Florida lawmakers seek the art of the deal as session nears its end

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Many Floridians are kept on the outside of the process as lawmakers negotiate budget and policy issues inside the state Capitol during the 2021 session.
Many Floridians are kept on the outside of the process as lawmakers negotiate budget and policy issues inside the state Capitol during the 2021 session. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published April 19, 2021|Updated April 19, 2021

With two weeks remaining in Florida’s legislative session, we’re down to the ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ portion of the annual event. Bill content continues to move from vehicle to vehicle in search of a final home, as conference committees review spending priorities. Still up in the air are big ticket items such as voucher expansion, Bright Futures textbook stipends, workforce education and more. Much of the discussion is taking place with little public access. Read on for the latest on this and other Florida education news.

Time is running short to pass bills in Tallahassee. The politics of leverage and persuasion is coming to the forefront. • Leaders in both chambers appear settled on eliminating the $600 textbook support Bright Futures recipients get annually, Florida Politics reports. • They also weren’t keen on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal for a $1,000 teacher bonus, Florida Politics reports. • House leaders meanwhile looked to weave money for vouchers into a reserve fund for “missing” students, Politico Florida reports.

Florida’s influence soon could be felt on national education policy. Former Congress member Gwen Graham is in line to become assistant secretary for legislation and congressional affairs, the News Service of Florida reports. More from the Tallahassee Democrat.

Today in Tallahassee ... The Senate Appropriations Committee meets at 10 a.m. to hear dozens of bills, including ones on student retention, workforce education and a postsecondary academic library network, among others. • The House Education & Employment Committee meets at 2:30 p.m., where it will consider bills on hazardous walking conditions, resident status for certain out-of-state students and dual enrollment, among others. • Budget conference committees might be convened at any time throughout the day. Check for updates here. Any issues that remain unresolved by the end of the night are to be bumped to the chambers’ appropriations chairs.

Coronavirus concerns

Education commissioner Richard Corcoran stated that masks have not made a difference in stopping the spread of coronavirus in schools. A University of South Florida expert said that claim is not accurate, WTSP reports. • CDC reports also contradict the commissioner’s contention, WFLA reports. • Some central Florida health experts said there’s not enough information to hold up Corcoran’s statements, WFTV reports. • A Leon County charter school founded by Corcoran’s wife said it will follow the commissioner’s request to make masks voluntary, unlike the county school district, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. • Escambia County schools intend to make masks optional by summer, reports.

Many students need more instruction to make up for any learning losses. The Manatee County school district has eliminated several early release days for next year to help accomplish that goal, the Bradenton Herald reports.

Who’s in the yearbook? A spread on LGBTQ pride was yanked out of a Clay County high school’s yearbook, and later replaced with a “diversity” section after a petition emerged, WTLV reports. • Filling the book has proven tough during the year of pandemic, which canceled many activities, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

School news

What not to wear? Students and parents are pressuring the St. Johns County school district to revamp its dress code, which many have suggested is sexist, the St. Augustine Record reports.

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It’s time to go. Lee County schools superintendent Greg Adkins has decided to retire at the end of his contract this year, WINK reports.

Time for a takeover. The Palm Beach County law enforcement union is asking the Sheriff’s Office to take over policing in the public schools, WPTV reports.

A grand jury found plenty of problems in the Broward County school district a decade ago. Many of its recommendations remain unfollowed, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Change the names. That’s the chamber of commerce’s message to the Duval County school district regarding several schools that carry the names of Confederate soldiers, the Florida Times-Union reports.

A school ‘by us and for us.’ Some Jacksonville residents are planning the area’s first Black-owned elementary school, WJXT reports.

From the court docket ... The Southern Poverty Law Center has sued the Duval County school district on behalf of a teacher who was removed from the classroom after refusing to remove a Black Lives Matter flag, the Florida Times-Union reports.

From the police blotter ... The former director of education at a Charlotte County school was arrested on accusations of unlawful sexual activity with minors, the Charlotte Sun reports. • A Manatee County substitute teacher was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography, WWSB reports. • Additional charges have been filed against an Okaloosa County teacher accused of having sex with a student, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

Before you go ... If you’ve not heard of Sierra Hull, she’s a terrific bluegrass/folk musician you might want to pay attention to. Here’s a clip of her playing a classic.

I’ve always loved “Wildwood Flower”. It was one of the earliest tunes I remember my great Uncle Junior playing when I was little.

Posted by Sierra Hull on Friday, April 16, 2021