Budget, school deregulation loom as Florida lawmakers head to home stretch

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
Key education issues remain in play as the Florida Legislature hits the halfway mark in its 2024 session.
Key education issues remain in play as the Florida Legislature hits the halfway mark in its 2024 session. [ GARY MCCULLOUGH | AP ]
Published Feb. 8|Updated Feb. 8

The big story: Florida’s annual legislative session has hit the halfway point, with some key education items still unsettled.

The two chambers tackle their primary responsibility of setting a budget this week, with the House set to adopt its version of a spending plan when it gathers at 2 p.m. The Senate, which convenes at 4 p.m., expects to take up the House proposals and offer some recommended changes as they seek agreement.

Currently, the bodies each are calling for a 2.5% increase in per-student funding, but they do not agree yet in areas such as teacher raises. More from News Service of Florida.

As committees wind down, they have not taken up as many high profile education bills as in past years. Still, some measures remain for the chambers to hash out, chief among them the Senate’s priority legislation to deregulate public schooling.

The Senate passed its three-bill package weeks ago, while the House continues to advance less expansive measures of its own. They do not agree on issues such as whether to eliminate high school graduation testing requirements, or charge a processing fee for library book challenges. Leaders from each chamber have said they are open to negotiation. More from USA Today Florida Network.

The session is set to conclude on March 8.

Today in Tallahassee ... The Senate Rules Committee will consider SB 1688 on career-themed courses when it meets at 8:30 a.m. • The House Appropriations Committee has four education-related bills on its agenda when it meets at 10:30 a.m. • The Senate Finance and Tax Committee will take up SB 820 on child care and early learning providers when it meets at 10:45 a.m. • The Senate Education Appropriations Committee will consider five bills when it meets at 4 p.m.

Hot topics

School board elections: The race for one Pasco School Board seat picked up a second challenger to the 14-year incumbent.

Sarasota scandal: Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler said she would not resign and would not discuss her personal life at a board meeting, while several residents clamored for her departure, the Herald-Tribune reports.

Parental rights: Miami-Dade County School Board members want state clarification on when schools must seek parental permission for participating in activities, WTVJ reports.

New schools: Manatee County is getting a new middle school, the Bradenton Herald reports. • Parents at Miami-Dade County’s iPrep Academy are mobilizing to revive plans for a new school and housing for teachers in a nearby park, the Miami Herald reports.

Hurricane aftermath: The Bay County school district has not used Everitt Middle School since it was damaged by Hurricane Michael. Now the district is ready to demolish the school, with no plans to reuse the site, WMBB reports.

Classroom instruction: Lee County residents clashed over the politics of what may be taught in schools, during competing protests outside a school board meeting, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

Certification: A former Duval County teacher is fighting to return to the classroom after losing her state license amid a civil rights dispute over her displaying a Black Lives Matter flag, WJXT reports. • A House committee advanced legislation that would bar teacher training programs from using instruction about “identity politics,” News Service of Florida reports.

Calendars: The Marion County school district is exploring the possibilities of using a year-round calendar for select schools, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

Book challenges: The Alachua County School Board reviewed revisions to its book challenge procedure, which include deletion of a school-level review, Main Street Daily News reports.

Artificial intelligence: One Palm Beach County high school is offering the school district’s only course on artificial intelligence, WPTV reports.

From the police blotter ... A Palm Beach County teacher was arrested on allegations of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, WPTV reports. • A Polk County teacher was arrested on accusations of sexual battery against a student, WKMG reports. • A Charlotte County middle school student was arrested on accusations of bringing a knife to school, WINK reports.

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

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