‘Do not hire list’ gets approval, two new college scholarships, court takes up vouchers case and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Do not hire list: A bill calling for the creation of a “do not hire list” of school employees has been approved by the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee. H.B. 883, filed by state Rep. Wyman Duggan, R-Jacksonville, would make a database of school employees whose certification has been denied or revoked, have been fired or resigned because of sexual misconduct with a student, or been disqualified from owning a private school that receives scholarship money from the state. Schools would be required to report those people to the state, and forbidden from hiring anyone on the list. The bill has to be approved by two more committees before the full House can vote on it. Gradebook.

New scholarship programs: Two college scholarship programs for students who attend historically black colleges and universities or state colleges and career centers has been approved by the House Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee. H.B. 383 would provide $2 million for scholarships to the state’s four historically black colleges and universities for “students with unmet financial needs.” H.B. 55 would create the Sunshine Scholarship Program covering tuition and fees for Florida students who are pursuing associate degrees or career certificates. Those who get the scholarship would be required to live and work in Florida for the same period of time they benefited from the scholarship, or pay it back. News Service of Florida. Sun Sentinel.

Court hears scholarships case: The fight over a tax credit scholarship program in Montana was argued Wednesday before the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices are being asked to decide if the Montana Supreme Court violated the U.S. Constitution by striking down a tax credit scholarship program that gave students money for private schools, including religious ones. Advocates for the scholarships argued that the state court’s decision violates the free exercise, equal protection and establishment clauses of the U.S. Constitution. A decision is expected by the end of June. Politico. New York Times. Associated Press. Chalkbeat. The 74.

Electing a superintendent: A bill that would ask Duval County voters if they want an elected or appointed school superintendent has been approved by the House Local Administration Subcommittee. H.B. 1079, which was introduced by state Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, would put the issue on the November ballot. If the bill is approved by the Legislature and voters, the first election for a superintendent would be in 2024. “If this legislation passes, the Duval County voters decide,” Fischer told the committee. “I believe the voters should have more control of their government, not less.” Duval County School Board members unanimously oppose the measure. Florida Times-Union. Florida Politics. WJXT.

School bus safety bill: A bill that would increase penalties for drivers who fail to stop for school buses has been approved by the Senate Infrastructure and Security committee. S.B. 290 would double the fines and could increase the suspension time for licenses of drivers who don’t stop as required by state law. Tallahassee Democrat.

Lawsuit limitations urged: Members of a Florida House committee are being urged to consider discouraging school districts, cities and counties from filing lawsuits against big corporations such as opioid and vaping manufacturers. “Going forward we’re going to have a big mess. We already have a big mess,” said Bill McCollum, former Florida attorney general. “It’s a problem I recommend you address now.” McCollum now represents a pro-business lobbying group, but said he was speaking personally. “There’s some compelling evidence, especially in these large complex cases, that we don’t want 400 lawsuits in the state of Florida if it’s of statewide interest,” he said. Tampa Bay Times.

District’s coming space crunch: Projected school enrollment growth of 8,000 students in the next five years has Palm Beach County officials planning to build three schools and add capacity to several existing ones. But the growth is expected to continue after 2025, and officials are making expansion plans for the five years after that. The overcrowding is most evident in the county’s high schools; 10 of the 23 are already over capacity, and 16 are expected to be by 2024. Capacity is also higher at schools on the east side of the county. Palm Beach Post.

Fight over special education: Advocates for students with disabilities say the Sarasota County School District is ignoring an October court ruling that ordered the district to pay for a private school for a student who was wrongly placed for six years in a program for students with severe cognitive disabilities. They’re back in court today with a due process complaint. The advocates say the district has ignored the order because it expects to win an appeal of the 2019 court order. The hearing is expected to last two days. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Sex harassment policy review: Sarasota County School Board members have hired a consultant to review the district’s policies on sexual harassment complaints and make recommendations on improving the process to make sure allegations are properly handled. A sexual harassment complaint, and the way it was handled, recently led to the resignations of Superintendent Todd Bowden and the chief operations officer. The review by the Kroll Group, a Philadelphia-based security risk management firm, is expected to take about two months. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

District’s transgender policy: Flagler County school Superintendent James Tager will review the district’s policies on transgender students after one such student’s mother described the problem her son has had. Elliot Bertrand, who started at Matanzas High School as a girl before the transformation, said he had trouble winning acceptance at Matanzas but that things are better after transferring to Flagler Palm Coast High School over the holiday break. His mother, Jennifer Bertrand, urged the board to update its policies and to take the issue seriously. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live.

Superintendent Q&A: Miami-Dade school Superintendent Alberto Carvalho talks about his strategies for building support from the community to raise funding for teacher pay and more, the district’s iPrep Academy, and his advice for superintendents. Education Dive.

Economic segregation: The divide between the St. Johns County and Putnam County school districts is one of the 50 most economically segregating school district borders in the country, according to a report by the nonprofit organization EdBuild. The report measures that segregation by comparing child poverty rates and school district funding between neighboring cities in 2017. St. Johns, with a school enrollment of 38,550, has $6,313 local revenue per student and gets $3,781 from the state, a poverty rate of 8 percent, median household income of $73,640, and is 23 percent nonwhite. Putnam has a school enrollment of 11,255, local revenue per student of $2,420 and gets $5,309 from the state, a poverty rate of 40 percent, median household income of $33,619, and is 47 percent nonwhite. The 74.

Spelling bee winner: Vivie Thelin, a 13-year-old 8th-grader from Millhopper Montessori School, won the Alachua County Spelling Bee to advance to the regional bee next month in Jacksonville. Gainesville Sun.

Ex-teacher’s certificate revoked: A former Escambia County teacher had her teaching certificate permanently revoked by the state’s Education Practices Commission for her repeated arrests for petty theft and other crimes. Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said Ann Belser, who taught English as a second language at Scenic Heights Elementary School, resigned in December. Pensacola News Journal.

Students and the law: Two students have been arrested after a school resource officer found a gun Wednesday at Mount Dora High School. The boys are 17 and 16 years old. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG.

Opinions on schools: In cutting the costs of Florida Prepaid College tuition plans, Gov. Ron DeSantis has stood up for Florida residents. Sun Sentinel. Addison Davis’ successor as Clay County school superintendent will have to bring their own energy, enthusiasm and plans to build on Davis’ success. Don Coble, Clay Today. An educator and author who blames charter schools and private school vouchers for constituting a “monstrous parallel system” that “has bled the life out of public education” and “left millions of children behind” is highly misleading. Jon East, redefinED.

Student enrichment: The King’s Academy, a private Christian school in West Palm Beach, has received a $1 million donation to create an endowment for its fine arts program. Jan Smith is the donor, and the school has named the arts program the Smith Family Conservatory of the Arts. Sun Sentinel. Helena Jiang, a senior at Buchholz High School in Alachua County, is one of 40 U.S. finalists in the Regeneron Science Talent Search science competition. Jiang developed sensors to detect pollutants in the environment by changing colors. Gainesville Sun. The Merritt Island High School’s JROTC rifle team has qualified for the national championship Feb. 14-16 in Alabama . Space Coast Daily.

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