Contentious education bills advance in the Florida Legislature

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Opponents of a measure to alter Florida's Bright Futures scholarship program spoke to the Senate Education Appropriations subcommittee from a remote site on March 23, 2021. An altered version of the bill passed the full Senate on April 8.
Opponents of a measure to alter Florida's Bright Futures scholarship program spoke to the Senate Education Appropriations subcommittee from a remote site on March 23, 2021. An altered version of the bill passed the full Senate on April 8. [ The Florida Channel ]
Published April 9, 2021|Updated April 9, 2021

Into the second half of session, the GOP-dominated Florida Legislature continued to drive its priority legislation on education issues toward adoption — but not without vocal opposition. Bills on vouchers, Bright Futures and budgets all advanced through their latest stops, some with added changes. Read on for those stories and more Florida education news.

Voucher expansion appears more and more likely. The House Appropriations Committee favorably reported a measure to merge several scholarship programs and broaden eligibility for them, Florida Politics reports. Supporters of the Gardiner Scholarship for students with disabilities protested the measure.

The amounts for Bright Futures scholarships could change from year to year. The full Senate approved a bill that would tie the awards to annual appropriations, WKMG reports. That measure now heads to the House.

Some lawmakers continue to push restrictions on transgender student participation in school sports. Critics say it’s nothing but discrimination, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The Florida House adopted its $97 billion budget. Now it has to work out differences with the Senate’s $95 billion version, Florida Politics reports.

Today in Tallahassee ... The Senate Appropriations Committee has set aside the day to debate a controversial “anti-rioting” bill. • The House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee has bills on charter schools and federal funding to support online learning on its agenda when it meets at 9 a.m.

Coronavirus concerns

Come and get your shot. The Sarasota County school district will hold a weekend vaccination clinic for all its employees, the North Port Sun reports.

Graduation day is almost here. High schools in north and central Florida are preparing to have in-person ceremonies, and proms, too, WUFT reports. • Leon County high schools also have committed to in-person commencement events, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

About that vaccination requirement ... Nova Southeastern University officials said they might back off their demand in light of the governor’s executive order that would cut state funds to organizations that made such mandates, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Student discipline referrals in Duval County schools dropped by half during the pandemic. Black boys remained the most frequently disciplined group, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Some Palm Beach County parents want their schools’ mask mandate to end. Their petition quickly gathered 2,000 signatures, WPTV reports.

Students’ options are shrinking. The Lee County school district announced it will end its live-remote instruction for the fall semester, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

School news

It’s cutting time. About 1,000 Hillsborough County teachers learned their positions will be eliminated, and they will have to transfer to new ones in the district, WFLA reports.

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A Brevard County School Board member supported LGBTQ anti-discrimination guidelines. Opponents picketed outside her home, calling neighbors “pedophile lovers,” and pledged to keep returning, Florida Today reports.

Clean it up. Facing complaints of poor work by its private contractor, the Volusia County school district is looking at returning to an in-house custodial staff, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

College just got cheaper for these students. Gulf Coast State College announced a program to reduce tuition bills by $1,400 a year for new high school graduates from Bay, Gulf and Franklin counties, the Panama City News Herald reports.

Show them the love. A Polk County second grader and her teacher develop a strong bond over daily notes in the child’s homework agenda, the Ledger reports.

“Change the name.” A campaign is mounting to support giving Duval County’s Robert E. Lee High a new name, WJXT reports.

A Putnam County school named after a Black war hero is set to close. The School Board voted to rename a different school after the Medal of Honor recipient, WJXT reports.

Controversy continues to dog Bay County’s upcoming school tax referendum. A School Board member said she didn’t know the special election would cost the district about $215,000, and announced she didn’t intend to vote for the measure, WMBB reports.

A Lee County School Board member has claimed some students are in dangerous conditions. The school district responded that the situation at the one school targeted have been inspected and will be fixed over the summer, but they are not unsafe, WINK reports.

From the court docket ... The Escambia County assistant principal facing felony charges in a homecoming royalty vote scandal pleaded not guilty, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s the link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... Rod Wave began his music career while a student attending high school in Pinellas County. He’s now at the top of the Billboard charts. Check out his latest video.