Funding up but so are districts’ budget concerns, new law targets foreign influence, and more

School funding worries: Gov. Ron DeSantis has boasted that the $100 billion state budget he just signed has a record $22.8 billion for K-12 education. But there is little rejoicing at state school districts, with many saying they’ll have to make cuts to balance their budgets. Because enrollments are generally down, so is the amount of money going to districts from the state. A reserve fund of $464 million was created by the Legislature to provide funding to districts who add enrollment over their projections, but that pot of money is also being used to cover the costs of scholarships for an estimated 60,000 more state students to attend private schools. The Legislature also lowered the amount of funding it’s providing for districts to comply with class-size requirements, meaning the districts have to make up the difference. And districts are also being required to increase their payments into the state retirement system. Tampa Bay Times. One bit of good financial news is that the state’s general tax revenues came in $797 million over projections for April. It’s the ninth straight moment revenues exceeded estimates. News Service of Florida.

Targeting foreign influence: Gov. DeSantis signed a bill Monday that requires state colleges and universities to report donations or gifts of $50,000 or more from China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria and Venezuela, which he called “foreign countries of concern,” twice a year. Colleges that failure to do so will to have to pay the state 105 percent of the value of the gift. “If you look right now, there is no single entity that exercises a more pervasive nefarious influence across a wide range of American industries and institutions than the Communist Party of China,” DeSantis said. “Academia is permeated with its influence.” News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. USA Today Network. Florida Politics. WJXT.

Around the state: The Palm Beach County School District wants to hire 369 teachers to help students who struggled during the pandemic, Orange County school officials want to raise impact fees despite a new state law restricting how much and how often they can be increased, the first transgender female athlete to play a sport under the FHSAA’s gender inclusion program speaks out against the new law banning transgender girls from playing high school and college women’s sports, Brevard’s school district said it will have to cut $16 million to balance its budget, and distribution of a Broward high school yearbook is halted because it contains two pages dedicated to Black Lives Matter coverage. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward, south Florida: The first transgender student to play sports after the Florida High School Athletic Association’s gender inclusion process was adopted in 2013 says the new state law banning transgender females from playing high school and college women’s sports is “heartbreaking.” Jazz Jennings, who played tennis in high school, said, “To take that experience away because of who you are and your identity — something you can’t control — is completely unfair.” Florida has been one of 16 states where high school athletic associations have provided guidance to allow transgender students to play with the teams that align with their gender identity. The new law changing that guidance takes effect July 1. Sun Sentinel. West Broward High School students were told they had to stop distributing and selling the yearbook because it contained two pages showing students participating in the Black Lives Matter movement and a list of names of people who have been killed by police. Elise Twitchell, the co-editor in chief, said she was told by school officials that the coverage wasn’t objective because it included no mention of the Blue Lives Matter movement. WPLG.

Hillsborough, Pinellas: The Hillsborough and Pinellas school districts are collaborating with health officials to offer vaccination shots to all students over the age of 12. Clinics will be held from 3-9 Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at seven Hillsborough high schools. No appointments are needed. Clinics will be held June 22, 23 and 24 at three Pinellas high schools. Appointments are required. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: Despite a new state law that limits the amount governments can raise impact fees for schools, transportation and more, the school board still hopes to boost those fees now. Today, board members will discuss their options. The district received about $69 million in impact fees this school year, but projects it will lose up to $12 million because of the law, which allows fees to be raised only once every four years, and less than 50 percent. Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: District officials are proposing to hire 369 teachers, at a cost of $31 million, to provide extra support for students who struggled during the pandemic. The plan is to add 206 teachers for 1st- and 2nd-grade reading, 93 to help with middle school math and reading, and 70 teachers to help prep high school students who need higher SAT and ACT scores to meet new state graduation standards. “We have a moment in time where we are almost held harmless, so let’s put the resources and the people where it needs to happen,” Superintendent Donald Fennoy told the school board. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: The NFL Jacksonville Jaguars are donating sports uniforms for the three middle schools and one high school that are being renamed. The cost for  home varsity and junior varsity uniforms for 13 sports will be $224,143. The donation covers football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, swimming, track, golf, volleyball, cheerleading, tennis, wrestling and cross country for J.E.B. Stuart Middle (becoming Westside Middle), Jefferson Davis Middle (to be Charger Academy), Kirby Smith Middle (to be Springfield Middle) and Robert E. Lee High (to be Riverside High). Florida Times-Union.

Brevard: The school district’s financial outlook has improved since February, when a decline of $20.7 million was projected because of lower enrollment. But there’s still a $16 million gap, said chief financial officer Cindy Lesinski. The district plans to save money by hiring fewer teachers and spending less on equipment and supplies. But Superintendent Mark Mullins said the trend of declining budgets is troubling. Over the past six years, the budget has fallen by $38 million. “It’s not a sustainable process,” he said. “We’re getting to the bottom of the barrel in terms of trimming reserves and trimming budgets to our departments.” Florida Today. A summer camp in Cocoa hosted by the University of Florida will focus on practical life skills, such as budgeting, interviewing for a job, sewing to repair clothing, cooking and checking the oil in a car. It’s called Adulting: Are You Ready? “We came up with the idea, partly from other states that we heard of who had similar programs, but, basically, we understand that the youth of today are leaving home without some of the skills that are really necessary to help them be successful, because it’s not in the schools anymore,” said Gayle Whitworth, an instructor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences extension facility in Cocoa. Florida Today.

Collier: A discussion at Monday’s school board meeting over the content of textbooks got heated and led to the ejection of at least one person. Parents contended that the district’s textbooks teach critical race theory and that the school district is pushing a liberal agenda on students. School officials denied the accusations. WINK. What exactly is critical race theory? USA Today. Associated Press. The Immokalee Community School is expanding and changing its name. Renamed the Immokalee Community Academy, the K-6 charter school will add 7th grade next year and 8th grade the following year. More than 250 children attend the school, which will continue to offer its dual-language program through middle school. Naples Daily News.

Lake: The expected surge in the number of students attending summer school has driven up the demand for school bus drivers to get the students to schools. Lake County needs 22 drivers right now, almost double the usual number of vacancies going into the summer. Spectrum News 13.

St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: School districts on the Treasure Coast say goodbye to a year filled with COVID-19, quarantines, face masks, remote learning and canceled activities. TCPalm.

Leon: Leon High School principal Billy Epting is leaving his job to become the district’s director of elementary schools, Superintendent Rocky Hanna announced Monday. Epting will be replaced by Michael Bryan, who has been the principal at Kate Sullivan Elementary School. Five other schools are also getting new principals. Tallahassee Democrat.

Hendry: The Clewiston principal who was filmed paddling a student at Central Elementary School has filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office against the child’s mother, claiming she filmed the punishment illegally. Melissa Carter’s attorney said in Florida, it’s illegal to record someone’s voice without their approval. WFTX. WINK.

Monroe: Christina McPherson, a longtime principal for the school district who has most recently been at Key West High School, will assume a new role as executive director of teaching and learning. She replaces Fran Herrin, who is returning to a principal’s job at Gerald Adams Elementary in Key West. Key West Citizen.

Colleges and universities: Electric scooters are now available for rent at the University of Florida in a pilot program that will last a year. About 600 scooters will eventually be available. Gainesville Sun. WUFT. Faculty, administrators and staff at Florida A&M University are getting $2,000 bonuses, school officials announced Monday. WTXL.

Listening tour: Few people have attended the “listening tour” meetings the state has held around the state to get feedback on the proposed new academic standards for civics education and other subjects. Lare Allen, president of the Osceola teachers union, said only about 15 people attended the stop in Osceola, and only three people made public comments. “It was over quickly,” he said. The final public hearing is Wednesday in Baker County. Thursday, the state Board of Education will consider a rule proposed by the Department of Education to ban teachers from defining American history as “something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.” Teachers also will be forbidden to “share their personal views or attempt to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view.” Florida Phoenix. Miami Herald.

Automatic promotion: Florida and Mississippi are the only states that decided, because of the pandemic, not to automatically retain 3rd-graders who failed reading assessments. “I feel like the trauma of being in a global pandemic is big for many of our children, and the idea of possible retention because of a test just would add another level of trauma during a time when there’s already so much trauma for children,” said Franki Sibberson, a retired 3rd-grade teacher and a former president of the National Council of Teachers on English. Pew Charitable Trusts. Education Week.

Opinions on schools: A Tyton Partners survey found 15 percent of parents made shifts in their child’s schooling situation this past fall because of the pandemic. More change is likely on the way for this fall. In the medium to long term, the most significant change likely will be the availability of entirely new sectors and methods of education. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Florida has done more to end educational “systemic privilege” than any other state. And its students are greatly benefitting. William Mattox, RealClear Policy. It is disappointing to see the Palm Beach County School Board give in to shrill sensationalism and bad-faith arguments by removing the phrase “white advantage” from the district’s equity statement. In doing so, the board is defying its duty to best represent all the children of Palm Beach County and the future of our community. Austin C. Yenne, Sun Sentinel.

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