Florida schools cope with funding needs as state stalls on federal aid

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Busses arrive at Sunlake High School during the first day of school for Pasco County Students on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, in Land O’ Lakes.
Busses arrive at Sunlake High School during the first day of school for Pasco County Students on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, in Land O’ Lakes. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Oct. 6, 2021

State officials have suggested that Florida school districts don’t need any more money than they have. They’ve not even applied for a third round of stimulus funds, as Associated Press reports. Don’t tell district leaders they’re flush, though. Some discussed their financial needs during Tuesday meetings, and the picture wasn’t pretty. Read on for that story and more Florida education news.

Hillsborough County district administrators revealed a $60 million gap in funding. They’re considering a local-option property tax referendum to try to cover the shortfall.

Pasco County School Board members discussed the need to receive all available federal aid to help students and staff. They lamented that the Governor’s Office hasn’t sought the money yet, and hasn’t asked districts if they can use it.

Mask mandates

Florida’s mask mandate debate is back on the front burner. The State Board of Education will consider sanctions against 11 school boards on Thursday. Education commissioner Richard Corcoran wants to withhold board member salaries and an amount equal to any federal grant they get to make up the difference, from any district that continues to act contrary to state law and rule.

Some of the involved districts quickly took steps to solidify their positions. Among them:

The Hillsborough County School Board voted to eliminate its requirement for a doctor’s note, establishing a parent opt-out form instead.

• Palm Beach County superintendent Mike Burke said he wants to see coronavirus positivity numbers go down more before backing away from the district’s mask rule, WPTV reports.

The Duval County school district considered ending its mask mandate. Then officials took a closer look at their local virus case data, Health News Florida reports. The board plans another meeting next week to further discuss masks, WJXT reports.

Broward County board members decided to keep their strict mask policy in place despite the state threat, WTVJ reports.

• In Alachua County, the School Board made masks optional for high school students but retained a mandate for elementary and middle schools, Main Street Daily News reports.

• The Brevard County School Board voted to keep its mask mandate without opt outs. The audience was removed after an outburst directed at board member Jennifer Jenkins, Florida Today reports.

• The Sarasota County School Board repealed its mask mandate, which it already had stopped enforcing, WFTS reports. A day earlier, angry mask opponents protested outside the board chairperson’s home, demanding her resignation, the Herald-Tribune reports. (Subscription required)

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the FBI should investigate people who threaten school board members and staff over masks and other hot issues. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he won’t allow federal agents to “squelch dissent,” Forbes reports. More from the News Service of Florida, Florida Politics.

Other school news

Santa Rosa County schools have not adopted the state’s school guardian program. That might change next year, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

Lee County school district officials are exploring the possibility of implementing a year-round education model. Still in the early stages, the idea could benefit students who have fallen behind in school, WBBH reports.

An Alachua County school received its third bomb threat of the year. The district has dealt with at least 17 such threats since classes resumed, the Gainesville Sun reports.

Taylor County schools have a new interim superintendent. Former district leader Paul Byal agreed to serve until the governor can replace Danny Glover, who is resigning, WCTV reports. Taylor has an elected superintendent.

Don’t sweat the debt. Tallahassee Community College students saw their school loans erased as the college put $6 million from its federal relief funds toward the expense, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

From the police blotter ... Two south Florida teachers were arrested for inappropriate sexual relationships with students, the Associated Press reports.

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

Before you go ... How about a little NASCAR history? Bubba Wallace became the first Black winner of the top flight race since 1963 (and second ever). Some highlights for you.

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