State K-12 scholarship expansion approved, masks debate, school reopenings, aid choices and more

Scholarship expansion: Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill expanding and aligning two state scholarship programs that provide education choice to economically disadvantaged students. The new law increases the enrollment cap for the Family Empowerment Scholarship from 18,000 students to about 29,000 for the coming school year, and aligns some provisions with the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. “We had success in the first year with the Florida Empowerment Scholarship, but we had 15,000 to 20,000 on a wait list for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship,” DeSantis said. “We wanted kids off the wait list to empower families, many of them working single mothers, so they could have meaningful choice.” About 126,000 economically disadvantaged students are enrolled in private K-12 schools under the two programs this year. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer both scholarship programs. redefinED. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Orlando SentinelTampa Bay Times. WPTV. WEAR.

Reopening schools: Most of the members of the Leon County school reopening task force have voted to recommend that students wear face masks when schools resume. Tallahassee Democrat. Palm Beach County’s order that masks must be worn in public places and any business or establishment does not apply to schools, the county attorney said. At least not yet. Palm Beach Post. Manatee County elementary students could return to classrooms when schools reopen Aug. 10 while older students alternate between online and in-person classes. Teachers would wear face coverings, and desk shields or face coverings will be considered for students in classrooms. Those are the recommendations of Superintendent Cynthia Saunders that the school board will consider July 14. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WTVT. Monroe County’s schools reopening task force is recommending the district decide on classes in-person, online or a combination based on the severity of the coronavirus risk. Key West Citizen. The recent spike in positive coronavirus tests in Brevard County could prompt changes in the school district’s reopening plan, which is scheduled to be announced July 14. Florida Today. Seminole County School Board members are considering whether students should wear face masks in schools, and discussed how to incorporate state recommendations into the district’s reopening plan. WKMG. Orlando Sentinel. In-person, online or combination learning options will be considered by the Clay County School Board. WJAX. WJXT. Jackson County schools reopen Aug. 10, with students given the option of in-person or online classes. WTXL.

Relief aid rule change: U.S. school districts now have the option of giving federal coronavirus aid to all students in their counties, including ones who attend private schools, or sending it only to low-income students in the poorest public schools, also known as Title I schools. Previously, U.S. education Secretary Betsy DeVos had said the aid had to be distributed among all public and private school students. Public education advocates protested that order, saying it diverted too much money to private school students. DeVos said if private schools close, their students may flow into public schools that are struggling to serve the students they have. “Now is not the time to focus on what word comes before school,” she said. “Now’s the time to focus on doing what’s right for all students.” Politico. Associated Press. NPR. Education Week. Chalkbeat.

More on the coronavirus: The principal of the Miami-Dade County school that held its graduation at the Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday. David Pugh, the principal at Christopher Columbus High School, said he developed symptoms after the event and was tested Sunday. He said he’s feeling okay, but the district is tracing everyone he had contact with. Miami Herald. WPLG. A special Polk County School Board meeting to discuss the impending retirement of Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd was postponed because of the recent spike in coronavirus cases. Lakeland Ledger. A preschool in Pensacola has closed temporarily after a teacher tested positive for the coronavirus. WEAR.

Teaching about a massacre: This week, Gov. DeSantis signed a bill that requires schools to include lessons about the 1920 massacre of black residents in Ocoee over voting rights. When a black man tried to vote, a white mob lynched Julius Perry and chased other blacks from their homes. At least eight black residents were killed. “This bill couldn’t be getting signed into law at a better time,” said state Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, who sponsored the bill that also includes a requirement for lessons about the Holocaust. “It showed that the Florida Legislature was focused on historic racism before it exploded into the news a few weeks ago. That’s something Democrats and Republicans should be proud of.” Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel.

Schools and racism: School districts and their boards across the country are taking deeper looks at their relationships with police, school names and curriculum on racial matters after the protests that have swept the country. In Pinellas County, students are being included on a formal review team that will review curriculum to “ensure a diverse, anti-racist perspective is included at age-appropriate levels,” said associate superintendent Kevin Hendrick. Education Dive. Gradebook. The 74.

Reports raps principal: The former principal at Belle Terre Elementary School in Flagler County created a hostile work environment with inappropriate remarks, misused federal dollars and inappropriately accepted gifts, according report compiled after a school district investigation. George Culver, who resigned in January, has denied the charges. Flagler Live.

Private schools expanding: Xceed Preparatory Academy of Coral Springs, which has four private schools in Florida, is launching a virtual school called Xceed Anywhere. PR Newswire.

Opinions on schools: The discussion about redirecting money spent on policing includes having officers in schools. Nathan Crabbe, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: The Bay County School District is one of just three U.S. districts to win a $175,000 grant from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation to help students and schools recover from the coronavirus pandemic. WJHG. A Facebook Live concert put on by the Orange Blossom Opry raised $4,000 for Lake County School District career and technical education programs. Daily Commercial.

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