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Suddenly, a $22.4 billion education budget for Florida schools

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Pinellas County teacher Joyce Vitraelli shares stories of her classroom experiences during the pandemic during a March press conference at Palm Harbor University High School, where Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed giving $1000 bonuses to school principals and teachers. At first cool to the idea, lawmakers later added the expense to their budget plan.
Pinellas County teacher Joyce Vitraelli shares stories of her classroom experiences during the pandemic during a March press conference at Palm Harbor University High School, where Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed giving $1000 bonuses to school principals and teachers. At first cool to the idea, lawmakers later added the expense to their budget plan. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD ]
Published Apr. 26, 2021|Updated Apr. 26, 2021

One week to go. That’s all that’s left of the 2021 Florida legislative session. Heading toward the weekend, negotiators had stalled on their discussions over education spending. That changed late Friday, when they reached an agreement on the budget — an issue that historically has caused the chambers fits and starts to the final moments. What did they decide? Read on for the latest on that story and other Florida education news.

Vouchers and bonuses and mental health, oh my. With billions in federal funds on the table, Senate and House budget conferees found a way to add these items and more to their consensus education spending plan, which still requires formal approval. • Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal for more money for some teachers made it in, Florida Politics reports. A grant program for students who attend for-profit private colleges didn’t. Lawmakers contended the six-year degree completion rate at the schools doesn’t warrant the investment, Florida Politics reports.

A proposal to bar transgender girls from participating in school sports has stalled. LGBTQ advocates worry the idea will return. • The lack of action hasn’t stopped protests outside some lawmakers’ offices, the Daily Commercial reports.

Today in Tallahassee ... The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. Up for third and final reading are HB 7045 on school vouchers and SB 1028 on charter school authorizers. • The House convenes at 1 p.m. Up for third and final reading is HB 157 first aid training in public schools.

School leadership

‘Morale is awful.’ A survey of Hillsborough school district administrators indicates strong disapproval with the superintendent. School Board members said the results were not surprising.

Broward County’s leadership woes continued to gain attention. Community business leaders lent their backing to superintendent Robert Runcie, accused of lying to a grand jury, WPLG reports. • Questions remain whether more charges against more people are coming, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Five finalists have interviewed to become Polk County’s next superintendent. The School Board is expected to pick one of them on Tuesday, the Ledger reports.

St. Leo University decided not to recognize its faculty union any longer. The organization filed nine charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

Hot topics

The Lee County school district has a battle on its hands over LGBTQ student rights. One group is sending text messages to residents urging them to oppose the district’s stance, WINK reports. • A member of Congress from the area has weighed in against the district’s rule on transgender student restroom use, Florida Politics reports. • So too has the majority of the county’s legislative delegation, Florida Politics reports. • Meanwhile, some of the state’s LGBTQ lawmakers have called the opposition “appalling,” Florida Politics reports.

An advisory group has outlined its recommendations to improve policing in Osceola County schools. The ideas have won support from many experts and advocates, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

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What not to wear? Dress code violations have tripled in the past year in St. Johns County schools, WJXT reports.

Guns on campus. An appellate court ruled that the Sumter County school district’s rule against keeping weapons secured in a car on district property adversely affected an employee’s rights, the News Service of Florida reports.

Coronavirus concerns

Miami-Dade County schools usually see about 6,000 students in summer classes. This year, they’re targeting 65,000 as a way to overcome pandemic learning losses, the Miami Herald reports.

Get vaccinated. Some Orange County high schools will begin providing shots to students and their families, Spectrum 13 reports.

Mask rules are changing. Citing expert advice, the Alachua County school district will end outdoor mask requirements for the remainder of the school year, and make the face coverings optional beginning in the fall, WCJB reports.

Before you go ... How about an opera flash mob in the grocery story?

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