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14th September 2023
Florida schools must submit reproductive health lesson plans for review
Florida school districts have until the end of the month to turn in their sex education lesson plans for review and approval. By September 30, school districts must submit any instructional material used to teach reproductive health, sexually transmitted diseases, and human sexuality. The new requirement under HB 1069 adds more oversight to instructional materials in schools. The law also emphasizes teaching the binary and unchangeable nature of reproductive roles. Districts are required to teach students about sexually transmitted diseases while promoting abstinence and monogamous heterosexual marriage. Parents have the option to opt their child out of any instruction they do not want taught. Hillsborough County Schools plans to submit last year's lesson plans for review, as some parents voiced concerns. Similar issues have arisen in Leon County and Miami.
Chronic absenteeism requires ‘all-hands-on-deck’
Widespread increases in chronic absenteeism between the 2018-19 and 2021-22 school years are large enough that they could have substantially contributed to declines in post-pandemic test scores, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers. The agency, which advises the president on economic policy based on data and research, partnered with the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics to analyze latest scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which saw steep and worrisome declines in both math and reading for 4th and 8th graders. The results, announced Wednesday in a White House blog post, show that even after considering other changes that could have contributed to score declines, ”the observed association between absenteeism and test scores is large enough” to account for 16-27% of the overall test score declines in math and 36-45% of the declines in reading. The percentage of chronically absent public school students nearly doubled from 15% in the 2018-19 school year to around 30% in 2021-22, following the pandemic, according to a recent study that collected administrative data from 40 states and the District of Columbia. The data accounts for over 92% of K-12 public school students in the United States.
Pinellas County Schools revenues expected to rise
Pinellas County property owners will see a lower school district tax rate this fall, but rising taxable values may result in higher payments. The approved budget of $1.77bn includes a tax rate of $5.938 per $1,000 of taxable value, the lowest in 50 years. However, a 12% increase in taxable value is expected to generate $83.6m more in revenue. This means that the owner of a $270,000 home would pay about $189 more in school taxes compared to last year. Despite disagreement among members, the budget includes funding for general operations and capital projects, such as a YMCA partnership school and renovations of elementary and high schools. The decision to lower the tax rate is tied to the district's strategic plan. Some speakers urged the board to adopt the maximum tax rate to support employee pay, while others suggested establishing a finance advisory board to identify areas for cuts.
Citrus County School Board approves final budget and millage rates
The Citrus County School Board has approved the final budget and millage rates for the 2023-24 fiscal year. The millage rates for operating purposes are 3.944, with a supplemental millage rate of 0.748, and 1.5 mills for capital outlay purposes, totaling 5.444 mills. The budget for the upcoming fiscal year is $322,930,934. The school board clarified that the school tax levied and millage rate are determined by the State of Florida, not the Citrus County School Board. The board also approved the 2023-24 Student Progression Plan, which complies with executive orders and statutes. The Military Officers Association of America Citrus County Chapter received the 2023 Commissioner's Business Award for their partnership with Citrus County Schools. Several teachers expressed concerns about salary increases and the value of experienced teachers. They emphasized the need for fair and competitive compensation to retain talented teachers. The complete agenda and policies discussed can be viewed online.
Monroe County School District recognized for financial excellence
Austin Tran, the interim finance director of the Monroe County School District, addressed the school board and superintendent at the final budget hearing. Tran stated that there were no changes to the proposed budget or property tax rate, and that the district is in good financial condition. The district requested approval for a short-term loan to cover expenses until tax revenue is received. Board member John Dick inquired about the interest rate on the loan, which Tran confirmed as 5%. The district also received updates on the HeadStart program, the Tommy Roberts Memorial Stadium replacement project, and the curricula for aspiring administrators. The superintendent posts a Superintendent's Bulletin on the district's website to keep the community informed. The next school board meeting is scheduled for October 10th.
Louisiana school shooting shadows latest gun violence statistics
Classes are canceled at a Louisiana high school where a student was shot to death and two others were injured on Tuesday. The names and ages of the victims of the shooting at St. Helena College & Career Academy in Greensburg have not been released. Law enforcement officials said they arrested the suspected shooter, a 14-year-old student after the shooting. Separately, the number of school shootings in the U.S. just hit a record high. There were 188 shootings with casualties at public and private elementary schools during the 2021-22 school year, according to new federal data from the National Center for Education Statistics. About two-thirds of them caused injuries. Fifty-seven led to deaths. It’s the second year in a row that the number of shootings with casualties hit an all-time peak in American schools.
Propane could help support clean school bus mission
The conversation around clean energy for student transportation has grown since the EPA announced the Clean School Bus funds. School transportation directors are implementing multiple alternative energy sources into their fleet, like propane autogas and electric, to provide a safe, clean, and healthy ride for students. Propane autogas is now reducing emissions as a power generation solution for electric bus recharging infrastructure. Propane Fueling Solutions offers a portable dual-purpose standalone fueling system that can refuel propane autogas vehicles and recharge electric school buses utilizing a microgrid powered by renewable energy sources. School districts can use EPA funding to apply for the infrastructure at a fraction of the cost compared to traditional charging infrastructure. The dual-purpose standalone fueling infrastructure is self-contained and disconnected from the electric grid, ensuring that electric buses can recharge regardless of the weather. The system is also portable and can be moved and installed in as little as 24 hours in areas where it’s needed most.
Highlands County eliminates term limits from citizen advisory committee
The School Board of Highlands County has eliminated term limits from the half-cent citizen advisory committee, sparking controversy. Larry Overfield questioned the change, stating that he believed there were term limits on the committee before. 
Covid-19 precautions and vaccines
Summer has ended and kids are back in school, but Covid-19 cases are on the rise. With the arrival of fall, there could be an increase in other respiratory diseases too. Dr. Leana Wen, CNN Wellness medical expert, suggests that most schools will not reimplement early pandemic-era measures like mask mandates and social distancing. However, families can decide to take additional precautions based on their circumstances. It is important to assess the actual risk of Covid-19 to vulnerable family members and consult with health care providers. School-aged children are not eligible for the new RSV vaccines. Basic good hygiene practices, such as sneezing into elbows, frequent handwashing, and following school policies, can help reduce disease transmission. It is also important for children to stay up-to-date with routine childhood immunizations.

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