Education

Florida’s state universities are expected to return to pre-coronavirus operations during the upcoming school year, including at athletic and social events, top system officials said Wednesday.

An early evening news release signed by Syd Kitson, chairman of the university system’s Board of Governors, and Marshall Criser, chancellor of the system, said the 12 public universities “expect to increase classroom occupancy to pre-COVID capacity by the 2021-22 academic year and return to pre-COVID operations.

Clay County District Schools

Green Cove Springs Junior High Principal Jennifer Pryor Halter has been chosen by the Florida Department of Education as the state’s 2021 Principal of the Year.

Courtesy Christ the King School

Jacksonville’s Christ the King Catholic School is one of 40 schools nationwide to win the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Award. 

A measure that would create a public records exemption for university presidential candidates failed in the Florida Senate Tuesday. Since the measure would have changed the state’s public record laws, it needed a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

The bill would have shielded the identities of anyone applying for a job as a state university or college president. But it would have made the names of finalists public at least 21 days before any interviews or final decisions could happen.

JON SUPER / ASSOCIATED PRESS

With students learning from home during much of the coronavirus pandemic, the Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) district says many students have fallen behind academically. A new summer program aimed at bridging education gaps is now accepting applications.

Nearly a third of Florida’s more than 6,000 Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten providers are on probation and only about 53% of kids who attended kindergarten in 2019 were deemed ready for it. Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, believes that has to change and her proposal on early learning and VPK is now on its way to the governor's desk.

Florida's school choice programs are set to allow more students in and families will likely receive more money under plans approved by the legislature. There will also be fewer programs to choose from, a move supporters say streamlines the process and makes it easier for families to navigate.

Mark Wallheiser / Associated Press

This Friday, April 30, is the deadline for Florida parents to enroll their kids in a Florida Prepaid college plan. The program allows families to lock in the tuition price for a future college education; monthly payments can start as soon as a child is born.

Fla. House Signs Off On Tax 'Holidays'

Apr 26, 2021
BILL SIKES / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Without comment, the House has backed a tax package that would lead to holding sales-tax “holidays” on back-to-school supplies and hurricane gear and a “freedom week” related to entertainment and outdoor activities.

Michelle Corum/WJCT News

Parents and teachers have been pressing the state to give students a break from standardized testing, especially given quarantines and COVID-19 cases during the pandemic.

Fla. Waives Standardized Student Testing Rules For Promotion, Graduation Due To COVID

Apr 9, 2021
News Service of Florida

Answering the question of how the state would handle standardized testing this year, the Florida Department of Education issued an emergency order Friday waiving accountability measures tied to state exams. 

House Tries To Curb School Board Member Pay

Apr 2, 2021

Florida lawmakers are trying again to limit the salaries of local school board members. The idea is one that’s been tried before. Now a proposed constitutional amendment would ask voters to decide whether to keep paying locally elected officials who oversee the state’s public schools.

Clay County Republican Rep. Sam Garrison says the majority of school boards in the United State’s aren’t paid. In Florida, the average salary for a school board member is about $36,000.

More than 350-thousand people experience sudden cardiac arrest each year. Immediate CPR from a bystander can be the difference between life and death. Florida is one of only about a dozen states that doesn’t require its students to learn CPR before graduating.

Fla. Senate Weighs School, College Pandemic Concerns

Mar 30, 2021
Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale
News Service of Florida

In an effort to offset COVID-19’s impacts on Florida’s education system, a Senate committee Tuesday gave bipartisan support to a proposal that would shield public-school students from testing accountability this year and protect colleges and universities from lawsuits.

Fla. House, Senate Spending Plans Point To 'Lean Year' In Higher Ed

Mar 29, 2021
Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze
News Service of Florida

House and Senate budget leaders are eyeing cuts to higher education spending, but early recommendations would go about it in different ways.

Facing a budget shortfall of about $100 million, Hillsborough County Schools on Thursday discussed plans to eliminate more than a thousand jobs, or 7% of the staff.

The good news — officials say — is the proposed cut of 1,083 staff for the 2021-22 school year is about half what the Hillsborough County School Board anticipated back in January.

But Superintendent Addison Davis said these cuts won't be easy. And class sizes are likely to increase.

The number of students attending higher education institutions fell slightly between 2019 and 2020, continuing a decline that started even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an apparent victory for opponents, the Senate this week could drastically overhaul a controversial proposal aimed at reducing state Bright Futures scholarships for students in degree programs deemed unlikely to lead to jobs.

The measure (SB 86), sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, initially included a proposal that would have eliminated Bright Futures scholarships for students who didn’t pursue certain degrees. It was changed by Baxley last week to, in part, propose reducing scholarship amounts for students not seeking degrees on approved lists of programs.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing a $106 million civics education initiative for Florida's public schools, supporting civics literacy and education.

“I’m urging the Legislature to take up this proposal during the current legislative session, using the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund,” said the governor. “So the money’s there; we need to figure out the best way to use it.”

Speaking in Naples on Wednesday, DeSantis said his plan contains an incentive for teachers who earn a "Florida Civics Seal of Excellence" designation.

Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley’s plan to revamp the state’s bright futures scholarship program is moving again after a significant re-write of the bill. The proposal ties funding to academic programs the state determines lead to jobs, but instead of completely cutting off funding to students who don’t choose majors from a state approved list—the bill reduces the scholarships. Yet, even with the modifications, the bill is still drawing opposition.

House Panel Targets School Board Pay

Mar 12, 2021
DOUGLAS P PERKINS / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

After debating whether county school board members should be paid, and if ending salaries would threaten diversity on the boards, a House panel took a first step Friday toward letting voters decide the issue in 2022.

The Republican-controlled House Secondary Education & Career Development Subcommittee, in an 11-6 party-line vote, approved a measure (HJR 1461) that would place a proposed constitutional amendment on next year’s ballot about whether to continue paying school board members.

Florida’s Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) program has experienced enrollment declines in the past year, raising concerns about what the long-term effects might be for many young learners.

At the same time, the program is trying to deal with a performance assessment that shows almost half the students at the next level might not be getting the tools they need.

A controversial Senate proposal that would cut state-backed Bright Futures scholarships for students in degree programs that don’t “lead directly to employment” has been put on hold and is expected to undergo changes.

Sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, the bill (SB 86) would require the State Board of Education and the state university system’s Board of Governors to create lists of degree programs “that they determine lead directly to employment.” The two governing boards oversee higher education in the state.

USF To Fully Reopen This Fall

Mar 5, 2021

The University of South Florida is preparing to fully return to “pre-COVID” operations this fall.

President Steven Currall announced Wednesday that USF will see a transition through the summer where the number of in-person classes and student activities will significantly increase.

Douglas Anderson Cancels Race-Separated Student Diversity Meetings After Outcry

Mar 4, 2021
Douglas Anderson School of the Arts file photo
Bruce Lipsky / The Florida Times-Union

A school meeting that was supposed to focus on diversity and inclusion was billed as segregated, separating students of color from their white peers.

The Florida Department of Education has decided that the annual standardized tests in math, science and English will go ahead this spring, and be held in-person only, leaving some parents concerned about how remote learners will manage that safely as coronavirus infections continue to mount.

Kelly Spezzano, a Polk County mother of three, says parents are still juggling the added stress of the pandemic, along with difficulties that children have faced in remote learning, and concerns about the health and well-being of their extended families.

Florida State University will hold in-person commencement ceremonies for its spring graduates.

President John Thrasher has announced that the university will hold 11 smaller commencement ceremonies at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center over the course of two weekends – April 17-18 & 23-24. Thrasher will serve as the featured speaker at each ceremony.

Reversing course from a decision last year, a fiercely divided appeals court Wednesday said charter schools are entitled to a cut of tax dollars that Palm Beach County voters approved in 2018 for more-traditional public schools.

Nurses put the health, safety and wellness of their patients before their own. But the coronavirus pandemic is placing more stress and medical risks on frontline health care workers.

The University of South Florida’s College of Nursing this week launched an educational training program designed to help nurses protect their health as they treat COVID-19 patients.

The four-part webinar series, “Frontline Nursing During COVID-19: A New Paradigm,” provides nurses with the tools they need to advocate for their own safety and well-being during the pandemic.

Questions Raised About CARES Act Money Earmarked For Florida Schools

Feb 15, 2021
Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press

A Florida House panel looking at public-school funding is asking the state Department of Education for answers on how federal CARES Act money is being spent, and if those expenditures are tied to COVID-19 recovery.

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