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Florida education news: LGBTQ student rights, voter registration drives and that college merger bill

A roundup of stories from around the state.
A bill to merge Florida Polytechnic into the University of Florida keeps advancing, even as most lawmakers say they don't approve. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2018]

VOUCHER DEBATE: It will come as no surprise to anyone who follows Florida education policy even remotely that the pro-voucher Legislature advanced a pair of bills designed to expand the programs that help students pay for private schooling. But it didn’t happen without another fiery debate over whether the schools should be allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ youth. More from Florida Politics, Orlando Sentinel. • As the debate ensues, a new research paper has emerged saying the tax credit scholarship program hasn’t hurt the outcomes of students who remain in the public schools, Education Week reports.

SPEAKING OF LGBTQ STUDENT RIGHTS: There’s a Pasco County teacher who has flat out refused to use the names and pronouns of transgender students in his school. When he claimed that the district had given him a ‘religious exemption’ to do as he pleased, the local LGBTQ community protested. Now what?

COLLEGE MERGER: Very few state lawmakers like the House bill that would force New College and Florida Polytechnic to become part of the University of Florida. The Senate doesn’t even have a companion measure. So why does it keep moving?

IT’S OFFICIAL: Before he could become Hillsborough County’s new schools superintendent, Addison Davis had to resign his elected post in Clay County. Now he’s gone and done it.

JUST THE SUPERVISOR, PLEASE: The push is on to get high schoolers who are old enough to register to vote. But many Tampa Bay area schools aren’t interested in letting the nonpartisan registration drives on their campuses.

IT’S IN THE WATER: Dozens of Hernando and Pasco county students compete in what they liken to an olympiad on the environment.

PAY RAISES: Florida isn’t the only state talking about giving raises to teachers. A dozen other governors have made similar proposals, Education Week reports. • Several Indian River County school district employees have gone without raises since 2017. The district could soon end the drought, TC Palm reports.

RETIREMENT COSTS: A proposal requiring school districts to pay more into the state retirement fund has school district officials complaining that the Legislature would actually create deficits for schools while claiming to be bolstering their budgets, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. Millions of dollars hang in the balance.

SECURITY: After a week’s delay, the Senate advances legislation to require panic alarms in all public schools. A new version of the bill would make the implementation much less costly, Florida Politics reports.

HISTORY LESSONS: Some Jackson County residents say their district doesn’t provide nearly enough African-American history to students. They have a plan to it, WJHG reports.

SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH: The Flagler County School Board narrows its candidate field to four finalists, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. Do you know any of them? More from Flagler Live.

IN COURT: A former Palm Beach County high school assistant principal claimed he was fired for blowing the whistle on a sweet gym rental deal given to a local basketball team. Guess what the jury said. The Palm Beach Post reports.

SAFE SPACES: The St. Johns County school district has added 5,000 new hurricane shelter spaces to local schools, the St. Augustine Record reports.

TAX BATTLE: The city of Jacksonville appears poised to end its months-long dispute with the Duval County school district over placing a sales tax referendum before voters, the Florida Times-Union reports.

BAD ACTS: An Orange County school janitor is arrested on accusations he made videos of female students and a teacher using bathroom stalls, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

TODAY: Senate Rules meets at 9 a.m. to consider three pages’ worth of bills. Among them are SB 1696 on student athletes and SB 1634 on parental rights. • House Education meets at 9 a.m. to review six bills, including HB 23 on panic alarms, and a new committee bill on teacher training. • The full House gathers at 1:30 p.m. • The full Senate convenes at 3:30 p.m., with a couple of education bills on special order. They include SB 486 to eliminate Best and Brightest bonuses, and SB 434 to adjust the school grading formula.

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup