Legislature reaches deal on $26.8B in K-12 spending and changes in the school funding formula, and more

K-12 school funding: Members of the Legislature’s conference committee reached an agreement Monday on K-12 spending for the 2023-2024 fiscal year and on changing the formula the state uses to determine how much money each school district receives. Almost $26.8 billion of the expected $115 billion state budget will go for K-12 spending, an increase of $2.2 billion. Much of that increase is expected to help pay for the new universal school choice law that is projected to add about 117,000 students to the number receiving state scholarships or education savings accounts. Legislators said they will have enough funding to meet that need. The budget will “hold the school districts harmless no matter what happens with enrollment,” state Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, the Senate’s education budget chief. Negotiations continue to resolve differences on issues such as school safety spending and retention pay for university professors. A final budget must be in place by May 2 for the session to end as scheduled May 5. Politico FloridaFlorida Politics. News Service of Florida. Budget negotiators also agreed to allocate $14 million for a not-yet-under-construction charter school in Dade City that has already received nearly $12 million last year. It was proposed to provide a high school setting for students from the A-rated preK-8 Academy at the Farm. Florida Politics. Members of the conference committee also approved $10 million for the Hamilton Center on the University of Florida campus. The center’s mission is described as helping “students develop the knowledge, habits of thought, analytical skills, and character to be citizens and leaders in a free society.” Florida Politics.

Also in the Legislature: Two controversial conservative nominees for the state Board of Education got the approval Monday of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee. If approved by the full Senate, Esther Byrd, who has supported Q-Anon and the Jan. 6 rioters at the Capitol, and Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, an outspoken opponent of care for transgender children, will sit on the BOE until 2025. Florida Politics. The committee also recommended that seven members nominated for the New College of Florida Board of Trustees be confirmed by the full Senate. News Service of Florida. Florida Phoenix. WFSU.

Around the state: Duval school board members meet Wednesday to discuss the future of the superintendent and how to proceed with an investigation of sexual misconduct by teachers at a high school, Lee’s school board votes today on a proposal to restore the historic building at hurricane-damaged Fort Myers Beach Elementary School, negotiations between St. Johns school officials and their teachers break down again and are headed to a mediator, Martin County deputies have investigated three times the number of school threats so far this school year over last year, and a “parent university” established at a Polk County high school is helping parents help their children keep up in school. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Educational impact fees on new developments have not increased in almost 30 years, and one district staffer said the school system has subsequently missed out on hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues. “That revenue could have come into the district for its operations, its classrooms, its maintenance,” said school board member Steve Gallon at a meeting last week. “So this was a missed opportunity.” Miami-Dade schools receive about $2,448 for each single family home of about 2,000 square feet. But Palm Beach County is bringing in $6,608, Broward County $7,047, and Orange County $9,148. WLRN.

Broward: Two students at Boyd H. Anderson High School in Lauderdale Lakes were hospitalized Monday when pepper spray was dispersed during a fight in the school’s courtyard at lunchtime. No one was seriously injured, but two students were taken to a hospital for treatment and nine others were treated at the scene by paramedics for sore throats, watery eyes and throat irritation. WPLG. WTVJ. WSVN.

Duval: School board members will meet Wednesday to discuss Superintendent Diana Greene’s future after recent disclosures that district officials knew about sexual misconduct allegations against a high school teacher for years before he was arrested and retired. Jeffrey Clayton of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts has been charged with indecent touching of a minor, and two other teachers also have been removed from their classrooms after other allegations. The board also is expected to discuss hiring an outside law firm to look into the allegations at Douglas Anderson. Dozens of supporters rallied Monday night on Greene’s behalf. WJXT. WJAX. WTLV. A newly released list discloses that 18 cases of “inappropriate physical contact by educators” have been substantiated in district investigations of 125 complaints made in Duval schools between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022. WTLV.

Polk: The lingering effects of the pandemic on children’s learning prompted a high school counselor in Haines City to start a “parent university” to help parents learn how to help their children. “In order to educate the students, we have to educate the parents,” said Haines City High counselor Leslie Paul. “COVID has changed the way we do things so we have to engage and help them understand that.” Paul has been holding meetings since last September, with topics such as technology training, checking their childrens’ grades, helping students with special needs and bringing in specialists to talk with parents about the possibilities for their children after they graduate. The 74. Two men have announced their candidacies in 2024 for the District 2 school board seat that incumbent Lori Cunningham is vacating: Travis Keyes, a 41-year-old banker who lives in Haines City, and Marcus Wright Jr., a 23-year-old resource development manager for the United Way of Central Florida who lives in Davenport. Lakeland Ledger.

Lee: School board members are expected to decide today what to do with Fort Myers Beach Elementary School, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Ian last September. District officials are proposing to restore the historic building at a cost of $5.8 million and reopen it sometime in the fall to about 80 students, and demolish the other buildings. School students have been attending San Carlos Park Elementary School. WFTX.

Pasco: Wendell Krinn Technical High School students are receiving identification badges that include a key card giving them access into the main building and allowing administrators to track entry and exit points. The school becomes the first in the district to have the key cards. “Now, these badges will work off this reader, and they can click their badge on there. It’ll turn green, the door will unlock, and they can get in,” said principal Chris Dunning. “So the safety is always going to be here. A random person couldn’t just enter our campus any time.” Spectrum News 9.

Lake: A 16-year-old student at Tavares High School was arrested Monday and accused of having a gun in his backpack. Deputies said the boy and two others were removed from class because they appeared to be under the influence of drugs. Administrators found the gun and some ammunition when they searched his backpack. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WOFL. WESH.

St. Johns: Negotiations between the school district and the teachers union have broken down again, and again the sticking point is money. The district is offering a $750 retention bonus for veteran teachers, while the union wants the money in the form of a raise. Teachers also are asking for a a $963 increase in pay for new teachers, boosting their starting salaries to $48,463. Both sides will now submit their proposals to a mediator Wednesday, who is expected to issue a recommendation by mid-May. The issue then goes to the school board for a final decision. WJXT.

Martin: Sheriff’s deputies have investigated three times the number of threats against school during this academic year than in 2021-2022, said Frank Frangella, the district’s director of safety and security. Last year there were 19 threats; this year there have already been 72. “I think it’s a trend that’s happening across the country, not just in Florida,” said Frangella. “We’re taking them a lot more serious now. So maybe something that wouldn’t have been looked at years prior are now being looked at.” WPTV. Stuart Middle School officials are trying to find out who took a photograph of a student going to the bathroom and posted it on the social media app Snapchat last week. “I can also confirm that the Martin County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an investigation,” said district spokeswoman Jennifer DeShazo. WPTV. WPEC.

Indian River: Parents voiced concerns about school security at Monday’s school board meeting. They want more cameras, fencing and metal detectors, and they want to be sure that the youngest students are protected in an active-shooter situation. District officials said they are considering adding a program that uses artificial intelligence to detect weapons. Jon Teske, the district’s director of school safety and emergency operations, added that the district is in compliance with all state regulations and completes safety risk assessments for all county schools annually. “Our job is to listen to stakeholders, listen to our community,” he said. “We can’t implement everything because there are constraints and barriers, but we can make things better.” WPTV. WPEC.

Colleges and universities: New University of Florida President Ben Sasse has been kept busy since he began work in February, dealing with lawmakers during the legislative session, working on plans for a potential graduate campus in Jacksonville, and meeting with faculty members. Unlike former president Kent Fuchs, though, Sasse has spent little time interacting with students. “The way that they are personality-wise and interacting with folks is just a very different style,” said UF Faculty Senate chair Amanda Phalin. “Neither good nor bad, but very different. And I think it’s a big change for people to get used to.” Independent Florida Alligator.

What’s next with vouchers: Universal school choice vouchers are now the law in Florida. But how will they work for students and their parents? Hechinger Report.

Most-challenged book: Maia Kobabe’s graphic memoir Gender Queer was the book most challenged in U.S. schools and public libraries in 2022, according to a report released Monday by the American Library Association. It’s the second straight year that book has led the list. Others in the top 13 are books George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue; Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye; Mike Curato’s Flamer; John Green’s Looking for Alaska; Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower; Jonathan Evison’s Lawn Boy; Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian; Ashley Hope Perez’s Out of Darkness; Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Mist and Fury. Ellen Hopkins’ Crank; Jesse Andrews’ Me and Earl and the Dying Girl; and Juno Dawson’s This Book Is Gay. Associated Press. Classroom and school library books, by law, must be certified by a media specialist as well as complying with the state’s Parental Rights in Education law, which mandates that a list of all books be available on school websites. So teachers scan, and scan, and scan. “I don’t think people truly understand how many books are in our classroom libraries. Especially when they’re younger, they go through so many books,” said Paula Stephens, a 1st-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School in Clearwater. Fresh Take Florida.

Around the nation: Members of the College Board said Monday that they will make changes in their new AP African American studies course. A development committee and experts “will determine the details of those changes over the next few months,” according to the board. “We are committed to providing an unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture.” The course drew attention when it was rejected last winter by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said it pushed a political agenda. Changes were made, but they were heavily criticized for removing topics such as Black Lives Matter, slavery reparations and queer life. Associated Press.

Opinions on schools: America’s K-12 system is currently a bit of a ruin. We should take a page from the Byzantine playbook and use the power of competition to rebuild a demolished system to be stronger than ever, and approach this task with the utmost dispatch. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. Research tells us that most of the programs school districts have implemented to address COVID learning loss are doomed to fail. Despite well-intended and rapid responses, solutions such as tutoring or summer school will miss their goals. Existing policies have failed to consider the unique needs of the students these services seek to help, and thus are destined to waste vast sums of relief funding in pursuit of an impossible goal. Margaret Raymond, The 74. Menstruation usually begins between ages 8 and 16, so menstrual education should begin in elementary school. We can’t just put our heads in the sand and pretend that life is not changing for all of us. Brooke and Breanna Bennett, USA Today. It’s clear that we can have both a strong public school system and still provide every student with the opportunity to access a scholarship if they choose. Every child is unique and has unique needs. Let’s celebrate and accommodate that diversity rather than push students toward one-size-fits-all uniformity. Danny Aqua, Sun-Sentinel. The most effective strategy for public college presidents in Florida who are concerned about losing academic freedom and autonomy to the governor would be to threaten to resign en masse. If all presidents are not prepared to do this, those that agree can form a coalition of the willing. Robert Birnbaum, Inside Higher Ed.

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BY NextSteps staff