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6th February 2024
Florida House passes bill to extend teen work hours
The Florida House has passed a bill that would allow teenagers to work longer hours during the school year. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Linda Chaney, has faced criticism for potentially impacting the health and education of teenagers. Supporters argue that it would benefit the economy and provide more opportunities for teenagers. The bill would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work more than eight hours in a day, even if school is the next day, or more than 30 hours a week when school is in session. It also eliminates the requirement for breaks every four hours of work. The Senate's legislation, however, has key differences compared to the House bill. Critics of the bill point to a rise in child labor violations in Florida and express concerns about the impact on students' academic performance. The Senate bill maintains some child labor laws but creates exceptions for working more than eight hours on holidays and Sundays. The bill still needs to go through additional committees before a full vote.
Rising enrollment still lags pre-pandemic levels
Public school enrollment reached 49.6m in fall 2022, increasing just 0.4% from fall 2021 and suggesting that overall low enrollment levels triggered by the pandemic are persisting years after school building closures. Pre-K-12 enrollment remained 2% lower than 2019 levels, according to federal data released Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics. Enrollment in high school grades increased by 2% compared to 2019, while pre-K-8 enrollment stayed 4% below pre-pandemic levels. Fourteen states saw declines of more than 4% compared to 2019, with the largest drops in California, New York, Hawaii, Mississippi, and Oregon. In contrast, enrollment increased in South Dakota, Utah, Louisiana, Delaware, District of Columbia, North Dakota, and Idaho.
Volusia County students suffer from chronic absenteeism
Volusia County has had a slightly higher percentage of chronically absent students than the state average for the last four years, taking a toll on some of its most vulnerable students. Recent data from the Florida Department of Education shows that 30.9% of students statewide were considered chronically absent for the 2022-23 school year. Volusia County ranked 45th out of 74 districts in the state. Chronic absenteeism has increased in Florida since the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching a high of 32.3% during the 2021-22 school year. Volusia County has consistently had higher rates of chronic absenteeism than the state average. The Chiles Academy, a charter school serving pregnant and parenting teens, had the highest absenteeism rate in Volusia County. The district is implementing various strategies to address the barriers to attendance, including providing free meals, community donations, and connecting families with resources. Flagler County also faces high rates of chronic absenteeism, with at least 25% of students chronically absent in seven schools. The district is committed to working with families to improve attendance and has a team of social workers to assist with breaking down barriers.
Theresa Axford's contract renewed
The Monroe County School District has renewed superintendent Theresa Axford's contract, extending it from August 1 2024 to July 31 2025. The contract includes a current salary of $175,000, with the possibility of an adjustment during the annual salary review in July 2024. Axford will also receive benefits such as an annual medical examination, expenses for attending professional meetings and seminars, and paid memberships in professional organizations.
Campaign consultant sentenced for sending false texts in school board race
A campaign consultant for a 2022 Polk County School Board race has been sentenced to 11 months of probation for sending false texts that claimed an incumbent school board member and her husband were under criminal investigation. James Earl Dunn Jr. was sentenced Thursday in Bartow after pleading guilty to seven counts of violating election laws regarding text-message disclosures. Dunn, a Texas resident, was the campaign consultant for Jill Sessions, an opponent of Polk County School Board member Lisa Miller, in the 2022 election. Polk County voters received text messages in June 2022 falsely alleging that Miller and her husband, Bob Miller, were under criminal investigation. Miller prevailed in the runoff by 11.2 percentage points. In her victim statement to the court, Miller referenced Dunn's previous run-ins with the courts, saying "his crimes have been well documented."
Assistive technology can boost outcomes for special ed students
Assistive technology can significantly improve outcomes for students in special education, according to guidance released by the U.S. Department of Education. The guidance clarifies the role of assistive technology in meeting the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It emphasizes the need for states and districts to take full advantage of assistive technology tools, especially as schools increasingly rely on technology for teaching and learning. The guidance dispels misconceptions about assistive technology and highlights the importance of providing training and support to students and families. It also emphasizes that assistive technology can be used from infancy to elementary school, and encourages schools and districts to seek assistance from local Assistive Technology programs. The release of the guidance, alongside the National Education Technology plan, promotes accessibility and addresses digital divides.
Broward County Schools kicks off teen dating violence awareness month
Broward County Public Schools has launched Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, aiming to raise awareness and prevent teen dating violence. The initiative seeks to educate students about healthy relationships and provide resources for those affected by dating abuse. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in 11 female and approximately one in 15 male high school students experience physical dating violence each year. The campaign includes various activities and events throughout the month to engage students and promote healthy relationship behaviors. "We want to empower our students with the knowledge and skills to recognize and prevent dating violence, and to foster a culture of respect and support within our schools," the district said in a statement.
Colleges face delays in financial aid packages
Colleges are facing delays in creating financial award packages, causing students to delay their college decisions. The new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has been plagued with glitches and technical errors, leading to delays in processing students' financial information. The U.S. Department of Education announced another delay due to the need to update the student aid index tables. As a result, colleges won't receive students' financial information until March. The delays in opening the FAFSA have a domino effect, causing delays in filing, processing, and receiving financial information, as well as delays in creating award packages. School leaders and higher education organizations are calling for flexible deadlines and reconsideration of the May 1 national "College Decision Day." The delays disproportionately affect vulnerable students and low-income families.

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