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Money struggles lead to cuts, as Florida schools search for revenue

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Parents, teachers and students from area schools came together in September to protest possible budget cuts for arts programs in Hillsborough County schools. The district is now examining several ways to reduce spending.
Parents, teachers and students from area schools came together in September to protest possible budget cuts for arts programs in Hillsborough County schools. The district is now examining several ways to reduce spending. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Jan. 13

Shutdowns, quarantines and other such actions have slowed Florida’s economy. The downturn is affecting schools, as other institutions, as they try to remain open. Some are struggling to retain their reserves, while others need resources to maintain their infrastructure. Read on for the latest on this and other Florida education news.

Officials for the nation’s seventh-largest school district say they could run out of money by June. Not only that, the Hillsborough County schools don’t have a great return on investment. They’ve proposed cuts and changes. Some officials are talking taxes.

Palm Beach County schools are looking to reserves to support teacher pay raises. They’ve agreed to boost the base pay to $47,500 and give 3.5 percent increases to everyone else, the Palm Beach Post reports. • The Manatee County School Board approved contracts that included raises for its teachers and paraprofessionals, the Bradenton Herald reports.

Universities also are feeling the pinch from the pandemic-caused economic downturn. Trustees at the University of South Florida approved nearly $37 million in budget cuts.

Options for added revenue are few. The Santa Rosa County school district is exploring how impact fees fit into the financial mix, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

Coronavirus concerns

Indoor graduation ceremonies remain a question mark for this spring. Duval County high schools have announced they’ll stick with outdoor events, the Florida Times-Union reports.

The kids keep coming. Collier County schools expect their largest influx of students for in-person classes since campuses reopened in the fall, the Naples Daily News reports. • Broward County schools are reducing social distancing as more students attend in person, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Some families don’t want to send their children back to campus. The found the Manatee County school district’s directives for struggling students didn’t provide them all the options the state promised, the Bradenton Herald reports.

Get vaccinations to educators with direct contact with students. Especially those over 65 years old, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said, according to WKMG. The Orange County School Board joined the growing push, WKMG reports. • The Lake County School Board also is calling on the governor to prioritize teachers and other “front-line” school employees, the Daily Commercial reports. • Tampa Bay area educators say it’s a “slap in the face” to not consider school workers essential for the inoculations, WFLA reports.

Will the state require COVID-19 inoculations for students? Unlikely, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

Some schools are setting new highs for positive cases. Even so, Sarasota County school officials said the schools haven’t been a major source of spread, the Herald-Tribune reports.

Students can continue to get free school meals while learning from home. The Osceola County school district is consolidating sites for distribution, WKMG reports.

Summer break will be shorter. Palm Beach County students will get less than two months off, as this year started late and the next is slated to begin in early August, WPTV reports.

In other news

A Charlotte County elementary school student riffed a movie line about a bomb in his backpack to his teacher. The teacher didn’t recognize the reference, and law enforcement evacuated the building, the Charlotte Sun reports.

Volusia County schools are getting closer to 1-to-1 technology. They plan to distribute 33,000 laptops to middle and high school students this month, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. • The district’s School Board delayed consideration of whether to create a police force, the News-Journal reports.

The Bay County school district is looking into a technology “refresh.” It would use income from a newly approved half-cent sales tax to support the effort, WJHG reports.

Under investigation. An Alachua County elementary school principal was placed on administrative leave. The district won’t say why, the Gainesville Sun reports.

Who’s in charge? Two Hillsborough County schools are getting new principals. • So, too, are three Pasco County schools. • USF’s senior vice president in charge of research is stepping down. That announcement comes a day after the head of USF St. Petersburg said he would step down at the end of the year. • Gov. Ron DeSantis has reappointed former state Rep. Tom Grady to the State Board of Education, along with Tallahassee lawyer Monesia Brown, Florida Politics reports. The board meets today at 9 a.m. at Daytona State College. Here’s the agenda.

Lawmakers have kicked off their committee meetings. The first order of business for the Senate Education Committee was expanding school choice, Florida Politics reports.

Don’t miss a beat. Yesterday’s roundup is just a click away.

Before you go ... Are schools safe during the coronavirus pandemic? Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho told CNN that they are the “safest place.” For an extra read, Education Week offers insights into how the latest strain of the virus, which has emerged in Florida, might affect schools.