More funding proposed for charters, budget negotiations, year-round schools, teacher pay deal and more

Bigger share for charters: Legislation that would increase charter schools’ share of local tax dollars in certain school districts was approved Tuesday by the Senate Education PreK-12 Committee. S.B. 1328 calls for school districts with 100,000 or more students to share more of their property tax millage with local charter schools operated by nonprofit companies, which would use the money for capital outlay projects such as new construction, purchasing property or vehicles, and paying to lease facilities. Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach, Duval and Polk counties are the only districts the policy would apply to. “There’s still a funding gap between the traditional public schools and the charter schools, and we’re just trying to have some parity there,” said state Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast. Critics said the bill will cut the amount of money traditional schools have for upkeep and be a “money maker” for developers. Politico Florida.

House budget passed: House members approved their $113 billion budget Tuesday, which will launch negotiations with the Senate to reconcile the $700 million gap in spending and other major differences in how the funds are spent. The chambers call for similar spending on education, but the House proposes to change the funding formula. Other major differences in the budgets include the House calling for 6 percent raises for state workers while the Senate wants 3 percent, and the House’s plan to boost state pension benefits by $3 billion. Because of the 72-hour “cooling off” period required between an agreement on a budget and the final vote, the chambers will have to reach a consensus by May 2 in order to end the legislative session on time May 5. News Service of Florida. USA Today Florida Network. Florida Politics.

Also in the Legislature: A proposal to develop a four-year pilot program for year-round classes at select elementary schools was approved Tuesday by a Senate committee. If approved, the test would begin in 2024-2025 school year. News Service of Florida. A second Senate committee has approved the bill allowing school board candidates to establish residency at the time they assume office instead of when they qualify for office. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. The permitless gun carry bill signed into law this week by Gov. Ron DeSantis has several school-related provisions: Requires the creation of a standardized school threat assessment tool; expands state’s armed guardian program into private schools; requires all law enforcement agencies have active assailant response strategies; and establishes a school firearm detection dog program. Tampa Bay Times. The Florida Senate Committee on Education PreK-12 has recommended that Esther Byrd and Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie be confirmed to the Florida Board of Education. If confirmed by the full Senate, both will serve until 2025. Florida Politics.

Around the state: Hillsborough school officials and teachers union have reach a contract agreement after months of an impasse, two Broward school board members will be investigated for alleged “inappropriate touching,” Flagler school board members decide not to extend Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt’s contract past June 30, Brevard school board members narrow the field of 33 applicants for the superintendent’s job to 11 semifinalists, Sarasota’s school board delays consideration of consulting contracts with a company that has ties to Hillsdale College, New College of Florida plans to use $15 million from the state to offer $10,000 scholarships to first-year or transfer students, and Pasco’s school board puts off a vote on having a cell phone tower placed on a K-8 campus. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Two school board members have been accused of “inappropriate touching,” and the district is considering hiring an outside investigator to look into the allegations. Brenda Fam is alleged to have touched an 18-year-old student on the buttocks at a school event March 27, and Allen Zeman reportedly struck a district staffer on the buttocks in December. Fam called it an inadvertent touch and Zeman called the allegation a “nothing burger.” Board chair Lori Alhadeff said she forwarded the complaints to the state Ethics Commission, and all board members agreed to ask interim superintendent Earlean Smiley to hire an outside investigator. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. A book about a male rabbit owned by former vice president Mike Pence that falls in love with another male rabbit has been removed from school libraries. A Day With Marlon Bundo was challenged by a parent who said it violates the state’s Parental Rights in Education law. School board members will consider the decision April 18. WPLG. WTVJ.

Hillsborough: After a long impasse, the school district and its teachers have a tentative contract agreement. It calls for two years of conventional raises already outlined in the pay schedule, and rewards teachers $1,000 yearly for a master’s degree, $2,000 for an educational specialist degree and $3,000 for a doctoral degree. Union members and the school board are expected to approve the deal by April 18, and eligible employees could receive raises and retroactive pay soon after that. Union president Rob Kriete said he looks forward to “taking the money we believe we have already earned, and getting it into the hands of people who need it.” Tampa Bay Times. WFTS.

Duval: Former Douglas Anderson School of the Arts students urged the school board Tuesday to hire an outside investigator to look into allegations of abuse at the hands of several teachers. One of them, Jeffrey Clayton, was arrested about three weeks ago and is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student. After two other teachers were reassigned on similar allegations, Superintendent Diana Greene said an internal investigation would be held. The students want more. “This is much larger than just Clayton, this is years, decades of bad behavior that’s been rewarded with silence and kept under the rug,” said former student Shyla Jenkins. WTLV.

Pasco: School board members were expected Tuesday to approve the placement of a cell phone tower on the campus of the Starkey Ranch K-8 School in Land O’Lakes, but the decision has been delayed after 700 parents signed a petition objecting. They raised questions about the safety of children being exposed to cellphone radiation. One, Serena Arnold, questioned whether the $23,000 a year the district would receive for allowing the tower was worth the risk. The board vote was postponed until the county commission, which owns the easement needed to access the tower, votes on the issue April 18. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: Eleven semifinalists were chosen by the school board Tuesday from a field of 33 applicants for the superintendent’s job. Ten of the 11 are employed in Florida school districts, though only one works in the Brevard district. That’s Mark Rendell, the principal at Cocoa Beach High School who was superintendent of the neighboring Indian River County School District from 2015-2019. The chosen candidates will submit written and video responses to board questions by April 13 or 14. Board members will meet April 18 to name finalists, who will be interviewed April 27 and 28. A new superintendent is scheduled to be selected May 2. Florida Today. Space Coast Daily. WKMG.

Volusia: A Daytona State College student was critically injured Tuesday when a concealed weapon he was carrying in his waistband accidentally went off as he was walking through a school parking lot on his way to class. Police said Joseph A. Delbuono, 41, who has a concealed carry permit, was shot in the upper leg. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WKMG. WESH.

Sarasota: A scheduled school board vote Tuesday on hiring a consultant with ties to the conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan has been rescheduled to the April 18 board meeting. No reason was given for the delay in voting on two consulting contracts with Vermilion Education, whose founder Jordan Adams used to work at Hillsdale. One of the contracts is for consulting and the other for conducting a broad review of the district’s procedures. Before the meeting, about 100 people protested against the proposal. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun. WUSF.

Leon: In a letter to the chair of the Tallahassee Classical School’s governing board, district Superintendent Rocky Hanna said the school may be in violation of its contract by not having at least five board members for more than 60 days, which could lead the district to terminate or not renew the charter. On Jan. 19, the district notified the school that only four board members were listed on the school’s website, which the school confirmed. On Feb. 27, the school’s board approved Louis Jean-Baptiste as the fifth board member, but the district said it was not notified within five days, as required under the charter’s contract. “Therefore, the foregoing facts lead us to conclude Tallahassee Classical School is out of compliance with the contract and Florida law,” reads Hanna’s letter. Tallahassee Democrat. WCTV. WTXL.

Alachua: A comprehensive rezoning of all district schools will start soon and be in place for the 2024-2025 school year, school board members decided Tuesday. There was a proposal to “spot zone” some schools that are overcrowded, but that was rejected because it might interfere with a comprehensive rezoning. WCJB.

Santa Rosa: A local chapter of the conservative activist group Moms for Liberty has formed in the county, and chair Mariya Calkins said it will propose that prayers be added to school board meetings. “Our school board members in Santa Rosa County, they still do not pray at our school board meetings and I believe they need the guidance from above,” Calkins said. “We want to work together and find friendly school board members and those who will be on board with our fight.” WEAR.

Indian River: An illustrated adaptation of  The Diary of Anne Frank has been removed from the Vero Beach High School library after a group of parents filed a challenge claiming it minimalizes the Holocaust and shows the young girl’s thoughts about other female bodies. It was challenged by Jennifer Pippin, the county’s Moms for Liberty chapter chair. Pippin said she has a list of about 250 books the group plans to challenge. The original version of the Anne Frank story remains on library shelves. TCPalm.

Flagler: School board members voted 3-2 on Tuesday against offering Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt a contract extension. Mittelstadt has been superintendent for the past two and a half years, but her contract ends June 30. “I know the word ‘stability’ has come up a lot in the last few weeks,” said board member Christy Chong, who voted against the extension. “There has not been stability in our district. We have had a lot of turnover and staff changes.” Colleague Cheryl Massaro voted for the extension, saying, “In my time here, I have had five superintendents. Five. The majority of whom worked three years, and then we kicked them out for one reason or another. That’s a sin. How do you gain consistency, how do you gain stability, when you keep making changes?” Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. WESH.

Colleges and universities: New College of Florida will use $15 million from the state to make $10,000 scholarships available to “each qualified first-time-in-college or transfer student” who enrolls in addition to any other scholarships or aid a student receives. Interim president Richard Corcoran said school trustees “plan to invest as much as $100 million” over the next several years “to create a beautiful, unrivaled and pre-eminent” university. News Service of Florida. New College’s athletics program is open “to any of the competitive sports offered by the (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics),” school officials said. The NAIA is a group that focuses on smaller schools. Tampa Bay Times. Miami corporate lawyer Marcell Felipe and Roberto Alonso, a businessman and Miami-Dade County School Board member, have been reappointed by Gov. DeSantis to the Miami Dade College Board of Trustees. Miami Herald. Stetson University has hired Elizabeth Skomp, its dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, as its next provost and vice president for academic affairs. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on schools: There doesn’t appear to be any correlation with “spending effort” and education quality as defined by the most recent Education Week’s Quality Count’s K-12 Achievement rankings. States in the top 10 for “spending effort” spent $18,169 per pupil on average and averaged a C-minus with a score of 72.4. States in the bottom 10 spent $9,871 per pupil and averaged a C-minus with a score of 73.14. Those high-effort states spend twice as much to get roughly the same result. Patrick R. Gibbons, reimaginED. Why would the Legislature pass a universal school choice bill that claims to give “priority” status to poor kids while also saying every kid will get one? Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. Why not create policies that make it harder for a single parent to run roughshod over a school district? Why not raise the threshold for the number of complaints needed to trigger a review? Why not require evidence that a book or film is causing harm? And when a challenge is so clearly antithetical to facts, why not allow a principal the reasonable right to say no without advancing it? Stephanie Hayes, Tampa Bay Times.