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Is there academic freedom at Florida’s universities?

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
University of Florida president W. Kent Fuchs celebrates that the school was ranked a Top 5 public university by U.S. News & World Report. Two months later, the school is being investigated by its accrediting agency over accusations of undue political influence.
University of Florida president W. Kent Fuchs celebrates that the school was ranked a Top 5 public university by U.S. News & World Report. Two months later, the school is being investigated by its accrediting agency over accusations of undue political influence. [ The Florida Channel ]
Published Nov. 2, 2021|Updated Nov. 2, 2021

Universities are supposed to be places that encourage independent thought and learning. Florida lawmakers have made that clear in their insistence that campuses welcome all viewpoints and accept intellectual freedom. Yet that independence has come into question at the University of Florida, where politics seems to have interfered. Read on for the latest on that story and more Florida education news.

The University of Florida came under fire for preventing three professors from testifying in a voters’ rights lawsuit against the state. The school’s accrediting agency opened an investigation into whether undue political influence interfered with faculty academic freedoms.

Hot topics

Teacher shortage: Florida Education Association leaders say the number of teaching vacancies statewide has grown during the year to 5,100, WKMG reports. • Broward County schools can’t find enough substitutes to fill in, either, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Teacher pay: Manatee County voters head to the polls today to consider extending a local-option property tax that boosts teacher salaries, the Bradenton Herald reports. Criticism of the tax has grown in the community, Florida Politics reports.

Parent activism: Former Brevard County School Board member Tina Descovich explains the role of Moms For Liberty, a group she helped create that is gaining a national foothold, The 74 reports.

Cafeteria choices: Schools across the Tampa Bay region are working to find alternatives to meal options that have grown scarce, WFTS reports.

Race relations: Some Nassau County parents are outraged that Black students were suspended over an altercation with white students who made a racist video, while the white students were not disciplined, Yahoo News reports. More from The Hill.

Mask mandates

The Duval County school district lifted its mask mandate. It’s unclear whether the district will continue to face state sanctions over its policies, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Broward County schools also eased their mask requirement. Masks remained prevalent in the hallways, WPLG reports.

Miami-Dade County schools relaxed their rules for middle and high school students. Officials cited declining virus cases and hospitalizations as the rationale, WTVJ reports. More from WLRN.

The Department of Education warned districts to follow state law or face “consequences,” after an appellate court criticized Alachua and Duval for their refusal to comply with mask rules. The court did not issue a ruling, but its message was clear as it sent the case before it to lower panels for consideration. Read the court document here.

Other school news

Florida vouchers are becoming more widespread. For the first time, more than half of the state’s private school students reported using a state-supported scholarship, reimaginED reports.

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The Broward County School Board announced its national search for a permanent superintendent. Interim leader Vickie Cartwright will be allowed to apply, the Miami Herald reports.

The Palm Beach County school district faces a calendar conundrum. Officials are discussing whether to hold semester exams before or after winter break, the Palm Beach Post reports.

More details are emerging about the Duval County school teacher of the year charged with child abuse. Police reports offer more insight into the incident, including witness statements, the Florida Times-Union reports. The teacher declined to comment further, WJXT reports.

Today in Tallahassee ... The House Education Committee will discuss a new reading initiative when it meets at 9 a.m. • The Senate Education Committee will consider six bills when it convenes at 12:30 p.m.

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

Before you go ... Nearly 40 years later, there’s a Ghostbusters sequel. Are you ready for this?

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