Political relations review keeps Florida Department of Education in spotlight

The big story: It was a big deal five years ago when the Florida Department of Education insisted that the struggling Jefferson County’s tiny school district be taken over by a charter school operator. Nothing like this had been done before in the state, and the move caught the attention of education advocates and activists.

The experiment did not go very well, with students in the district still performing poorly in annual exams. Some state officials have therefore proposed changing the way things work in the school system. Their move raised new eyebrows, however, as some officials tried to hand the job over to a single consultancy, while others aimed to win the contract for themselves.

Now the whole matter is being reviewed by the governor’s office, at the insistence of some lawmakers. Read on for the final chapter in this ongoing story.

Superintendent Searches

The Pinellas School Board wants to take its time choosing a replacement for Mike Grego who is retiring. He does not intend to wait until after the fall elections to make a selection, as some residents have requested. Council is holding a research business meeting at 1:30 p.m. today.

The Miami-Dade County School Board has accelerated its process to select a new leader. He interviewed three candidates on Monday and chose longtime insider José Dotres, the Miami Herald reports.

The Lee County School Board has narrowed its list of finalists to three candidates. He will conduct interviews with the three next week, the Fort Myers News Press reports.

More Tallahassee news

The story of lawmakers’ proposal to block elementary schools from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation has gone viral. Several organizations refer to it as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, including The Guardian. More of the Orlando Sentinel. • On the local front, the Palm Beach County Superintendent invited LGBTQ students to talk with him about how to improve their experiences in schools, reports WPTV.

The head of the Florida Teachers’ Association is questioning Governor Ron DeSantis’ claims that Florida is the freest state in the nation. “The question has to be, ‘Freest state for whom?'” FEA chairman Andrew Spar told WFSU.

Many school districts use local tax referendums to increase their budgets. The Florida House has proposed legislation requiring such initiatives to be listed only on general election ballots, Florida politics reports.

An effort to oversee books on school shelves is moving to the state Senate. The Education Committee will consider legislation (SB 1300) similar to that which began moving forward in the House last week. Unlike the House, the Senate version seeks to reduce the salary of school board members to that of a legislator, rather than eliminate it. Meet at 10 a.m.

Also today in Tallahassee: The House Early Learning and Elementary Education Subcommittee is meeting at 9 a.m. when it will discuss school safety legislation. • The House Subcommittee on Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning meets at 1 p.m., where it will consider a bill on requirements for the Bright Futures Scholarship Service. • The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 3:30 p.m. to consider several local appropriations bills.

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Coronavirus concerns

Sarasota County schools became the latest to stop contact tracing. Instead, the district will notify families of the daily number of cases at schools, the Herald Tribune reports.

Five Palm Beach County teachers have been sent home for refusing to wear masks. They could face disciplinary action for violating district policy mandating adult face coverings, the Palm Beach Post reports.

A family has accused the Brevard County School District of abusing their daughter with Down syndrome by forcing her to wear a mask. The state’s attorney found no foul play in the case that Governor Ron DeSantis and others often cite when attacking the school’s mask policies, WKMG reports.

Other school news

The Pinellas County School District has announced its Teacher of the Year finalists. The winner will be announced on Wednesday.

The teacher shortage extends to pre-kindergarten programs. The Palm Beach County Early Learning Coalition will offer financial support to help train new ones, WPTV reports.

University of Florida students did not receive federal COVID-19 relief for the spring semester. Some fear this will affect their ability to pay for tuition, Independent Alligator reports.

Never miss a story: Yesterday’s roundup is just a click away.

Before you leave … Is anyone else a sucker for a really good remake of an iconic song? No doubt extinguished Do not talk a dozen years ago, and he seemed untouchable. But what about this (relatively) new take on Postmodern Jukebox?

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