House approves graduation fix: Members of the Florida House voted unanimously Wednesday to ease new, stricter high school graduation standards that had threatened to keep thousands of Florida seniors from receiving a diploma this spring. A provision in H.B. 1537 will put a pause on higher test score standards approved in 2018 but postponed until this year because of the pandemic. School district officials asked the Legislature for another year of relief, saying without it that graduation rates could decline by 10 percentage points or more. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. Tampa Bay Times.
Taxes for charter schools: A bill requiring school districts to share local tax revenues with charter schools for capital projects was approved by House members Wednesday in an 82-31 vote. H.B. 1259 will send money to charter schools based on student enrollment, not according to specific needs. Transfer of the money, estimated at nearly $500 million, would be phased in over five years, with $55.9 million shifting in the first year. Florida Politics. The Capitolist.
Ethics issue for Fine: Probable cause exists that state Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, misused his position in making threats against the city of West Melbourne during a dispute with a Brevard County School Board member, the Florida Ethics Commission said Wednesday. Fine had engaged in several social media feuds with Brevard school board member Jennifer Jenkins over school mask mandates and other school issues, and used degrading terms to refer to her. He also threatened West Melbourne city officials with the loss of funding for a city flood project because they invited Jenkins but not him to participate in a Special Olympics fund-raiser held by the police department. He later said he was just kidding and that the threats weren’t serious. Fine was recently asked by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office if he was interested in the presidency of Florida Atlantic University, and is considered a candidate. Politico Florida. Florida Today.
Also in the Legislature: Legislation that would ban payroll deductions for teachers and many other public union members won the approval of the House on Wednesday and is now headed to Gov. DeSantis’ desk. S.B. 256 also would require those unions to maintain a paying membership rate of at least 60 percent of eligible workers to earn certification, up from the current level of 50 percent. Unions representing police officers, firefighters and corrections officers would not be affected. Politico Florida. USA Today Florida Network. Florida Politics. Representatives voted Wednesday for a bill that would ensure speakers representing “multiple, divergent and opposing” viewpoints being allowed to speak at state colleges and universities. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Members of the House voted unanimously for a bill to require schools to teach students about the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, including the internment of Japanese-Americans by the U.S. government during World War II. Florida Phoenix.
Around the state: Trustees at New College of Florida voted Wednesday to deny tenure to five faculty members after being encouraged to do so by interim president Richard Corcoran, Duval school board members are hiring an outside law firm to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by teachers and the timeliness of the district’s reports to the state about those allegations, an appeals court panel has rejected a class-action lawsuit filed by Florida Atlantic University students who contended the school should refund money it collected after shutting down the campus during the pandemic, and the Miami-Dade School District is now the third-largest in the United States. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Miami-Dade: The school district is now the third-largest in the United States with an enrollment of 319,612 students, 4,800 more than Chicago’s 314,784. The district’s enrollment had been declining, but was boosted this year by a surge of immigrant students. New York City’s district is the largest with 804,530 students, and Los Angeles is second with 435,958. Miami Herald.
Duval: School board members decided Wednesday to hire a Fort Lauderdale law firm to investigate sexual misconduct allegations in the district. Since the beginning of the year, one Douglas Anderson School of the Arts teacher has been arrested and resigned, and three others have been removed from classrooms. The law firm will also look into allegations that the district has failed to comply with state law by reporting misconduct allegations in a timely manner, and the district announced that the supervisor of the district’s professional standards office, Reginald Johnson, had been reassigned pending the results of a professional standards investigation. There also were unconfirmed reports that Superintendent Diana Greene was negotiating a separation agreement, but she would only say, “Today, I’m still the superintendent, and I’m going to continue doing the things as superintendent I would normally do.” Another school board meeting has been called for Friday. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT. WTLV. Jacksonville Today.
Collier: The two finalists for the school superintendent’s job were interviewed Wednesday by school board members. Interim superintendent Leslie Ricciardelli and former Clay County superintendent Charles Van Zant Jr. answered questions on the state’s easing of test scores needed for high school graduation, their positions on protecting students from inappropriate content in school library books, and how they will deal with misbehaving students. The board is expected to select a superintendent on May 3. Naples Daily News.
Bay: Nearly $10 million in renovations will be done at Patronis Elementary School in Panama City this summer. “It’s a total renovation; when they say they’re gutting it they really are,” said school board member Steve Moss. “They’re taking it down to the studs and building it back, so if you go to the campus today at Patronis and compare it to what it will look like in August, you won’t recognize it.” The renovation will include new desks, technology, and a new playground. WMBB. WJHG. A 16-year-old student at Rosenwald High School in Panama City was arrested Wednesday and accused of having a gun on campus. Another student saw the weapon and notified a school resource officer, who found the weapon and some ammunition in the boy’s backpack. WMBB. WJHG.
Putnam: Two Interlachen Junior-Senior High School students were hospitalized Friday when they became ill after vaping in the junior high bathroom. A 13-year-old girl was found unconscious and another girl began having seizures, according to deputies. Both are recovering, according to deputies. WTLV. WCJB.
Colleges and universities: Five New College of Florida faculty members who were up for tenure were turned down Wednesday in identical 6-4 votes by the board of trustees now dominated by Gov. DeSantis appointees. Interim president Richard Corcoran had urged the trustees to deny or defer the requests, citing the conservative change in direction taken at the school. One trustee, college professor Matthew Lepinski, quit the board after the vote and walked out of the room. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tampa Bay Times. WKMG. Associated Press. A panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal has rejected a class-action lawsuit filed by Florida Atlantic University students who contended the school should have refunded money after it shut down the campus during the pandemic. The court ruled the school didn’t have an “express, written contract” with the students. News Service of Florida. Daytona State College has received $3.8 million in grants to help increase the number of nurses it graduates. A million dollars is being donated by Halifax Health and $900,000 by local AdventHealth hospitals, and the state will match the $1.9 million to establish a permanent faculty position so the school can accept more students. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Florida Atlantic University is about to begin its search for a new president. The recruiting process is expected to take up to six weeks. Sun-Sentinel.
Education podcasts: Diana Diaz-Harrison, a former teacher, television journalist and founder at Arizona Autism Charter School in Phoenix, talks about creating the Southwest’s only tuition-free school specializing in best practices for students who are on the autism spectrum and her goal of taking the model nationwide. reimaginED.
Opinions on schools: The passage of universal ESA programs across the nation means millions more students will be able to access customized learning options. However, in order for these programs to be as effective as possible, policymakers must continue to ensure seamless and smooth implementation that centers on parents, educators and service providers and allows for continued refinement as the program matures. Patricia Levesque, reimaginED. The College Board’s near-monopoly over entrance exams and equivalency courses has put it dangerously close to establishing a de facto national curriculum — an outcome which many Americans rightly resist. William Mattox, Florida Politics. There are only two real conclusions one can draw from the state asking a newspaper to spend more than $10,000 for school voucher records: Either the state wants to make it prohibitively expensive for the public to know what’s going on inside these schools, or this administration is simply too incompetent to do its job. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel.