New education laws taking effect, reading proficiency, census ruling and more

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New laws begin July 1: Among the new education laws that take effect July 1 are a strengthening of standards to qualify for Bright Futures scholarships, an expansion of where charter schools can open under the Schools of Hope program, an easing of requirements for teacher certification, the addition of a new scholarship that qualifying students can use to attend private schools, and an expansion of vocational and technical training. WFTX.

Reading proficiency: A closer review of the Florida Standards Assessments reading test taken by 3rd-graders shows that only 30 percent of the students could be considered proficient readers. Students who score at achievement Level 3 on the test are given passing scores, even though the Florida Department of Education defines that benchmark as “may need additional support for the next grade/course.” Of the 216,823 students who took the test, 20 percent scored at the lowest Level 1, 23 percent were at Level 2, 28 percent at Level 3, 22 percent at Level 4 and 8 percent at Level 5. Florida Phoenix.

Citizenship and census: Education advocates say the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to put a citizenship question from the 2020 census form on hold, at least for now, will benefit public schools and their students. They had worried that adding the question would reduce responses from non-citizen households by as much as 8 percent, which would in turn cut federal education aid to Florida and other states with large immigrant populations. Politico Florida. Miami Herald. Chalkbeat. New York Times. Associated Press. CNN.

Security in schools: The Somerset Jefferson County School District won’t take part in the state’s guardian program that allows districts to arm teachers and employees at schools. “We don’t need to arm teachers,” said Superintendent Marianne Arbulu. “We have the coverage that we need. We want law enforcement to be the only ones with guns on campus.” ECB Publishing. Citrus County school officials say they are nearing an agreement with the sheriff that would detail how the district police force and sheriff’s office will work together. The agreement is expected to be signed by the school board July 9. Citrus County Chronicle.

Sales tax referendum: In a 3-2 vote, the Clay County School Board passes a resolution to ask voters to approve a half-cent increase in the sales tax to raise money to replace and repair schools. The tax would last for 30 years and raise a projected $13.5 million a year. School officials estimate they need $350 million for school construction.  WJAX.

Student discipline: A Federal report shows school districts are under-reporting incidents of restraining and isolating students. Not all of Florida’s school districts report this disciplinary measure. Miami-Dade, for example, reported zero incidents. Florida Phoenix.

Duval schools and the lottery: As the Duval County School District pushes for a referendum to have the sales tax increased by a half-cent to replace and repair schools, many wonder why Florida lottery money isn’t being used. The reason, district officials say, is twofold: “It’s a relatively small portion of our total budget,” said school spokesman Tracy Pierce, “and the state of Florida mandates that almost all of it be used for specific programs.” Those programs do not include school construction, maintenance or renovation. Florida Times-Union.

Democratic debate: Sen. Kamala Harris questioned former Vice President Joe Biden over his opposition to court-ordered school busing during Federal desegregation efforts in the 1970s. Education Week, Chalkbeat, Tampa Bay Times.

Grants for programs: Two grants for the expansion of Gulf County School District workforce programs get preliminary approval from Triumph Gulf Coast, the organization that disburses money from the settlement over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School would get $250,000 for the welding program and $125,000 for agriscience curriculum. Port St. Joe Star.

Old building, new life: A nonprofit organization is working on plans to turn the old Roosevelt High School in West Palm Beach, closed in 1970, into a complex that includes a museum, library, cultural arts center and a classroom for people to develop computer and other technology skills. Palm Beach Post.

Personnel moves: Seven Hillsborough County principals who had been placed in the “administrator on special assignment” pool have now been assigned to new jobs. Two are appointed as principals, three as assistant principals and two as coordinators in the district administration office. Gradebook.

Prom Cancelled: The director of Jacksonville Public Libraries apologized for cancelling prom night for LGBTQ teens. The prom has now been rescheduled and will take place at a local church. Jacksonville Times-Union.

Guns at schools: Two men are arrested by Palm Beach County School District police for allegedly having a gun on the campus of John I. Leonard High School in Greenacres. One of the men was the ex-boyfriend of a student at the school, and was driving around the school after previously threatening the girl and her new boyfriend. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: Opponents of school choice are loud, persistent and well-funded. But in Florida, they are not winning. The reason is simple: the arguments for school choice are compelling. Erika Donalds, Naples Daily News. Students with special needs will benefit from half-cent sales tax to improve school facilities, say local parents. Jacksonville Times-UnionAttacking a private school scholarship program in an effort to take away scholarships for low-income students helps no one. Doug Tuthill, Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Lucas Miner, a junior at Ransom Everglades High School, is in third place after the first day of the finals in the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament. Miner piled up $14,800, but trails Ryan Presley ($15,999) and Avi Gupta ($24,200). The conclusion of the competition is tonight, and the winner will have the highest two-day total. The champion takes home $100,000. Miami Herald. Needy Bay County families get free school supplies, courtesy of a collection and giveaway by Parker Elementary School teachers and administrators. Panama City News Herald.