BALANCING THE BUDGET: Some key Florida lawmakers signal they would consider raising cigarette taxes during their regular session in March to help balance the budget. In the meantime the House and Senate move toward approval of a plan that cuts spending and jobs. Where to cut? A Times analysis of the Pinellas budget suggests that the district is more top heavy than other districts of its size. But arts and sports need to remain untouched if possible, columnist Dan DeWitt writes. (Times photo illustration)
CELL TOWER NIXED: Coleman Middle principal Michael Hoskinson drops plans to have a cell phone tower placed on campus just days after facing protesting parents and neighbors.
KIDS LIKE IT, AND IT'S FREE: Pasco schools find a way to let students use blogging, chatting, podcasts and other aspects of social networking as part of their classes in a password protected environment doesn't cost the district a dime.
CRIST DEFENDS HIS POSITION ON CHARTERS: In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, Gov. Charlie Crist says he's a champion of charter schools, regardless of his decision not to appeal the overturning of the Florida Schools of Excellence Commission.
NO INTERRUPTION OF SERVICE: Even as it struggles to balance its budget, Manatee will take over after-school programs that the YMCA is canceling because of a lack of funds, the Bradenton Herald reports.
THE TEBOW EFFECT: UF expects a groundswell of applications after the football team's national championship, but there's little space as the school grapples with budget cuts, the Miami Herald reports.
AROUND THE NATION: Maryland looks at tuition increases to help tackle its budget shortfall, the Washington Post reports. Several New York schools revise their P.E. curriculum away from team sports to emphasize exercise, the NY Times reports. Texas is unlikely to see relief in education funding as its budget surplus appears to be a mirage, the Dallas Morning News reports.
Visit the Gradebook at noon for an interview with Wellesley College president Kim Bottomly.