Florida schools roundup: Federal tax credit scholarship, session preview and more

Jim Booth

Federal scholarship proposal: A $5 billion-a-year federal tax credit scholarship program is proposed by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. If approved by Congress, the program would offer federal tax credits for corporations that contribute to groups that give students scholarships to private schools. Similar tax credit scholarship program exist in 18 states, including Florida. Step Up For Students (SUFS), which hosts this blog, helps administer the Florida program. The 74. Florida Politics. WLRN. Education Week. Since Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his intention to eliminate the 13,000-families waiting list for Florida Tax Credit Scholarships, SUFS is receiving about 800 applications a day. redefinED.

Legislative session preview: Education funding, the expansion of school choice and security in the state’s schools are among the top 10 issues to watch in the 60-day legislative session that begins Tuesday. News Service of Florida. State Rep. Kim Daniels, D-Jacksonville, will miss the opening of the session to make an appearance on the 700 Club, a religious program on the Christian Broadcasting Network. Florida Politics.

School security: School board members from Orange, Seminole and Lake counties say their districts are highly unlikely to consider arming teachers even if the Legislature approves a bill allowing it. Orange and Seminole counties use sworn law enforcement officers in schools, and Lake has armed security guards, though it also has some armed administrators. WFTV. Violence in schools is down around the state, according to figures from the Florida Department of Education. WFTS. There are major disparities in the way Florida’s school districts train their employees on how to deal with student trauma, according to a report commissioned by the Legislature. WUFT.

Education podcasts: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush talks about the school choice movement over the past 20 years, and where it might go from here. Gradebook.

Black History Month issue: A Port Charlotte High School substitute math teacher who hung a poster of Colin Kaepernick for Black History Month is ordered by district officials to remove it after they got complaints from parents. Kaepernick is the former NFL quarterback who kneeled during the national anthem before games as a protest against social injustice. WINK. Charlotte Sun.

Advanced Placement: A review of Advanced Placement exams taken by Florida public school students shows that only about 50 percent passed the exams, below the 57 percent national average, and that rural communities and minority students have little or no exposure to AP courses that usually precede the exams. Florida Phoenix.

Personnel moves: Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has created a new position, chancellor for education innovation, and has hired an educator from North Carolina to fill the job. Eric Hall, deputy superintendent of public instruction for the North Carolina Department of Education and a native of Tampa, will deal with education initiatives, including the expected expansion of school choice. NC Policy Watch. Gradebook.

One district, two views: Opposing views of the state of the Manatee County School District were presented at a community meeting in Bradenton. In the view of Superintendent Cynthia Saunders, the district is on its way to becoming an A-rated district, with fewer failing schools, higher teacher salaries and more financial resources. But retired district administrator Minnie King sees problems with the district leadership and low teacher morale. Bradenton HeraldSarasota Herald-Tribune.

New education group: A new education group is launched that promises to use data to support quality instruction in schools and share effective teaching methods with education leaders. Impact Florida’s first study is named “Five Conditions that Support Great Teaching.” The Capitolist.

Notable deaths: David Thompson, a Miami-Dade County School District police officer, has died at the age of 53. Thompson injured his knee while making an arrest at Miami Central High School in January. He had surgery in mid-February, and a week later he died of a heart attack. Miami Herald.

Momo game warning: Experts say the Momo challenge, in which children are supposedly urged to hurt themselves or their parents, is a viral Internet hoax. But Volusia County school officials and St. Johns County deputies still sent a warning to parents. “We want to raise your level of cyber awareness regarding an internet craze called the Momo challenge,” the Volusia County message said. “We strongly encourage you to speak with your students and remind them not to talk to strangers online or open links or documents from unknown sources.” Daytona Beach News-Journal. WJAX.

Civil rights complaint: The family of an 11-year-old Lakeland student arrested after refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance files a civil rights complaint against the Polk County School District and Lawton Chiles Middle Academy. The boy’s civil rights were abused when he was confronted for not standing, leading to an argument that ended in his arrest, according to the complaint. The family wants financial compensation and the school officer and dean fired or disciplined. Lakeland Ledger.

Teacher resigns: A Gainesville early education teacher resigns after being accused of grabbing a 3-year-old, dropping him on a cafeteria bench, striking him five times and dragging him across a room. Renee Guertin resigned from the Duval Early Learning Academy after the incident, but she won’t be charged. Prosecutors say there isn’t enough evidence to charge her with child abuse, and state law allows teachers to serve in place of a parent in disciplinary matters. Gainesville Sun.

Bus driver on leave: A Leon County school bus driver is put on leave after allegedly telling a group of students speaking Spanish that “we speak English here,” then kicking them off the bus. Sherrill Conner said the group of Godby High School students were being disrespectful. Tallahassee Democrat.

Ex-school officer arrested: A former resource officer with the Osceola County School District is arrested and accused of possessing child pornography. Albert Vernon Kraus Jr. was a resource officer at St. Cloud Middle School from 2007-2014, and had been a reserve officer after his retirement. WFTV.

Students arrested: An 18-year-old Citrus High School student is arrested and accused of setting a school bathroom on fire. Deputies say the student admitted holding a lighter’s open flame under a soap dispenser until it began to smoke. Citrus County Chronicle. A Duval County student is arrested after a gun is found on the campus of Highlands Middle School. WJXT. A 14-year-old Putnam County student is arrested after allegedly making threats against Jenkins Middle School. WJAX.

Opinions on schools: To promote social justice and equity for all of our students, teaching and learning in their entire complexity need to be considered to improve public education rather than simply changing the learning targets or standards. Mary A. Avalos, Miami Herald. Attending a Secret Service workshop on school safety instilled hope and belief that there is a more promising and less dangerous way to prevent school shootings than arming teachers through the guardian program, as the state is currently advocating. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Parrish is in the midst of an identity crisis, so I hope changing the name of its new school to Parrish Community High School helps  rebuild a sense of community. Tom Tryon, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: The co-founder of the Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit group launched after the Connecticut school shooting in 2012 to teach students to recognize and report warning signs, visits Northeast High School in St. Petersburg for an update on its program that the Pinellas County School District has adopted. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF. Twenty-one Leon County students are named National Merit Scholarship Corp. finalists. Tallahassee Democrat.

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