Votes on $117B budget and $1.3B tax cuts set for final day of session, school start times, tax funds for charters and more

Votes on budget and tax breaks: Members of the Senate and House will vote today on the state’s proposed $117 billion budget, which includes $26.8 billion in spending for K-12 schools and is the only bill the Legislature must pass in order to adjourn the 60-day session as scheduled today. The chambers will also consider a $1.3 billion tax-cut bill that includes two back-to-school tax holidays instead of the usual one. Shoppers can avoid sales taxes on school clothing of $100 or less, supplies costing $50 or less, and personal computers that cost less than $1,500 from July 24 to Aug. 6 and again Jan. 1-14. The two periods are expected to save shoppers more than $160 million. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

Later school start times: Senators approved a bill Thursday that would push back starting times for the state’s public middle and high schools by July 2026. Middle schools could start no earlier than 8 a.m., and high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m. About 20 percent of the state’s middle schools now start before 8 a.m., and nearly half the high schools start before 8:30 a.m. Supporters say research shows that later start times will improve high school students’ academic performance. The bill now goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

Funds for charter schools: Charter schools would get a share of school districts’ tax money for capital costs, based on student enrollment, under a bill approved Thursday by the Senate. It’s already been passed by the House, and now heads to Gov. DeSantis for consideration. A House analysis of the bill concludes that charters will receive $55.9 million in fiscal year 2023-2024, and $490 million by the fifth year. “I believe the money should follow the student,” said state Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast. Critics say the program will cost more than projected, and that it will give public money to charter school owners to improve their personal property. Florida Politics.

Also in the Legislature: A revamp of the Florida High School Athletics Association was approved Thursday by senators. Its board of 16 members, mostly appointed by school districts, will shrink to 13, with eight appointed by the governor. The bill would also allow home-school and private school students to try out for public school sports teams, and charter students to play for a private school, and gives schools permission to make opening remarks before events that could include prayers. “This is a school sports choice bill,” said bill sponsor Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa. “This is about the kids. Everyone’s focused on making sure they have the opportunity to play sports and take part in competition.” Florida Politics. School districts would have to report yearly to the state what they’re teaching students about black history under a bill approved by the Senate on Thursday. Florida Politics. The Senate confirmed Esther Byrd and Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie to the state Board of Education, and six New College of Florida trustees appointed by Gov. DeSantis. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida.

Around the state: Hillsborough Superintendent Addison Davis is now proposing that Just Elementary School be closed for just a year and then reopened as a Montessori center, Palm Beach County School Board members approve a $3.5 million contract extension to have deputies help guard schools, a dual-language charter school primarily for children of migrant farmworkers is expected to open in August in Mulberry, vice president and vice provost for strategy and program innovation at Florida Gulf Coast University Aysegul Timur has been named the school’s president, and the U.S. education secretary was critical of education bills coming out of the Legislature during a stop Thursday in Miami. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was in Miami on Thursday to honor the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project, a mentorship program for young men in the county’s public schools. He also used the occasion to criticize education bills coming out of the legislative session. “There are several states where the state legislation is really attacking public schools, limiting access to students, limiting access to curriculum materials and even making students feel unwelcome,” he said, responding to a question about his thoughts on bills that place restrictions on what can or can’t be said or taught in public schools. Miami Herald. WPLG. WTVJ.

Broward: A child was hit by a car Thursday around 2 p.m. near Broadview Elementary School in North Lauderdale, according to the sheriff’s department. The child was airlifted to a nearby hospital, and the investigation is continuing. WPLG. WTVJ.

Hillsborough: After members of the community protested the district’s decision to close Just Elementary School, Superintendent Addison Davis has offered an alternative proposal. He now wants to close the school for a year and then reopen it as a Montessori center. Just’s students, who would be transferred to Booker T. Washington and Tampa Bay Boulevard elementaries, would also have invitations at three nearby magnet schools: Dunbar, Lockhart and Tampa Heights. The school board will consider the plan Tuesday. Tampa Bay Times. An assistant teacher at Liberty Middle School in Tampa has been arrested and accused of child pornography possession. Police said Ricky Broadnax Sr., 55, was arrested Thursday after hundreds of “files of child pornography on data storage devices” were found in a locked safe in his home. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. WFTS.

Palm Beach: The contract to pay the sheriff’s department $3.5 million for its deputies to help patrol schools has been extended by the school board until June 2024. The district has its own police department, but has 78 vacancies and needs help providing at least one armed officer at every school. WPTV.

Polk: A dual-language charter school primarily for children of migrant farmworkers is expected to open in August in Mulberry, according to the school’s operator, Redlands Christian Migrant Association. Mulberry Community Academy already offers preschool classes, and will expand to kindergarten and 1st grade in the fall. Students are taught half the day in Spanish and half in English, and also will offer programs for health care and parenting workshops. Lakeland Ledger.

Brevard: Catherine McNutt, the current principal at Hoover Middle School, has been named the principal at the new central area middle school now under construction in Viera. McNutt has been with the district since 2007. Florida Today.

St. Johns: A school district record 137 employee resignations were filed in May, according to district officials. Last year there were 95, and most years there are an average of about 50. The exodus comes as the district and the teachers union are at an impasse over pay raises. WJXT.

Alachua: A 1st-grader at Meadowbrook Elementary School in Gainesville came to school Wednesday with a loaded gun in a backpack, according to sheriff’s deputies. It was removed by a teacher. Police said the child didn’t know there was a gun in the backpack, and no charges will be filed. WKMG. WCJB. WJXT.

Martin: A complaint has been filed against Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, a book that was recently removed from the Vero Beach High School library after a parent group complained it was not a true adaptation of the Holocaust and contained illustrations of Frank walking among female nude statues. The district’s current policy is for the school principal to respond to a complaint within 15 days. Her decision can be appealed to the district office, where the curriculum and instruction staff has another 15 days to review it. The decision can then be appealed to the school board. TCPalm.

Charlotte: The four finalists for the school superintendent’s job were interviewed Thursday by members of the school board. The finalists are Kim Moore, an assistant superintendent for Pasco County schools; Lemon Bay High School principal Bob Bedford; Ernie Lozano, executive director of Behavioral Threat Assessments at Broward schools; and Mark K. Vianello, chief operating officer of Marion County schools. Board members are expected to choose a superintendent at their May 9 meeting. Charlotte Sun.

Flagler: A Flagler Palm Coast High School student vandalized LGBTQ posters made by classmates as part of a U.S. history assignment and posted in a school hallway along with others marking moments in civil rights history. The student was given a warning. His parents then complained to school board member Christy Chong that the boy was offended by the posters, and Chong asked the principal to look into it. She now wants the board to clarify the policy that covers the display of posters. Flagler Live.

Monroe: New principals have been appointed for Marathon Middle/High School and Key West High School. Christine Paul will take the leadership position at Marathon Middle/High, and Rebecca Palomino is the new principal at Key West High. Both are graduates of the schools they will lead. Florida Keys Weekly.

Colleges and universities: Aysegul Timur, vice president and vice provost for strategy and program innovation at Florida Gulf Coast University, has been chosen as the school’s president. She edged Henry Mack III, a senior chancellor with the Florida Department of Education, in a 7-6 vote among the trustees. The other finalists were Neil J. MacKinnon, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at Augusta University, and Jay Morgan, president of Morehead State University. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. WFTX. WBBH.

Opinions on schools: The greater GOP voter intensity in support of education choice has translated into the most massive wave of choice victories ever. Jason Bedrick, Daily Signal. It’s been seven years since my first appearance before Congress to discuss expanding education choice, and students’ lives are still a political football. Too many children are still being failed by the system. And too few elected leaders are willing to put families first. Denisha Allen, Washington Times. It’s been tough keeping track of all the missives and missiles raining down on educators from the GOP heavens, so I believe an end of the school year assessment is in order. Chris Fulton, Tampa Bay Times. As the governor and Republican Legislature impose laws restricting teachers’ unions and classroom instruction, among other education-focused legislation, they’re turning a premier job, of Broward County school superintendent, into one that comes with a flashing “caution” sign. Miami Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff