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Tampa Bay Times

Florida’s debate over voucher expansion begins today. How much will it cost?

By Jeffrey S. Solochek,

Florida students such as these kindergarten students at Southside Christian Academy in 2011, have taken advantage of education tax credit scholarships and vouchers to attend private schools for two decades. State Republican officials are pushing to expand the program to include education savings accounts.

The big story: Florida Republicans’ major proposal to expand school vouchers goes to its first legislative committee today at 9 a.m. You can watch the subcommittee meeting on The Florida Channel.

Lawmakers and other participants are expected to talk at length about the pros and cons of giving taxpayer money to students, so they can have more education options available to them. It’s a popular offer, one that observers suggest would be hard to turn down.

But how much would it cost to start paying for students who haven’t used state money for their schooling before? And where will the money come from? The bill proponents aren’t providing many insights into the financial angle. Read more here.

Hot topics

Attendance zones: The Hillsborough County School Board has delayed its discussion and vote on proposals to redraw school boundaries as part of a cost savings initiative. The concept has drawn strong opposition from some corners of the community. • Some Hernando County families are fighting to prevent their children from being zoned out of Winding Waters K-8 because of crowding, Suncoast News reports.

Book challenges: The Polk County School Board approved the purchase of several new library books over the objections of activists who claimed the materials were not appropriate for children, The Ledger reports. • The Manatee County School Board clarified its requirements for teachers as the district reviews books in classroom libraries, the Bradenton Herald reports. • The Duval County school district has begun a review of all classroom libraries and media centers as it attempts to comply with new state law, WJXT reports.

Free speech: The Florida Board of Governors called on state universities to enforce civility on campus during speeches and other activities, saying protests must not be allowed to disrupt such events, Florida Politics reports. The push came at the same time the DeSantis administration has said it wants to curtail the teaching of certain subjects related to race and gender.

New College changes: Two of New College’s recently appointed trustees attended sessions with faculty, students and the public. The reaction to them were decidedly mixed. More from the Herald-Tribune.

Student discipline: Brevard County’s interim superintendent said the School Board is part of the district’s discipline problems, Florida Today reports.

Students and social media: State lawmakers have proposed legislation to require schools teach students to safely use social media, WPTV reports.

Teaching African American studies: A noted civil rights attorney said he will sue Gov. Ron DeSantis over the decision to bar AP’s new African American studies course, the News Service of Florida reports. Some Florida high school students might join in the lawsuit, WUSF reports. More than 100 activists, students and others rallied in the state Capitol to “Stop the Black Attack,” WCJB reports.

Other school news

What’s in a name? It took one vote for the Pinellas County School Board to come up with a name for its new YMCA partnership school.

Leon County superintendent Rocky Hanna frequently has criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis over education policies. The Florida Department of Education has launched an investigation into Hanna, contending he allows politics to influence his work, Talking Points Memo reports. Hanna is an elected Democrat. More from WFSU.

An Alachua County middle school is taking steps to improve the lives of its students and their families. It recently became certified as a community partnership school, WUFT reports.

St. Johns County teachers held a protest over pay on Wednesday. Several refused to work beyond the hours agreed to in their contract, WJXT reports. The district has yet to complete contract negotiations for this year.

The Lee County school district is still considering options for schools damaged by Hurricane Ian. Officials have proposed tearing down Hector A. Cafferata Jr. Elementary and building a new K-8 campus about 3 miles away, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

Employees of one Manatee County elementary school have heard the district might close down the school this summer. Parents are petitioning to stop the move, WWSB reports.

From the police blotter ... A Santa Rosa County school resource officer was arrested on accusations of lewd and lascivious behavior, and removed from the job, WKRG reports. • An Okaloosa County school bus aide was arrested on allegations of using improper force on a 6-year-old child with autism, WKRG reports/

From the court docket ... An Orange County mom has sued the school district for banning her as a volunteer because of her OnlyFans site, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s a link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... This album popped up in my feed, and now I can’t stop listening. So I have to share the groove with you too. Hope you enjoy.

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