State still needs 8,000 teachers and 6,000 paraprofessionals, school budgets, New College trustee resigns, and more

Teacher shortages: The state’s teacher shortage is one of the worst in the country, the president of the statewide teachers union said Wednesday. With most districts reopening schools next week, more than 8,000 teaching positions in the state remain unfilled, said Andrew Spar, leader of the Florida Education Association. At the end of the 2022-2023 school year there were about 5,300 openings. About 6,000 paraprofessional jobs are also still open. “This is the No. 1 crisis facing the education of our students,” Spar said. “Kids aren’t getting the education they deserve if there isn’t a teacher there to teach them.” While some districts are in a slightly better position this year than last, most districts are still looking to hire, and some need hundreds of teachers. Florida Department of Education officials say the greatest needs are for English, special education, science and math teachers. WTVT. WESH. WCJB. WCTV. WJAX. WEAR. WFLA. WKMG. WBBH. WJHG. States are reporting that teachers are leaving the profession in record numbers, driven out by low pay, burnout and stress, and the increasing infusion of politics in the classroom. That disillusionment is particularly notable in the reported declines in the number of teachers of color. Associated Press.

Around the state: A New College trustee whose tenure predated the state’s conservative takeover of the school board has resigned, tentative school budgets are approved in several districts, Hillsborough and Pinellas school officials say they will not be using teaching materials from PragerU, some parents in Alachua are pleading with the school board to fight new state laws that affect LGBTQ students, Osceola’s school board is considering banning the use of cellphones in schools, and Moms for Liberty comes out against state-mandated mental health services in schools. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: A tentative $3.1 billion budget was approved this week by school board members. It includes higher taxes for homeowners, “significant” raises for teachers from an increased tax approved by voters that are still being negotiated by the district and the union, and possibly a cut in the number of employees. Board members asked Superintendent Peter Licata to identify at least 27 positions that can be eliminated. A final vote on the budget is scheduled next month. Sun-Sentinel. WSVN. Complaints against school board members Allen Zeman and Brenda Fam have been dismissed by the Florida Commission on Ethics, though another one against Fam is pending. The commission said it didn’t have the purview on a complaint that Zeman slapped a district employee on the buttocks, and dismissed a complaint against Fam in a dispute with a neighbor. A decision is pending on a complaint that Fam also touched an 18-year-old student’s buttocks at a school event in March. Sun-Sentinel.

Hillsborough, Tampa Bay area: Slightly small school budgets for Hillsborough and Pinellas got tentative approvals this week from school board members. Hillsborough’s school district is planning to spend $3.99 billion, down from the $4 billion spending of the last fiscal year. Pinellas expects to spend just under $1.7 billion, which is $100 million less than it spent last year. Final public hearings and budget votes are scheduled in September. Tampa Bay Times. Hillsborough and Pinellas school officials said this week that they will not be using any materials from PragerU, the unaccredited, conservative company that the state Department of Education recently approved as a curriculum supplier. “Though the DOE has approved these materials, school districts retain the option of using them or not,” said Pinellas district spokeswoman Isabel Mascareñas. Creative Loafing.

Central Florida: Orange County’s school board this week banned students’ use of cellphones in school this year, and now the Osceola board is being asked to consider joining its neighbor. “I believe that if we do nothing else but eliminate cellphone usage during the day, we will see an increase in student achievement and a decrease in student disciplinary infractions,”  Osceola Superintendent Mark Shanoff told the school board Tuesday. Like Orange, Osceola would have exemptions for students with documented medical conditions, in school emergencies, and with a teacher’s permission as part of a lesson. WFTV. Osceola school board members voted this week to reject a contract with Kissimmee police to supply 15 resource officers to guard schools, then rescinded the vote when they were reminded by Shanoff that it would have broken state law by leaving some schools unguarded. Board members were unhappy that the contract called for a school guardian, who is not a law enforcement officer, to fill in for resource officers on days when staffing is tight. WFTV. Enrollment growth is forcing central Florida school districts to add students to classes and use portable classrooms until construction of new schools and buildings can catch up. WESH.

Palm Beach: Phone and text numbers of national suicide hotlines will be printed on identification badges this year for students in middle and high schools. “I think it’s great. I think it’s a really smart decision to give resources at the fingertips of these kiddos,” said Jennifer Tomko, a psychotherapist at Clarity Health Solutions. WPEC.

Duval: Changes that will affect the district’s students when this school year begins Aug. 14 include using scan cards to get on and off buses, walking through metal detectors to get into high schools, and state-required changes in the curriculum. Interim superintendent Dana Kriznar told parents this week that the district’s priority is to improve literacy. She also warned parents that school bus delays are likely because of a shortage of drivers. WJXTJacksonville Today. WTLV.

Lee, Collier: Schools reopen in both Lee and Collier counties Aug. 10. Here is a rundown of both districts’ calendars, including breaks, closures, the end of quarters and the last day. Fort Myers News-Press.

Alachua: Some members of the community pleaded with school board members this week to fight laws passed by the state that affect LGBTQ students. The board should find “loopholes” in the laws, break the laws when necessary and launch legal challenges against them, they said. “We’re demanding that you act responsibly,” said Debbie Lewis, a member of the inclusive schools committee. “We realize your hands are somewhat tied by some of the state laws, but please do not overreach and expand on laws that are already hateful and harmful. What is the harm in affirming these children? … If you all aren’t in this to protect and support and nurture children, then why are you here?” Board members were generally sympathetic but noncommital. Gainesville Sun. The board also approved a tentative budget of $604 million for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. A final vote is scheduled Sept. 11. Mainstreet Daily News.

Martin: The school district’s new charter high school was unveiled Wednesday. Indiantown High School is a collaborative project between the school district and Indian River State College, and focuses on career and technical education though it also offers dual-enrollment courses that can help students earn a high school diploma and associate’s degree at the same time. The $25 million school can accommodate up to 400 students. WPBF. WPEC. WPTV.

Charlotte: A tentative budget of $512.9 million was approved this week by members of the school board. That’s an increase of about 8.7 percent over last year’s spending of $472 million. The tax rate was lowered slightly, but higher property valuations will mean higher taxes for most residents. A final vote on the budget is scheduled Sept. 11. Charlotte Sun.

Franklin: School officials said they will be cracking down on students who vape at schools during the 2023-2024 academic year. Bathrooms have been outfitted with sensors that will alert employees when smoke from vapes or other devices are detected and cameras that are posted outside bathrooms. “Once we get an alert of the system, it will record prior to the person going in and afterward,” said Superintendent Steve Lanier. “So you can narrow it down pretty quick.” Offenders could be suspended. WMBB.

Colleges and universities: Mary Ruiz, a New College of Florida trustee before the conservative takeover of the board in January by Gov. Ron DeSantis appointees, announced her resignation Tuesday. Ruiz frequently disagreed with actions taken by the board. She abstained from the vote to fire president Patricia Okker, and in April voted in the minority to grant tenure for five faculty members. The resignation is effective immediately. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tampa Bay Times. Glen McDonald took over the presidency this week of Gulf Coast State College in Panama City. He replaces John Holdnak, who retired last spring after about eight years. McDonald had been a vice president at GCSC for six years. Panama City News Herald. Florida State University President Richard McCullough said Wednesday that without a “radical change” in revenue distribution by the Atlantic Coast Conference, FSU would start looking to join another athletic conference and television affiliation. Tallahassee Democrat. Tampa Bay Times. WCTV.

Mental health care in schools: Mental health care for students has been a policy in the state since 17 people were murdered by a gunman at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. But the well-connected conservative group Moms for Liberty has a different view of such initiatives. In a social media post last week, the group said, “Health care has no place in public schools” and “Mental health care is health care, Mr. President. That’s why it has NO place in public schools. #ParentalRights” in response to a federal initiative to add providers and expand access to mental health services for students. Tallahassee Democrat.

School supplies inflation: In the midst of the state’s first of two back-to-school tax holiday, which ends Sunday, shoppers are finding prices for school supplies up about 24 percent over the past two years, according to the consulting firm Deloitte. That’s expected to drive back-to-school spending to a record average of $890 per family. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: A recent survey shows three trends worth watching in public sentiment on schooling: Parents are less pessimistic than the public about the state of schools, parents choose different learning options for different reasons, and parents’ preferences are shifting slowly but surely. Travis Pillow, reimaginED.