Educators ask for $250 billion in federal aid, testing, Bush says open schools are economy key, and more

A request for more federal aid: A coalition of education groups is asking Congress to set aside more than $250 billion for education in its next coronavirus relief bill. “While we don’t yet know what the full impact of the novel coronavirus that has spread across the nation will be, we do know that both the economic hardship and the grief and trauma that ensue from COVID-19 will be unprecedented for today’s school-age children and college students,” wrote the 70-plus groups that include teachers unions, think tanks and education associations. They’re requesting at least $175 billion to help stabilize K-12 schools and colleges, $50 billion for public colleges and institutions that serve mostly minority students, $25 billion for programs serving students who are poor or disabled, and $4 billion to provide broadband service, wifi hot spots and laptops or tablets. They also are asking for an expansion of school food assistance programs and more programs to help students make up lost learning time. Politico. Education Week.

Testing requirements: Florida’s colleges and universities are expected to still require ACT or SAT test scores from graduating high school seniors as part of the admissions process for the 2021-2022 school year. Because the administration of those tests has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, the 12 public universities had asked the Florida Board of Governors to drop the test requirement for 2021. But the request was removed from the board’s agenda for Tuesday after the College Board, which makes the SAT, said it plans to offer the test Aug. 29 as well as other dates in the fall. “We are working closely with the universities and those who are responsible for admissions to determine if these additional test dates and, perhaps, some flexibility on our end as to when test scores are due from students will work to a solution,” said Marshall Criser, chancellor of the State University System of Florida. Orlando Sentinel.

On schools reopening: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said the state’s economy can’t fully recover until it’s safe enough to reopen schools. “You can’t open the economy if children are at home,” Bush said during an event Tuesday sponsored by the online news company Axios. “There’s no possible way. Most families have to have kids in school if they’re going to be able to go to work.” He also said, “We should be far ahead of the game than we are today. … there has to be a national strategy and there are the resources to do this and it should be the highest priority.” Axios. Florida Politics. Leon County school officials are starting to talk about how they go about reopening schools in the fall, what that might look like and how they would handle going back and then being “told again to retreat home,” said Superintendent Rocky Hanna. Tallahassee Democrat. Sarasota County School Board members have begun discussing options for the 2020-2021 school year, and also the problems that come with options such as staggered school times, maintaining social distancing in classrooms and on school buses, when to collect the laptops that were loaned to students for online learning, and more. “It’s a lot more questions than answers,” said interim superintendent Mitsi Corcoran. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Prepaid deadline extended: Open enrollment for Florida Prepaid college tuition plans has been extended a month, from April 30 to May 31, the organization’s board announced on Tuesday. The $50 application fee has also been waived, and the first payment will be due July 20. Tampa Bay Times.

FAFSA applications: The number of U.S. high school seniors who have applied for federal financial aid for college is down 2.6 percent from 2019, according to Data Insight Partners. That decrease means about 51,000 fewer students have applied for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which would translate to about $105 million in unallocated Pell grants. The 74.

Graduation plans: Traditional graduation ceremonies will be held for seniors at the 12 Lee County public high schools from July 17-26. The district is also holding virtual ceremonies from June 19-21. WINK. WBBH. WZVN. Suwannee County high school seniors will have in-person graduation ceremonies May 29 and 30. Guidelines on social distancing and crowd sizes will be observed, said district officials. WTXL. WCTV.

More on the coronavirus: About 2 percent of Marion County’s students have not participated in online learning and can’t be located, school officials said. That’s almost 900 students. Ocala Star-Banner. The Pasco County School District will place school buses with wifi at five schools on weekdays for the next month to help students with limited or no Internet access. The service will be cut to Monday through Thursday in the second week of June. Tampa Bay Times. Alachua County school officials have announced that the summer camp programs at Camp Crystal and the Extended Day Enrichment Program have been canceled because of the coronavirus. Gainesville Sun. St. Lucie County school officials are asking parents their thoughts about distance learning through an online survey. WFLX. Former Palm Beach County superintendent Robert Avossa, now a senior vice president of a company that trains superintendents, said the extended experience students and teachers are getting now with distance learning will be useful during other emergencies and possibly summer school. WPEC.

Teachers honored: Seven Palm Beach County teachers have been chosen as winners of the 2020 Dwyer Awards for teaching excellence. They are: Elizabeth Grimes, Loxahatchee Groves Elementary, early education; Nikki Magnetico, the Weiss School, elementary education; Christina Donnelly, Bak Middle School of the Arts, middle school education; Meghan Shamdasani, SouthTech Academy, senior high education; Heather Magill, Palm Springs Middle, STEM education; Cheryl Shimmel, Olympic Heights High, career education; and Sandra English, Riviera Beach Preparatory and Achievement Academy, special programs. Palm Beach Post.

Property tax vote: Pinellas County School Board members recently agreed to ask voters in November to renew an extra half-mill property tax that raises money for the school district. About 80 percent of the extra money is used to recruits and retain teachers, with the rest going for classroom resources. The extra tax has been approved every four years since 2004.  Tampa Bay Newspapers.

Board buys property: Alachua County School Board members have approved the purchase of 37 acres in the Jonesville area as a possible future site for a school. The cost was $3.68 million. There are no current plans to build a school, but district spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said, “We have to think beyond the next five to 10 years. This is a very, very good piece of property.” Gainesville Sun.

Personnel moves: Denise Santiago has been named the new principal at the Horace O’Bryant School in Key West. She had been the assistant principal. She replaces Christina McPherson, who is succeeding the retiring Amber Acevedo as principal at Key West High School. Key West Citizen.

School board elections: Mary Foreman, a CPA who chairs the Manatee School District Audit Committee, has announced she will run for the District 3 school board seat. Dave Miner holds that seat now, and he has yet to announce if he’s running for re-election. Others who are in the race are Scott Boyes and Shaun Lehoe. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teachers fired: Broward County School Board members have voted to fire two teachers: Wyman Gresham, who taught at the Lauderhill 6-12 Magnet School and was arrested and accused of sexual misconduct with students in 2017; and Brandon Sutton, who was also arrested after allegedly molesting a student at Parkway Middle School in Fort Lauderdale. WPLG.

Opinions on schools: Gov. Ron DeSantis should focus his efforts on developing a plan to reopen schools in August because, if schools stay closed, so will much of Florida’s economy. Randy Schultz, Sun Sentinel. Parent and guardians should care about a content-rich curriculum because it will accelerate their child’s academic development, prepare him or her for college and a career, and help him or her become a more adept adult citizen. Ashley Berner, redefinED. An educator and mother of three writes that coordinating her family’s lives through the pandemic sometimes resembled a glorified fire drill. But the opportunity to fully engage as a family over the past month has been a priceless gift. Jennie Capezza, redefinED. Effective education leaders are keenly aware that calamity will strike — suddenly, harshly and without warning. These leaders realize that no matter what happens, learning must continue. John Legg, Florida Politics. What states and school districts should be doing to move from the crisis of shifting to distance learning toward a more stable, sustained distance learning future. Michael B. Horn and Julie Young, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Fifty-six Osceola County schools have qualified for the state’s Golden School Awards for their volunteer programs. To be eligible, schools’ volunteer service hours must equal or surpass the number of students. Positively Osceola.

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