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Florida school districts seek new money sources to bolster employee pay

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
The Pinellas County school district has boosted its revenue with a local option property tax for several years. The Pasco County School Board is among others contemplating whether to follow the lead.
The Pinellas County school district has boosted its revenue with a local option property tax for several years. The Pasco County School Board is among others contemplating whether to follow the lead. [ CERRI, LARA | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Mar. 2|Updated Mar. 2

The big story: School districts across Florida have made no secret of their difficulties finding qualified applicants to fill their myriad employment vacancies, from bus drivers to teachers.

In several of the districts, officials have said low salaries play a critical factor. The state has provided some money to boost pay, they note, but that funding has been targeted toward some categories of workers but not others.

To become more competitive, the districts have turned to local property tax referendums as a way to collect more revenue for those wages. Pinellas and Hernando counties passed such a ballot initiative two years ago, for example. Additional school boards are thinking about jumping in next, including Hillsborough.

The Duval County School Board on Tuesday approved placing a tax question before voters in August, the Florida Times-Union reports. Sarasota County voters head to the polls next week to decide whether to extend their local property tax for schools, Florida Politics reports.

After years of resisting the idea, the Pasco County School Board also changed its tune on Tuesday. Members are considering a vote as early as this fall. Read the story here.

Tallahassee action

A bill to establish school board term limits advanced in the Senate. The measure also would require changes to the way books in schools are selected and challenged, Florida Politics reports. More from Florida Phoenix.

A proposal aimed at ensuring teachers don’t attempt to persuade or indoctrinate students on subjects such as race also cleared its final Senate committee. Democrats questioned the need for the Republican-sponsored bill, arguing it served a political rather than practical purpose, the News Service of Florida reports.

House and Senate leaders talked budget Tuesday night. The House agreed to add almost $500 million more to its education offer, but didn’t budge on its proposal to take $200 million from districts that imposed strict mask mandates in the fall, Florida Politics reports.

Today in Tallahassee ... Budget conference committees will meet as noticed throughout the day. • The House is scheduled to meet in full session beginning at 10 a.m. Among bills available for final adoption are HB 235 regarding the use of restraints on students with disabilities, and HB 1317 regarding student individual education plans. • The full Senate is set to convene at 10 a.m. On special order is SB 268 establishing “Victims of Communism Day” for Florida schools.

Hot topics

School board elections: Four-term Pasco County School Board member Allen Altman announced he will not seek reelection.

University president searches: The University of South Florida has two finalists for its vacancy. Many potential applicants did not follow through after interim leader Rhea Law announced her candidacy, the school’s search consultant said.

Superintendent turnover: The Alachua County School Board fired superintendent Carlee Simon effective immediately, Mainstreet Daily News reports. Simon became nationally known for her stance regarding the need for school masking during the pandemic. She had issued a statement the day before the action, calling the anticipated move retribution for standing against Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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Rising costs: The Monroe County School Board approved new property and casualty insurance that cost the district $400,000 more, Florida Keys Weekly reports.

From the police blotter ... A Pasco County middle school student was arrested on allegations of bringing a gun to school, WFLA reports.

From the court docket ... An Alachua County school district employee announced plans to sue the district for defamation, the Alachua Chronicle reports.

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

Before you go ... If you missed the Pasco County School Board meeting on Tuesday, you missed this performance of “The Glamourous Life” by Sunlake High School sophomore Isabel Ramos. The video comes from the district. Happy Arts Education Month.

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