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Education policy priorities emerge for Florida. Not everyone agrees.

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Ensuring children can read before they leave elementary school — a priority of state House leaders in 2021 — is one issue that gains widespread support in Tallahassee. Some other subjects are more controversial.
Ensuring children can read before they leave elementary school — a priority of state House leaders in 2021 — is one issue that gains widespread support in Tallahassee. Some other subjects are more controversial. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times (2016) ]
Published Feb. 22
Updated Feb. 22

Every year, as Florida lawmakers gather to debate state policy, education looms large over the discussions. This year appears to be headed down the same path. Look no further than the bills on education savings accounts and early literacy, not to mention the preliminary conversations on per-student funding. As is usually the case, the various parties approaching the talks have very different views on what’s important. Read on for the latest on this story and other Florida education news.

Why can’t they all just get along? The Republican majority’s education agenda has quickly surfaced, and in some ways strays from the priorities set by school districts, teacher groups and Democrats.

Why can’t they all just get along: Part II? The Hillsborough County School Board has several new members, and factions are emerging.

Coronavirus concerns

Senior celebrations are shaping up for Florida high schools. In Volusia County, that means socially distanced graduations and canceled proms, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

Martin County high schools also decided not to hold proms this year. One group of students is planning its own unsanctioned event instead, WPEC reports.

The pandemic has prompted schools to reconsider how they mete out student discipline. Teachers in Florida and elsewhere have faced dilemmas in dealing with health and safety issues, as well as how to handle issues they encounter over distance learning, the Hechinger Report reports. • Some lawmakers are eyeing new rules to deal with truancy, which has worsened during the past year, the Capitol News Service reports.

Remote learning has had other effects, as well. It’s led to an increase in chronic absenteeism in Sarasota County, the Herald-Tribune reports.

A growing number of reports suggest it’s safe to keep schools open, with protocols in place. Teachers continue to feel exposed, though, contending many of the precautions aren’t met, the Orlando Sentinel reports. • Stories like this one about a Miami-Dade County teacher, as reported by the Miami Herald, keep them on edge.

Many Florida school districts have millions of dollars in federal CARES Act funding still unspent. More money is on its way, WFTS reports.

The state wants students to test in person this spring. Miami-Dade County schools are exploring how far they’re willing to go in using the results, Doral Family Journal reports.

A Charlotte County music teacher took medical leave for a semester because of the pandemic. She decided to resign after learning her school had eliminated most of the music courses she taught, the Charlotte Sun reports.

School services

Are schools providing adequate mental health services? The suicide attempt of a Volusia County teen has residents of that district examining whether they’re doing enough, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

What is the proper role for school resource officers? An Osceola County community rocked by video of an officer slamming a student to the ground debates the topic, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The Leon County School Board began offering sign language interpreters for the hard of hearing to understand its meetings. Officials are looking into whether captioning is a better option, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Fifty-two people applied to become Polk County’s next superintendent. An advisory committee whittled the list to seven, the Ledger reports.

Race relations

Two Brevard County educators were fired in 1946 over their civil rights activism. The district is considering reinstating them posthumously, and teaching their story in classrooms, Florida Today reports.

Social justice issues came into focus over the summer. Getting legislation passed, such as a ban on school discrimination based on hairstyle, faces a steep climb in Tallahassee, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Before you go ... In the mid-1960′s, the band directors of an all-white and a segregated high school in Orlando joined forces to give their students the chance to perform in the World’s Fair. UCF students created a documentary about the working relationship. Check it out when you have some time.