School voucher limit reached: All 18,000 spots in the state’s latest K-12 scholarship program have been claimed, state officials have announced. The Family Empowerment Scholarship sailed through the Legislature, was signed into law in May and began enrolling students for this school year. It was created to alleviate the waiting list for Florida Tax Credit Scholarships, and uses public money to help students from low- and middle-income families attend private schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarships. News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. Center Square.
Academic standards: For the fifth time in 24 years, the Florida Department of Education is revising the standards that guide what students are expected to learn in public schools. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran calls the effort “historic” and “unprecedented,” and vows that Florida will “end up with the world’s best standards. We’re going to end up with an education that’s going to transform our children’s hearts and souls and minds.” Critics characterize the move, pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis as part of a pledge to rid the state of the Common Core, as political and call the revisions weak and vague. Gradebook. The state’s tour of the state for public hearings on the change in academic standards stops in Palm Beach today, Collier County on Wednesday and Hillsborough County on Thursday. The meetings end Oct. 23. Palm Beach Post. Florida Department of Education. About 80 people attended the meeting Thursday in Alachua County. WUFT.
Vaccination bill flailing: The sponsor of a proposed bill for the 2020 Legislature that would eliminate religious exemptions to school-required immunizations is predicting that the bill won’t be heard this session, which doesn’t even start for three months. “My bill wasn’t on the agenda, but we had about 25 people speak against it at a Broward County delegation meeting,” said state Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation. “I had already met with most of the folks and said I look forward to a dialogue. But they don’t want dialogue.” “This bill is attacking a minority, which just wants to hold onto their freedom,” said Mary Beth Michael, a founder of Florida Health Action Network that has helped organize protests at legislative delegation meetings. GateHouse.
Bible bill is back: A bill that would require public high schools to offer Bible courses has been filed for the 2020 legislative session. State Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville, filed the same bill in the 2019 Legislature, but it died in committee. The bill would require an “objective” study of the Bible, including but not limited to courses on the Hebrew Scriptures and the Old and New Testaments. Florida Politics.
Free Internet: The Duval County School District is launching a program to give free, high-speed Internet service to more than 1,000 students who don’t have a reliable connection at home. Students who qualify will be given hotspot devices that connect to the Internet through the mobile service Sprint. Florida Times-Union.
Homecoming clothes dispute: A Lakeland high school student was turned away from the Tampa Bay Homeschool Homecoming dance held in Tampa because she was wearing a jumpsuit instead of a dress. The story of Darcy Krueger, 17, has gone viral, but dance organizer Stephanie Voth defends her decision to not allow Krueger in. “Nobody hated to turn that girl away more than me,” Voth said. “She was precious. But she was not in compliance” with the written dress code. Gradebook.
School enrollment: The number of Marion County students reached 42,236 at the 40-day count, which is a record and the highest it’s been since October 2007, by 113. The year-over-year increase is 335, according to district officials. Ocala Star-Banner.
District’s audit issues: Just one of the issues a state auditor faulted the Lee County School District for remains unresolved, say district officials. The state delivered 15 findings against the district in September. The final issue is whether the district acted appropriately in using $1.2 million in property taxes for drywall repairs, painting and maintenance on HVAC equipment. The district labeled those costs under maintenance, but the auditors regarded them as custodial and, therefore, can’t be paid with property tax money. Fort Myers News-Press.
School calendar: Broward County School Board members will consider giving students a full week off at Thanksgiving in the 2020-2021 school year. Schools would start Aug. 19 and end June 9. It’s one of three options being considered. Parents and school staff are voting online, and the board will make a decision in December or January. Sun Sentinel.
Graduation requirements: The Sarasota County School Board is considering requiring a gifted school’s students to take their core academic courses at the school instead of online or through dual enrollment. Steve Cantees, the district’s executive director of secondary schools, said the changes were developed by a Pine View School committee that was refining the school’s mission and vision and ensuring that students will receive core credits in classes taught by a teacher with a gifted endorsement. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
School grades: Twelve Martin County schools will receive recognition money from the state through the A-Plus program this year, up from nine last year, while fewer schools in the St. Lucie and Indian River districts qualified. Schools become eligible by receiving an A school grade or improving by least one letter grade and boosting student performance. TCPalm. Hawthorne Middle/High School in Alachua County, which had been issued a grade of incomplete from the state in July, has been given a C. The state held up issuing the grade because just 92 percent of its students took the Florida Standards Assessments and other end-of-course exams. Principal Daniel Ferguson said the school was given the grade after promising to reach the required 95 percent this year. Gainesville Sun.
Educator bonuses: Bonuses under the state’s Best and Brightest Scholarship Program will go to 3,410 teachers and 514 paraprofessionals in the Osceola County School District, according to a tentative agreement between the district and the union. The bonuses for retention and recognition will be issued in December. The recruitment bonuses will be issued in two installments, in December and May. Positively Osceola.
Employees honored: John Weida, principal at Brentwood Elementary School, has been named the Sarasota County School District’s 2020 principal of the year. Merlin Schenk, of Booker High School, is the district’s assistant principal of the year. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. James Krull is named the Pinellas County School District’s school bus driver of the year. Gradebook.
More black football coaches: The number of black head football coaches is growing at central Florida high schools, from just nine in 2007 to 21 this year. For these coaches, the job is as much about education and guidance as it is about football. Orlando Sentinel.
Two coaches suspended: The head football coach and an assistant at Lincoln High School in Leon County have been suspended after a pregame video was discovered in which Lincoln players were cursing during a chant. Head coach Quinn Gray and assistant coach Brandon Youmans each were suspended for a game by the county director of student activities. Tallahassee Democrat.
Student settles lawsuit: A former St. Johns County student who was suspended for posting a photo of herself holding a gun on Facebook will get $35,000 in a settlement with the school board. Dia’Mon Dallas, a former First Coast Technical College student, was suspended in April for causing a “material and substantial disruption at school.” She said the photo was taken at a Palatka gun range with a lawfully possessed gun. The settlement includes $20,000 for Dallas and $15,000 for legal fees. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT.
Teacher loses license: A Manatee County kindergarten teacher who retired last year after being accused of abusing students has had her teaching license permanently revoked by the state. During the 2017-2018 school year, a school volunteer reported Sheri Anne Marie Fink for allegedly dragging Braden River Elementary School students by their wrists and throwing them against a wall. Fink was suspended for two days, then transferred before retiring at the end of the last school year. The Florida Department of Education launched an investigation, and her license was revoked Sept. 25. Bradenton Herald.
Opinions on schools: The Hillsborough County School District needs to show a greater sense of urgency in improving reading for struggling students. Tampa Bay Times. Florida deserves praise for an immaculate deception. It’s made the nation think that it’s one of the stalwarts in teacher evaluation despite the fact that in actuality, the state has little idea how effective its teachers are. Lane Wright, the Capitolist. Really, Florida? Is this the best we can do? Arresting little children for bad behavior in school? Sally Butzin and Charlotte Nycklenoe, Tallahassee Democrat. The validation of a “mental health” absence from school is a great idea. It would eliminate about 90 percent of the lying that parents have to do, and would also codify what used to be called “hooky” in a clinical and uplifting way. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. Folks, there is only one reasonable reaction to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to raise starting teach pay: Shut up and get behind the governor. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. It’s great news that Gov. DeSantis wants to give teachers a big raise, but all teachers should share in the good fortune. Charlotte Sun. Foster grandparents in classrooms can aid the effort to better the public education system. Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel. A 16-second video snippet on Twitter of a student mockingly whipping another could have provided a teachable moment about perception, sensitivity and unintended consequences. Instead, Pinellas County School District officials let a tweet get ahead of the truth and overreacted. Tampa Bay Times. Students and teachers deserve to go to school without fearing for their safety, but we don’t need to turn schools into fortresses. Jenine Kotob, Palm Beach Post. Florida needs more scholarships for students with special needs. Amanda Bryant, Lakeland Ledger. Should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the future of public education? Matthew Ladner, redefinED.
Student enrichment: Palm Bay Prep Academy of Panama City, which was damaged by Hurricane Michael last year, has received a grant from Educational Theatre Foundation that it will use to finance its school musical, Seussical Jr., and buy a curtain and sound and lighting equipment. Broadway World. The Futures Foundation for Volusia County Schools receives a $102,523 grant for tutoring and literacy programs for at-risk students in 14 Volusia County schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal. More than $10,000 is raised for Title I schools in Leon County at a golf tournament put on by the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce. Tallahassee Democrat.