations across the 12 campuses, according to records, and all of the complaints were dismissed as unfounded. The law, which went into effect in 2022, was blocked by a preliminary injunction issued last November. Miami Herald. The University of Miami is reportedly raising its price for attendance by about $10,000 in the fall, to nearly $90,000 a year. WTVJ. A University of South Florida employee who was arrested after protesting March 6 against the state’s moves to curb diversity programs has been fired. Tampa Bay Times. Forty-nine Florida graduate schools have been ranked among the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report. The highest ranking was 18th for the University of Florida in education. Patch.

Florida teacher pay: Florida ranks 48th among the U.S. states in average teacher pay at $51,230, according to a new report from the National Education Association teachers union. The U.S. average, $66,745 in the 2021-2022 school year, was 2 percent higher than the year before. The report did show that Florida improved from 29th place in starting teacher salary in 2019-2020 to 15th in 2021-2022, at $45,337. WPEC. K-12 Dive. Education Week.

Around the nation: Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott is proposing a federal law that would place an armed law enforcement officer in every school in the country. He wants to pay for his program by diverting the $70 billion approved in a bill last year to hire 87,000 new Internal Revenue Service employees to improve tax collections. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press.

Opinions on schools: It is a truly exciting time for microschooling in specific and educational innovation in general. The fact that so many passionate people are entering the field with clear ideas about the kinds of educational environments they want to create, the communities that they want to build, and the children that they want to serve portends good things for schooling in America. Mike McShane, Forbes.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff