Anti-Semitism bill passes, new scholarship bill vote, budget, impact fees and more

Anti-Semitism bill passes: The Florida Senate unanimously approves a bill banning anti-Semitism in Florida’s public schools and universities, and it now heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature. The bill defines anti-Semitic speech as expressing hatred of Jews, criticizing the power of the Jewish community or accusing Jewish people or Israel of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust. It also requires public schools to treat discrimination against Jewish people the same way as they do acts of racial discrimination. Associated Press. GateHouse. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Politics.

New scholarship: The Florida House is ready to vote on an education bill that would create a new scholarship program funded by tax money to send students to private schools, expand the areas where Schools of Hope charter schools could open, and revise the Best and Brightest educator bonuses program. On Monday, Republicans turned aside two-dozen amendments proposed by Democrats, who argue that sending tax money to religious schools violates the state’s constitution. Up to 15,000 students could receive Family Empowerment Scholarships, and while the bill prioritizes students from lower-income families, it also widens income eligibility. The House could take a final vote today. The Senate approved the bill last week. News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. Politico Florida.

Education budget: The Senate and House agreement on the education portion of the state budget includes a per-student funding increase of $248. Of that, $75 is for the base-student allocation, which is money that districts can spend in any way they choose. Last year the per-student funding was increase by $101, but after state spending requirements the districts had just 47 cents left over to spend as they chose. Tampa Bay area school officials say they welcome the extra money. “It’s obviously moving in the right direction,” said Pinellas Superintendent Michael Grego, who said his schools would receive about $7.3 million extra. Tampa Bay Times.

School impact fees: The House approves a bill that would limit the ability of school districts to increase school impact fees. The bill would limit any increase in fees from new construction to 5 percent in a two-year period. The provision was tacked onto a bill that would limit the ability of local governments to ban plastic straws and sets new age restrictions on tobacco purchases. Gradebook.

Arming teachers: After the Florida Senate voted last week to allow districts to arm willing teachers in schools, Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings introduced a bill that would forbid the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from using counterterrorism money to provide weapons for teachers. Florida Politics.

Teacher diversity: Diversity among teachers in Florida remains a problem, according to a recent report from the Florida Department of Education. The number of female teachers in many south Florida school districts remains above 70 percent, which mirrors the numbers in the United States as a whole. And about 80 percent of those teachers are white, according to the DOE. WPTV.

Superintendent’s job: Lee County School Board member Melisa Giovannelli is calling on the board to fire Superintendent Greg Adkins at its May 7 meeting. Giovannelli recently gave Adkins an evaluation rating of “unsatisfactory,” while fellow board members Gwyn Gittens and Betsy Vaughn said he “needs improvement.” Three other board members rated Adkins as highly effective, and the seventh said he was effective. Adkins has been superintendent since 2015. Fort Myers News-Press.

Charter school renewal: Lake County School Board members delay a request from a charter school to renew its contract, saying they still haven’t seen a written plan of action for next year. Questions about the Altoona School’s finances were raised in a March board meeting, and still haven’t been answered to the board’s satisfaction. A vote on the renewal was pushed to the June 10 meeting, which is just 20 days before the school’s contract expires. Daily Commercial.

Evaluation changes: The Pasco County School District is changing the teacher evaluation form’s ethical conduct portion after hearing complaints from teachers. Highly effective teachers must “always” act ethically in the classroom, according to the guidelines, while effective ones are called on to “consistently” be ethical. Some teachers pointed out there is no difference between the definitions, and the district has decided to grade teachers on that point as either meeting or not meeting expectations. Gradebook.

Hurricane help: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is sending $22.5 million to the Bay County School District for emergency protective measures and debris removal from Hurricane Michael. The money will also help pay for emergency repairs, temporary day-care centers that were set up, security and mold and water remediation. WMBB.

MRSA in schools: A third Palm Beach County school, Jupiter Elementary, has been scrubbed down after confirmation that a person with the MRSA infection has visited the school occasionally. Others that have been deep-cleaned are Suncoast Community High School in Riviera Beach and William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens. WPEC. Palm Beach Post.

Measles outbreak simulation: If immunizations of Florida 7th-graders dropped by 10 percent and a student with measles went to school in the Orlando area, he or she could infect 119 other students over 266 days, according to a simulation produced by researchers at the University of South Florida and the University of Pittsburgh. Seventy-two of those cases would be students who weren’t vaccinated. The number of measles cases in the United States just hit a 25-year high, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and researchers worry that the growing number of vaccination exemptions claimed by parents will lead to a widespread outbreak. Orlando Sentinel.

Rally for raises: Teachers in Palm Beach County will rally today for higher pay, and against a bill moving through the Legislature that would require school districts to share extra money they receive from voter-approved tax hikes. WPTV.

High school rankings: Pine View High School in Sarasota remains the top-rated high school in the state and is ranked 15th in the nation, according to the annual rankings by U.S. News and World Report. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post.

AVID program: Alachua County school officials say the AVID (Advanced via Individual Determination) class has worked well in closing the achievement gap at Mebane and Westwood Middle schools this year, and they will expand it to other schools in the district next fall. Gainesville Sun.

Bus-tracking app: The Collier County School District releases an app that allows parents to track their child’s school bus. Naples Daily News.

Students arrested: An Indian River County student is detained by deputies after allegedly making threats on social media against Vero Beach High School. TCPalm. A 15-year-old Citrus County student is arrested and accused of making a bomb threat against the Renaissance School, which is for students with disciplinary or behavioral problems. Citrus County Chronicle.

Opinions on schools: Craig Barrett, former CEO and president of Intel, has noted a need for “tension in the system” or “good strife” for K-12 education. No one should be a captive audience to any service provider by this way of thinking, Barrett said, up to and including government. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Voters’ approval of the One Mill for Schools is paying off in a big way in Alachua County. Pamela Korithoski, Gainesville Sun. In a recent article on, Chad Alderman of Bellweather Education Partners said that on a national level there are signals that the teacher shortage may be abating. That’s not the case in Florida. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: A new sewing club at Belle Terre Elementary School is making pet beds for the Flagler Humane Society. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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