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By Emma Behrmann/Fresh Take Florida

  • At the end of the year, when state testing looms and class lists need to be made for fall, Pinellas County Schools is requiring its teachers to scan every book in their classroom libraries for school media specialists to review. This process must be completed by May 26 and is required to comply with state law.Similar scenes are playing out across Florida.
  • Florida’s Senate voted 23-17 to pass legislation that will affect public-sector unions, especially teachers’ unions across the state. The bill would increase the required percentage of union members who pay dues from 50% to 60% for all public unions except police, firefighters and correctional officers. As many as two-thirds of Florida’s teachers’ unions would be decertified, preventing them from negotiating for salary and benefits for teachers, guidance counselors and media specialists. The Senate is controlled by Republicans. Teachers’ unions have traditionally supported Democratic policies and candidates in Florida. The same lawmaker who proposed the bill also sponsored another bill this year – which has not been taken seriously and is stalled in a Senate committee – that would effectively shut down the Democratic Party in Florida.
  • The University of Florida is making sure its newly hired president can dive into the job. The school in Gainesville confirms it is building a new $300,000 swimming pool behind the stately mansion on campus where former U.S. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska will live with his family. Construction on the expensive addition to the 7,400-square-foot, four-bedroom mansion started in November and is nearly complete. The university says Sasse – who had no pool at his family’s home in Fremont, Nebraska – did not ask for the pool to be built and provided no input over its design. The money is coming from private donors. It wasn't immediately clear why the new pool for Sasse is so expensive, or how much it will cost the university to maintain. The average cost for an in-ground residential pool in Florida is just under $60,000. Features such as tanning ledges, beach entries, hot tubs, lighting, gas-fired heating systems and more can increase design and installation costs. Sasse begins work on campus on February 6. He will be paid $1 million in base salary for five years plus a raise of up to 4% and a bonus after five years of up to another $1 million. He did not respond to phone messages or a letter sent to his home asking to discuss his swimming habits.