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Florida education news: Prekindergarten changes, debate lessons and a mandated moment of silence

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Florida lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at improving the outcomes of the state's prekindergarten program. Some critics suggest the proposed solutions, such as added testing, go too far.
Florida lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at improving the outcomes of the state's prekindergarten program. Some critics suggest the proposed solutions, such as added testing, go too far.
Published Jan. 28

EARLY EDUCATION: Florida’s prekindergarten programs lately have come under fire because many children arrive in kindergarten still unprepared for what lies ahead. Gov. Ron DeSantis has demanded improvement. And state lawmakers are poised to deliver. But the legislation that they’re advancing also has stirred criticism, as it calls for more testing and for A-F grading of preschools.

TAKING SIDES: DeSantis also has made clear his desire to boost civics participation in schools. Toward that end, he has unveiled a new initiative to expand debate and speech programs, complete with participation in a national competition. The funding comes from one of the governor’s major donors. See also video of the governor’s press conference.

STOP FIGHTING: Pasco County’s Fivay High School expands its security efforts in an ongoing attempt to curtail student fighting, which has plagued the campus much of the year.

TIME TO REFLECT: Florida schools currently may provide moments of silence for students. Some state lawmakers want to mandate at least a minute at the start of each class day. The bill is moving in the Senate, despite some concerns, Florida Politics reports.

BOOK BAN: A group of parents has demanded the removal of a novel that includes bisexuality from Palm Beach County schools. Sun-Sentinel readers say they oppose such action as censorship.

HEADING OUT: Outgoing Hillsborough County chief of schools Harrison Peters says he’ll stay at his next job, superintendent of Providence (R.I.) schools, as long as the district will keep him, the Providence Journal reports. Peters was in Rhode Island on Monday to accept the post in the struggling district, Associated Press reports.

ENERGIZED: Hundreds of Polk County teachers plan to attend their district School Board meeting to demand better pay and work conditions, the Ledger reports. Polk teachers made up one of the largest contingents at a recent rally in Tallahassee, and gained special attention after getting a letter that seemed to threaten their jobs for attending. The superintendent later apologized.

STUDENT-ATHLETE SAFETY: A bill to provide added protections from heat stroke and other related but preventable ailments at high school athletic events advances in its first state Senate stop, the Associated Press reports. The issue has been a state House priority.

FIX IT: Broward County School Board members demand improvements in the district’s maintenance department after a blistering report of problems that have existed for years, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: A reluctant Leon County School Board appears ready to adopt a medical marijuana usage policy as required by state law, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

ON HOLD: A controversial bill to push the Duval County school district toward electing its superintendent is delayed after its sponsor says he will not attend the committee meeting where the legislation is scheduled to be heard, Florida Politics reports.

TOP TEACHERS: Three Alachua County finalists will learn who is the district’s teacher of the year on Thursday, the Gainesville Sun reports.

TAX BATTLE: A court hearing in Duval County’s ongoing struggle to determine which agency may call a school district tax referendum is canceled as the sides try to move toward an agreement on other fronts, the Florida Times-Union reports.

NOTHING TO BRAG ABOUT: In her latest book, education historian Diane Ravitch, a primary critic of test-based accountability, blasts Florida’s role in the education reform movement, WLRN reports.

SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH: Flagler County’s call for applicants generates just half the number of hopefuls that applied when the post came open three years ago, Flagler Live reports.

PREVENTIVE MEASURES: A private Palm Beach County school has students and teachers stay at home after attending an event where they might have been exposed to a student from China who is being tested for coronavirus, WPTV reports.

TODAY: Senate Education Appropriations, 8:30 a.m. • House Higher Education Appropriations, 3:30 p.m. • House PreK-12 Innovation, 3:30 p.m. • Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs, 4 p.m. (SB 1218, Anti-bullying and Anti-harassment in schools)

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup


  1. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D- Orlando  [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  2. More than 100 people turned out Jan. 15, 2019, to give the Pasco County School Board their thoughts on the district's policy and procedures for transgender student rights. [JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK  |  Times]
  3. Hudson High student Kaitlyn Helzer introduces herself to a curious corn snake during the Nature Coast Envirothon, held Feb. 19 at Dade Battlefield Historic State Park in Sumter County. Students from Pasco, Hernando, Sumter and Citrus counties tested their knowledge on aquatics, forestry, soils and wildlife while vying for a spot at state competition. [MICHELE MILLER  |  Times]
  4. Incoming Superintendent Addison Davis (center) and School Board Chair Melissa Snively (right) sign Davis' contract with the Hillsborough County School District after it was unanimously approved by the school board on February 18, 2020. [JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ  |  Times]
  5. Teacher Dequita Parker guides youngsters to lunch from the playground Sept. 20 at the PromiseLand Early Childhood Education Center in Tampa.
  6. Associate professor of biology Caitlin Gille leads the Pasco-Hernando State College faculty union, which challenged the school's public comment rules.  (Photo Courtesy of Caitlin Gille)
  7. Sen. Audrey Gibson, leader of the Florida Senate Democrats, introduces a bill in January to refocus the $900 million proposed for teacher pay into salaries for all public school employees. It's just one of many ideas still floating around Tallahassee relating to educator raises. [The Florida Channel]
  8. A small group of students were rushed inside a bus at dismissal at AMIKids on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020 in Pinellas Park.  [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
  9. School employees Jarvis Delon West, left, and Dontae Antonio Thomas, right, were both arrested in connection with the assault and injury of a 12-year-old boy who attended AMIkids in Pinellas Park. The state shut the school down. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
  10. First Lady Casey DeSantis talks with students during the Hope for Healing a mental and substance abuse initiative held Roland Park K-8 School in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, May 16, 2019. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said state officials worked closely with DeSantis to craft the new rule. OCTAVIO JONES | Times
  11. In this Feb. 14, 2018, photo, students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland after a shooter opened fire on the campus. [MIKE STOCKER  |  AP]
  12. Pinellas County School Board member Carol Cook, left, celebrates her reelection to her fifth term in 2016. If ultimately approved, a term limits proposal would force Florida's school board members out after two consecutive terms.