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Florida education news: DeSantis’ budget, alternative classrooms and betting for education

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Teacher Kate Newell watches seventh graders Aaron Roxberry and Jacob Iovino practice the slope-intercept formula in one of her weekly visits to their Bayonet Point Middle algebra class, which Newell usually teaches remotely. [JEFFREY SOLOCHEK | Times Staff]
Published Nov. 19

GOVERNOR’S BUDGET: Gov. Ron DeSantis unveils his $91.4 billion state budget proposal — a record high — including nearly $1 billion for teacher raises and bonuses. Education gets nearly all the extra money in the governor’s spending plan, as he aims to reverse Florida’s teacher shortage. See DeSantis’ plan here.

FILLING CLASSROOMS: Unable to hire certified teachers, and unwilling to turn to less qualified substitutes, some Pasco County schools turn to the district’s virtual school for Classrooms on Demand. Students attend classes on campus with instructional aides, but the teachers are mostly online, visiting just once or twice a week.

EARLY EDUCATION: Hillsborough County kindergartners show improvement in their fundamental skills after the school district increases its emphasis on preschool.

READING RETENTION: Florida third graders get another alternative assessment they can use to earn a good cause exemption to the state’s reading retention law.

NEW PRESIDENT: Damian Fernandez of the Pennsylvania State University system will succeed Donald Eastman as Eckerd College’s new president.

WANNA BET? State Sen. Jeff Brandes proposes legislation that would legalize sports betting, with the resulting revenue going toward education, Florida Politics reports.

VAPING: The Brevard County school district ponders joining the growing lawsuit against electronic cigarette maker Juul, Florida Today reports. The theory is that schools are having to spend their limited resources dealing with the vaping on campus.

CAMPAIGN TRAIL: A third candidate enters the race for a vacant Miami-Dade County School Board seat, Florida Politics reports. • A Manatee County parent prepares to challenge a sitting School Board member, saying the board’s self-proclaimed ‘watchdog’ doesn’t get the job done, the Bradenton Herald reports.

WATER WOES: An Okaloosa County elementary school shuts down for a day because of a broken water line, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

SCHOOL CHOICE: An Orange County six-year-old who was arrested in school weeks ago struggles to find a new school to attend, Fox 35 reports. • The Lee County School Board considers limiting the number of in-district transfers students may use, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

LAND SPECULATION: The Santa Rosa County school district begins acquiring properties for anticipated new schools, the Pensacola News-Journal reports. • The Sarasota County school district is contemplating purchase of two sites for future schools, the Herald-Tribune reports.

MARION COUNTY MESS: Marion County’s safe schools director tells the superintendent’s lawyer to stop interfering with School Board meetings or risk a misdemeanor arrest, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. The superintendent had asked her lawyer to represent her at meetings.

LEGAL COUNSEL: The Brevard County School Board selects three finalists for its board attorney post, Space Coast Daily reports.

STUDENTS WITH GUNS: Two St. Lucie County high school students are arrested on allegations they had a gun on a school bus, the Palm Beach Post reports.

BAD ACTS: A Sarasota County middle school teacher is arrested on accusations of inappropriately touching students, WFLA reports.

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup


  1. Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Adam's fight over school restrooms came before a federal appeals court Thursday, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High in Ponte Vedra, Fla., won a lower court ruling last year ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. The district has since appealed. RON HARRIS  |  AP
    The closely watched case of Drew Adams, once a high school student in Florida, is heard by a three-judge panel in Atlanta.
  2. Representatives from the United School Employees of Pasco, on the left, present their latest pay request to the district's bargaining team during talks on Oct. 24, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    Teachers have yet to reach a deal on their contract.
  3. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. It has met just once more since then. The Florida Channel
    Lawmakers have yet to set an aggressive agenda beyond talk of teacher pay as the 2020 legislative session nears.
  4. FILE - In a Monday, Dec. 11, 2017 file photo, transgender teen Drew Adams, left, leaves the U. S. Courthouse with his mother Erica Adams Kasper after the first day of his trial about bathroom rights at Nease High School, in Jacksonville, Fla. The transgender student's fight over school bathrooms comes before a federal appeals court Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Drew Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, won a lower court ruling in 2018 ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. (Will Dickey/The Florida Times-Union via AP, File) WILL DICKEY  |  AP
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  5. A bird's-eye view of USF St. Petersburg, which this week announced a new member of the Campus Board. She is Melissa Seixas, a Duke Energy executive who earned her master's degree at USF.
    News and notes about K-12 schools and colleges in Pinellas County.
  6. An LGBTQ Pride march participant walks under a large rainbow flag in New York earlier this year. School Board policy regarding LGBTQ students has been a frequent topic of discussion in recent months in Pasco County. CRAIG RUTTLE  |  AP
    The discourse is more civil and respectful, two weeks after a session that many deemed hate-filled and vile.
  7. The Florida Legislature so far has has left Gov. Ron DeSantis to set most education policy priorities for 2020.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  8. "Miss Virginia," a film about school choice, will be screened at the Tampa Theatre on Dec. 10.
    “Miss Virginia” will be playing at the Tampa Theater on Tuesday.
  9. Florida Senator Tom Lee, R- Thonotosassa. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES
    The Senate Education Committee will tackle some high-profile issues in its final meeting before session.
  10. Jennifer Dixon, Pasco County's 2020 Teacher of the Year, thanks her students for making her job 'the job that I love.' JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    Jennifer Dixon ‘lives and breathes teaching,’ her principal says.