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Lawmakers, districts set education priorities amid pandemic. They don't always agree

Lawmakers, districts set education priorities amid pandemic. They don’t always agree

Florida’s schools remain in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic, nearly a year after state officials first called for campus closures and canceled spring testing. Many struggles continue. Local school officials and education groups have raised hopes that state lawmakers will prioritize schooling issues — whether financial, social or academic — during the legislative session that starts March 2. Those priorities affect much of the Legislature’s work on the next budget because education constitutes roughly one-third of the state’s total spending annually. More from the Miam Herald and the Tampa Bay Times.

Public safety commission says Florida making progress on school safety

Florida schools are significantly safer today according to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission established in the aftermath of the parkland shooting, where since 17 lives were lost. The commission met Wednesday and was told most districts, but not all, have made great strides. More than 3,000 law enforcement officers and 1,300 armed guardians are assigned to 3,700 Florida public schools. A total of 44 districts have utilized armed school staff through the guardian program. [Source: WCJB]

Florida lawmakers look at ‘education savings accounts’

With the 2021 legislative session set to begin next week, Florida lawmakers could further broaden the state’s school-choice landscape with what are called “education savings accounts.” Lawmakers are considering a far-reaching proposal (SB 48) that would expand eligibility for voucher programs and allow parents to use taxpayer-backed education savings accounts for private schools and other costs. [Source: CBS Miiami]

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Editor's page: Reshaping teaching

The reasons for falling undergraduate enrollment are not exactly a mystery — teaching is less attractive because of low pay, poor working conditions, district-level bureaucracy and better vocational alternatives for good students. In addition, those who want to teach no longer need to jump through the ed school hoop to get a job. The state — needing to get warm bodies in front of classrooms — has established alternate paths to getting a teaching certificate that don’t require an education degree. [Source: Florida Trend]

Florida bill would limit college aid for degrees that don’t lead to jobs

State financial aid for college would be based on whether a student’s course of study is likely to result in a job after graduation, under a bill filed Tuesday in the Florida Legislature. The bill, SB 86, was filed by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala. It would require the Board of Governors and the State Board of Education to approve a list of career certificate, undergraduate and graduate degree programs that lead directly to employment. The list would be updated every year. And students in programs not on the list would receive less aid, a maximum of 60 credit hours instead of the 120 hours typically needed for a bachelor’s degree. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]

ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:

› Short on special education teachers, Hillsborough plucks from other fields
Exceptional student education, or ESE, is a broad range of specialties where school systems always have a large demand. This year is no different. Even as Hillsborough tries to trim its workforce to save money, administrators are trying to build their bench of caring professionals to meet the needs of more than 30,000 students.

› Miami Dade College enrollment bouncing back
As students adjust to new campus protocols, Miami Dade College has seen an increase in enrollment, narrowing its gap to a 7% total decline from pre-covid days compared to 12% last fall. MDC’s Wolfson Campus downtown has been focused on supporting students holistically when it comes to mental health, financial planning and public health benefits, said Beatriz González, the campus president.

› USF, Tampa Bay Lightning and Jabil launch business certificate program focusing on workplace diversity, equity and inclusion
Three power players in the Tampa Bay business community have joined together to educate business and community leaders on the essential practices and tools designed to increase employee diversity and to create a sustainable business model that embraces equity and inclusion. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Jabil Inc. have partnered with the University of South Florida Muma College of Business to offer a free, seven-week certificate program that will focus on ways organizations can create a more diverse workplace as well as address equity issues and foster inclusivity.

› No volunteering needed for Broward Class of 2021
Broward’s high school seniors can focus on studying rather than volunteering during their final weeks of school. For the past two decades, the school district, in an effort to make students more well-rounded and civic-minded, has required them to complete 40 hours of community service to get a high school diploma. But COVID-19 has limited many face-to-face opportunities for students to work in animal shelters, soup kitchens, nursing homes, hospitals and other places, so the district is waiving the requirement for the Class of 2021.