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24th January 2023
DeSantis calls for $200m more for teacher pay
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday announced an education plan that, if approved by Florida lawmakers, would put more state funds toward teacher salaries and make changes to how teacher unions operate and negotiate teacher compensation packages in the state. The governor said he will ask the Republican Legislature to set aside $1bn for teacher pay increases in the upcoming fiscal year, an amount that would be $200m more than the current year's funding on that issue. The governor also called for changes to school board term limits and party affiliations, and restrictions on teachers unions, among other proposals. If the money is approved, its goal would be twofold: It could continue to fund DeSantis' goal of boosting the minimum salary for teachers toward $47,500, a goal that most districts have met; and it would provide more funding to go beyond that goal. “All that additional money can go to increase teacher salaries however the district wants to do it, and we think that's important to both recruit and retain good people in the classroom,” DeSantis said at a news conference at Duval Charter School in Jacksonville. The Miami Herald Editorial Board suggests the bill would be better described as the Teachers' Union-Busting Bill. "It's impossible to blast the governor for wanting to pay teachers more. But the moniker 'Teachers' Bill of Rights' is pure spin and public relations. Unfortunately, in Florida nowadays, no good policy comes without a not-so-hidden agenda," the Board writes.
IRS raises teacher tax deduction ceiling
For the first time since the Internal Revenue Service enacted the educator expense deduction in 2002, the agency has raised it from $250 to $300 for the current tax filing season. K-12 educators who work a minimum of 900 hours during the school year will benefit and among the items deductible are classroom materials, including technology equipment and any COVID-19 protective items recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Classroom teachers use around $550 of their own money each year to provide their students with basic supplies, according to data from, prompting financial experts to complain that the deduction broadly falls short. Pauline Stavrou, a tax attorney for Frost Tax Law in Baltimore, comments: “The amount is just so small, it’s a joke.”
Volusia School mulls hiring international teachers
An international teacher program could bring educators from other countries to Volusia schools to teach, a move that Flagler Schools is also considering after a conversation at its board workshop last week. "We have aggressively been trying to recruit teachers in every manner possible, and then after you do all of those things that most school districts do and are facing the same challenges, you start to look at, well, what else is there?" a board member comments. "Where else may there be a pool of qualified, certified teachers that we haven't tapped?" According to TPG's presentation for Flagler Schools, more than 2,000 teachers participate in the program across 200 districts — including over 500 teachers in Florida schools — and teachers stay up to five years. EPI's website states that teachers stay three years, and applicants are drawn from over 50 countries for placement in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Florida. Teachers are fluent in English and available in grades K-12 and many subject areas, including common critical shortage areas like math, science, special education and English to speakers of other languages.
States working to resolve special educator shortages
Several positive developments are emerging from the crisis in special education teacher shortages. States are looking to wean themselves off noncompliant special education emergency licenses, expand pathways that are compliant and create innovative practices that improve teaching practices, meet federal requirements and overcome teacher shortages. Meanwhile, state and local special education offices are teaming up with advocacy groups and higher education institutions for solutions. Alternative licensure programs have also proven successful. One approach in Indiana for example is the Aspiring Statewide Special Education Teacher, or ASSET, program, which supports licensed educators in adding a special education teaching credential. The state is using $238,234 in federal COVID-19 funds for this program and, in total, from July 1 2022 to December 31 2022, the state has issued 1,102 alternative special education licenses in mild interventions, intense interventions, blind/low vision, and deaf/hard of hearing specialty areas. Special education is one of the highest need teacher positions. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 45% of schools with at least one teacher vacancy said they were missing special educators last winter. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data predicted an annual need for 37,600 special educators between 2021 and 2031. Many of those openings, the bureau estimates, will result from teachers switching to other occupations or leaving the labor force.
Leon County Schools amends student bathroom use policy
Leon County Schools has updated its bathroom policy for students who identify as transgender. The new policy states bathrooms will be based on biological sex at birth with reasonable accommodations, and describes a reasonable accommodation as a single stall or "sex neutral bathroom" to ensure privacy. "LCS personnel will maintain and monitor bathrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms to ensure the safety of all students," the policy states. On Friday, the district uploaded a new version of the LGBTQIA+ guide to Tuesday's school board agenda and refers to Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County, Florida as the reason for the change. The only other change to the LGBTQIA+ guide removes a paragraph that refers to constitutional protections for a student's right to privacy and parental notification.
School library shelves under increasing scrutiny
At least 10 states have now passed laws giving parents more power over which books appear in libraries or limiting students’ access to books, a Washington Post analysis has found, while school districts are being pushed to pass policies that bar certain kinds of texts amid increasing administrative or parental oversight of acquisitions. Conversations with 37 school librarians across 21 states suggest they are facing heightened scrutiny and a blanket of red tape, where before they enjoyed freedom to choose the books they thought would best supplement the curriculum and stimulate students’ literary appetites. Steve Potash, CEO of OverDrive, which supplies e-books and audiobooks to more than half of the nation’s school districts, says his company lost millions of dollars in sales in 2022 as school library orders took a nosedive. He also notes that the dips were especially steep in Texas and Florida, where debates over what children read and learn about race, racism, history, gender and sexuality have been particularly loud.
Hernando County hears suicide prevention program details
Members of the Hernando County School Board have heard details of a program intended to prevent teen suicide at county high schools. Developed in Utah, The Hope Squad program works with in-school trainers who then work with students to provide peer-to-peer support for students who confide that they are contemplating suicide. Dr. Diane Kelly, master trainer for The Hope Squad and also a member of the Okaloosa County School Board, explained to the panel: “The program trains students to recognize the signs of suicide and act upon those to break the code of silence among students.” The program is also intended to build positive relationships among students, making it easier for potentially suicidal students to seek help and change the school’s culture surrounding suicide, she said. This year, the program will be implemented in five of the county’s high schools, including Weeki Wachee High School, Central High School, Nature Coast Technical High School, Springstead High School, and Hernando High School. The total cost for the basic high school curriculum for five schools for one year is $2,000 per school or $10,000.

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