Parental bill of rights, school board term limits, school scholarships, paying athletes and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Parental rights: A “bill of rights” that would allow parents to decide their children’s access to sex education in schools, make it easier to opt out of vaccinations, and order school districts to share information about a “minor child’s health, well-being, and education, while the minor child is in the custody of the school district,” has been approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee. H.B. 1059 has one more committee to get through before it goes to the full House. Florida Politics.

School board term limits: A bill that would ask voters in November to approve a constitutional amendment limiting local school board members to eight consecutive years in office won the approval of the House Education Committee and is headed to the House floor. H.J.R. 157 wouldn’t bar people from running for a school board seat after having already served eight years, as long as there’s a break in service. “It mandates rotation,” said its sponsor, state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills. “It gives a new person an opportunity.” Florida Politics.

State scholarship programs: Florida Department of Education officials and House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, have added their voices to those supporting the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTC) against critics who complain that public funding is going to private schools that allegedly discriminate against LGBTQ students. “The one thing that we are not going to do is have a situation where children who now finally have [a] great opportunity are now going to be ripped from those schools,” Oliva said. He added that the state could be sued if it tried to dictate terms of enrollment to religious schools. The DOE, meanwhile, said the Orlando Sentinel is “misrepresenting” the situation, and suggests the newspaper is biased against the FTC. Step Up For Students (SUFS), which hosts this blog, helps administer the program. Florida Politics. The Hill. State Rep. Shevrin Jones, a black, gay Democrat from West Park, said he sees himself as a peace broker in the dispute. He, SUFS president Doug Tuthill and Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, met Thursday to discuss the issue with two House members who called for companies to stop donating to the FTC. While no formal resolution was reached, both sides called the meeting productive. “There’s a consensus that we don’t want any kid to be discriminated against,” said state Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando. Orlando Sentinel. The FTC program was the subject of a spirited debate Thursday at a Sarasota Tiger Bay luncheon. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WWSB.

Compensation for athletes: The House Education Committee has approved a bill that would allow college athletes to be compensated for the use of their names or likenesses. H.B. 7051 now goes before the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would also require schools to provide athletes with insurance, offer them life skills and financial training, and extend grants for up to one academic year after an athlete’s eligibility has ended and up to five years for athletes who are injured and can no longer play. Some lawmakers have suggested that language be added to the bill to bind athletes by a morality clause prohibiting them from marketing themselves to such businesses as strip clubs, casinos, breweries and cigarette manufacturers. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

Guns in churches with schools: People could carry weapons into churches and other religious institutions, even ones that have schools, under a bill approved by the House Education Committee. The law now prohibits anyone other than law enforcement officers from carrying guns into schools. H.B. 1437 would put the decision in the hands of property owners. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

Security tax proposed: A one-year, 1-cent sales tax hike for Marion County School District security upgrades has been proposed by school board member Nancy Stacy. She estimated it would generate $42 million, which would be spread around the district’s 50 schools and district buildings. Other board members agreed it was an idea worth more discussion at a future meeting. Ocala Star-Banner.

Charter schools report: A study on Florida’s charter schools released Thursday by the Leroy Collins Institute has good news and not-so-good news for both critics and supporters. On the plus side, the report concludes that charters are as racially diverse as traditional public schools with double the enrollment of the national average, and that the state has a strong accountability system. But there is room for improvement in accountability and transparency, and innovation isn’t adequately measured or shared. “Our hope is that this study can lead to a careful assessment of the development of charter schools in Florida,” said Carol S. Weissert, director of the institute. Capitol Soup.

Turnaround schools: Hillsborough County school officials will make a plea Wednesday to the Florida Board of Education for more time to turn around three struggling elementary schools. Foster and Oak Park have been been supervised by an outside operator for the past 18 months, and Thonotosassa is also in the state’s turnaround program after three consecutive D grades from the state. The district wants to keep the schools under district control, with assistance from an outside operator. The state could choose to turn the schools over to a charter schools company or close them. Gradebook.

Educators honored: Diana O’Connor, an exceptional student education support facilitator at Beachland Elementary School, has been named the Indian River County School District teacher of the year. Tiffany Langdon, an autism spectrum disorder teacher assistant at Liberty Magnet Elementary, was named the employee of the year. TCPalm. Alison Cooper, the attendance clerk at Annie Lucy Williams Elementary School in Parrish, has been named the Manatee County School District’s support employee of the year. Bradenton Herald.

New schools: The Clay County School Board has awarded a $60.8 million contract to a Tallahassee company to build a new high school. The school, which will be called HHH until it gets named, will be built on a nearly 70-acre property on International Golf Parkway. It’s projected to open by August 2021 for up to 2,100 students. WJXT.

Education podcasts: This week has been full of controversial education stories, from teacher pay and bonuses to the state’s Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program to the new academic standards. Gradebook.

Graduation rate: Newberry High School became the first Alachua County school to graduate every one of its seniors in 2019. The school’s graduation rate has gone from 92 percent in 2015 to 98 percent in 2018 and 100 percent last spring. WUFT.

Superintendent search: The Clay County School Board is considering a proposal that would allow the board to appoint an interim superintendent until Gov. Ron DeSantis selects one. The current superintendent, Addison Davis, is leaving as early as next month to become superintendent for the Hillsborough County School District, and Clay board members don’t want to go without leadership in case DeSantis doesn’t decide on an interim before Davis leaves. WJXT.

School-related elections: Jim Surrency has announced his candidacy for the Gilchrist County School District’s superintendent’s job. He’s the district’s director of special programs. The current superintendent, Rob Rankin, said last month he isn’t running for re-election. Gilchrist County Journal. Alex Stemle, a dean and coach at Deerlake Middle School in Tallahassee, has announced he is challenging incumbent DeeDee Rasmussen for the District 4 seat on the Leon County School Board. Tallahassee Democrat.

Concerns about access to students: The Santa Rosa County School District didn’t do enough to screen nonteachers who had contact with students, a state auditor has reported. The audit was conducted last March through September. Eighty-four volunteers did not have the appropriate paperwork to prove they had met the screening requirements for dealing directly with students. District officials said they have taken corrective action and now screening volunteers and contract workers. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Investigation of an ex-principal: An investigation into the actions of a retired Flagler County principal has now stretched almost two months past its original conclusion date of Dec. 14. The school board is investigating allegations of harassment, misuse of funds and gross mismanagement against Terrence Culver, who was the principal at Belle Terre Elementary School in Palm Coast until he retired Jan. 3. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Employees and the law: A 20-year-old teaching assistant at a Pasco County elementary school has been arrested and accused of sharing drugs with an 18-year-old and a 17-year-old in her apartment. The 18-year-old died of a possible overdose. Marina Deetz, who works at Moon Lake Elementary, has been charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of heroin, possession of drug paraphernalia and two counts of possession/delivery of a controlled substance. The investigation into the death is continuing. WFLA.

School threats: A 19-year-old man with a history of mental illness has been arrested and accused of making a threat on Instagram to attack Santaluces High School in Lantana with a gun, Boca Raton police said. The man is a former student who made similar threats against Santaluces teachers last year, according to school officials. Palm Beach Post. Several Newsome High School students told the Hillsborough County School Board they don’t feel safe going to classes with three classmates who were with James Bradley Hulett after school Dec. 13 in the home of a police officer when Hulett was shot in the head and killed. No charges have been filed, and the investigation is ongoing. “They took Bradley’s life and keep acting like nothing happened,” said Alexa Haybrook, Hulett’s girlfriend. “They got away with murder and the school’s rewarding them by allowing them to stay in school.” Patch.

Deadly accident: A Palm Beach County high school student was not in a crosswalk when he was hit and killed by an SUV this week while walking to his school bus stop, Riviera Beach police said in their report. The SUV was switching lanes when it struck 14-year-old Aden Williams. No charges have been filed, and the investigation is continuing. Palm Beach Post.

School bus drags child: A 6-year-old student was recently dragged several feet down a Santa Rosa County street by her school bus after her backpack was caught in the door when she tried to get off. The child was not seriously injured, and the bus driver was suspended. WEAR.

Opinions on schools: Florida’s scholarship programs discriminate against nobody: grant money goes to income-qualified parents, including parents who may be LBGTQ. The parents then choose the school best suited for their child — and, to date, no parent has complained about discrimination. Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Sun Sentinel. If H.B. 45 and S.B. 56 are passed into law, they would deny students from low-income families or poor-performing schools the scholarships needed to attend excelling schools who share the student’s faith. It forces families of limited means into a one-size-fits-all system and leaves them without options. Larry Taylor, Sun Sentinel. The Flagler County School Board is slipping down the dangerous slope of new and indefensible restrictions on public speech at board meetings. Pierre Tristam, Flagler Live. The fire alarm went off today at our school. It should’ve been normal. We practice for it. We do monthly drills for it. It was only an accident, but my reaction wasn’t normal. It wasn’t OK. Was it my school this time? Amanda Linton, Orlando Sentinel. Hurricane Michael was devastating for the area and the Bay County School District. But the recovery is continuing, and we have reasons to celebrate Superintendent Bill Husfelt, Panama City News Herald. Physics enrollments in Florida’s public high schools continued to decline in the fall of 2019, reaching a level 16.3 percent lower than five years ago. In contrast, chemistry enrollments leveled off after three years of sharp declines. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. The two Indian River County School Board races this year will be like the Battle of the Network Stars from TV’s yesteryear. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm.

Student enrichment: More than 600 Miami-Dade County students played games and participated in team-building activities as part of the sixth annual Superfest at Florida International University. Miami Herald.

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