S.B. 86 and Bright Futures, bill would kill testing impacts, flexible high school schedules, and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

S.B. 86 effect on Bright Futures: The bill tying student tuition aid to college programs that “lead directly to employment” could also cut the amount students receive from Bright Futures scholarships. Right now, students earn those scholarships with their academic record, entrance exam scores and community service. If S.B. 86 passes, the Legislature would set the value of those scholarships every year when it prepares and approves a budget. “I think people who go to college, one of their goals is to improve their financial standing instead of winding up with debt and disappointment,” said state Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who filed the bill. “We want to design a system that will guide them to real career paths that will reward them financially and meet their goals.” Orlando Sentinel. WKMG.

In the Legislature: The results of statewide testing would not be used against students, schools and teachers under a bill that is finding bipartisan support in the Legislature. State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said he supports S.B. 886, which is sponsored by Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, and will schedule its hearing in his committee’s first meeting after the session begins Tuesday. Tampa Bay Times. Education spending, the streamlining of state K-12 scholarship programs, the creation of education savings accounts for students, and changes in the state pension system are among the top issues when the Florida Legislature begins session begins March 2. WUSF. Miami Herald. Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, has filed bills that would require local health departments to set up sexual assault response teams, facilities that treat sexual assault victims to offer them emergency contraception information, and K-12 schools to update anti-bullying requirements. Florida Politics. The company that the state hired to provide free digital books for Florida students 12 and under for the rest of this school year recently paid $10 million to settle a federal complaint of illegal marketing and billing practices. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the state: A pilot program will offer students at three Orange County high schools flexible start times and schedules, a court rules that charter schools should get a share of the money generated by voter-approved higher taxes in Palm Beach County, the Seminole County School Board rescinds its hiring of a superintendent and will revote next week, Leon schools are ending their Digital Academy online learning option, Bay County will no longer require students who were within 3 feet of someone with the coronavirus to quarantine, and Hernando school board members approve a resolution opposing a legislator’s push to have the superintendent elected instead of appointed. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe: More than 14,000 teachers between the ages of 50 and 64 in the Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe school districts could be getting coronavirus vaccine shots as early as next week. Miami Herald. A district graduation requirement that seniors put in 40 hours of community service has been waived by the school board because the pandemic has limited the number of opportunities. “We want to make sure we are able to relieve as much stress and concern as possible,” said Superintendent Robert Runcie. The change will also give many struggling seniors more time to work on improving their grades, which have dropped during remote learning. Sun Sentinel. The Miami-Dade School Board is not required to pay stormwater utility fees to the city of Miami Beach, an appeals court has ruled. It said the district is protected by sovereign immunity. News Service of Florida. Broward’s teacher of the year will be named Friday. The finalists are Dillard High School band director Sheldon McLean, Allison Unger-Fink of Hawkes Bluff Elementary, Alicia Gaines-Holligan of Park Lakes Elementary, Monika Moorman of Central Park Elementary and Mark Horowitz of Flamingo Elementary. WTVJ.

Hillsborough: Short of teachers for special education students, the district has begun recruiting college graduates from other fields and helping them through a two-year certification program called Supporting Teachers in ESE Prep. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: Later school start times and flexible schedules will be offered to students at three high schools next fall. Students at East River, Evans and Windermere high schools will be able to choose whether to start later or still start early with a longer midday break. If the program is successful, it could be offered for all 22 public high schools for the 2022-23 school year. The district has been exploring later start times for high school students for years. The district will also propose a conservatory for fine and performing arts, an agribusiness school and a school focused on modeling and simulation for middle and high school students. Orlando Sentinel. Proms have been canceled, but the district’s public high schools will have in-person graduations at the Amway Center this spring, with face masks and social distancing required. Last year’s graduations were canceled by the coronavirus pandemic. “Creative alternatives” are being considered for proms and other traditional senior activities. Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: Charter schools in the county are entitled to a share of the money generated when voters approved a referendum in 2018 to boost property taxes for district schools, the full 4th District Court of Appeal ruled on Wednesday. In April, a subset of the court ruled 2-1 that charter schools were not entitled to any of the money. Two charter schools that brought the suit appealed to the full court, which ruled 7-4 in their favor. The referendum to improve school safety and teacher pay included language that said it was “dedicated for operational needs of non-charter district schools.” News Service of Florida.

Duval: The school district held the first in a series of 28 community meetings over the proposal to rename nine schools. After collecting input, the board is expected to decide in May whether to change the names of schools that carry the names of Confederate figures and others that are considered offensive to indigenous populations. WJXT. WJAX.

Polk: The Texas charter school company IDEA Public Schools has applied to open a school in north Lakeland under the state’s Schools of Hope program, which allows charter schools to open in areas with chronically low-achieving schools. The school will have to be approved by the school board, which will face financial repercussions from the state if it denies the application. IDEA plans to open the school in August 2023. Lakeland Ledger.

Lee: The school district has been short of school bus drivers all years, and officials are starting to worry that the problem could become critical if it’s not fixed before next fall when more students are expected to return to classrooms. School board members approved a proposal this week to spend up to $41,750 to pay the various fees employees are now responsible for, such as medical exams, fingerprinting and earning a commercial driving license, as well as waiving the requirement that applicants have a high school diploma or GED, and offering a $100 bonus to drivers who recommend others for driving jobs. Fort Myers News-Press.

Brevard: School board members voted this week to acknowledge that teachers Harry and Harriette Moore were wrongly fired for their civil rights activism in 1946, and named them “teachers emeritus.” The district also will offer classroom lessons about the Moores, who were murdered in 1951 with a bomb under their house. Florida Today.

Seminole: The school board has rescinded its Feb. 9 decision to hire a Lake County administrator as the district’s next superintendent. Board member Tina Calderone said she regretted voting for Chad Farnsworth before having a “substantive discussion” with other board members. “I’m concerned our 3-2 vote lacked context,” she said. “Might I have voted differently after dialog with fellow board members?” The other finalist for the job was Serita Beamon, the school board’s attorney for the last 16 years. A special board meeting will be held Monday to try again to choose a successor to the retiring Walt Griffin. Orlando Sentinel.

Manatee, Sarasota: Local educators and health officials are waiting for answers from the state about how teachers will be vaccinated. “My understanding is that there will be some educators who will be one of the priorities in terms of moving forward because of the nature of their job,” said Manatee district spokesman Mike Barber. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

St. Johns: Players for the girls basketball team at St. Augustine High School will not be permitted to wear Black Lives Matter shirts during warmups at the semifinal game of the state basketball tournament on Feb. 19. Team captain Kyra Stauble, who is white, has been wearing a BLM shirt during warmups all season, and asked school officials for permission to provide shirts to all players. Her request was denied. “It is a St. Johns County School District policy that the student-athletes cannot wear political statements on the court,” said school athletic director Serge Lipovetsky. St. Augustine Record. WJAX.

Marion: The results of practice tests show a decline in achievement at almost all of the district’s elementary schools, school officials said this week. The average decline was 5 percentage points on language arts and math tests for students in grades 3-5. Ocala Star-Banner.

Escambia, Santa Rosa: Teachers are pushing both school districts to make more of an effort to incorporate black history into the curriculum year-round instead of just during Black History Month in February. “It’s not just about blacks and for blacks, it’s for everybody. And I feel when you learn of other cultures, and other people who are not like us, there’s a better chance of understanding,” said Cindy Hyman, who teaches history at Milton High School in Santa Rosa County. Pensacola News Journal.

Leon: The school district won’t offer its Digital Academy learning option for the 2021-2022 school year, Superintendent Rocky Hanna told the school board this week. “It’s been a heavy lift for our teachers,” he said. “I think it would be very unfair to our teachers to ask for a second year of doing that.” The academies are school-based and have allowed students to attend their classes remotely, in real time. Students will still have the option of attending the Leon County Virtual School. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. WTXL. Chelsea Johnson Muir, a teacher at Godby High School, has won the district’s Glenn-Howell Award for her impact on minority students. WTXL.

Bay: The school board has approved a request by Superintendent Bill Husfelt to change the rules governing the quarantining of students who are exposed to the coronavirus. Students who are wearing a mask and are at least 3 feet from an infected person no longer have to go into quarantine. The minimum distance had been 6 feet, which is what the CDC recommends. Panama City News Herald. Rutherford High School junior Jonathan Walker has won awards from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Yale Science and Engineering Association for his invention that turns carbon emissions into oxygen. The filter he developed attaches to car exhaust systems. Panama City News Herald. An athletic trainer at the Deane Bozeman School, 57-year-old William Mark Johnston, has been arrested after allegedly asking several students for sex. Panama City News Herald.

Hernando: School board members unanimously approved a resolution opposing a legislator’s proposal to have voters start re-electing superintendents again. That proposal by state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, was endorsed by the legislative delegation. “Hernando County has 27 schools, more than 22,000 students and nearly 3,000 employees. Any corporation that large would surely search for the most qualified candidate with superior executive skills to run day-to-day operations,” said board chair Linda Prescott. If the measure is approved by the Legislature, it would go before voters on the 2022 ballot. Tampa Bay Times.

Citrus: More people will be allowed to attend school events, the school board decided this week. The previous maximum attendance of 35 percent of seating capacity is now 50 percent. Rules on the use of face masks and social distancing will remain. Citrus County Chronicle.

Flagler: At a school board meeting this week, board member Janet McDonald said the coronavirus vaccine “is not a vaccine” and called for a loosening of restrictions such as wearing face masks. She also claimed that “communities that have masks repeatedly have bigger transmissions and bigger incidences of the virus.” Dr. Stephen Bickel, the medical director at the Flagler and Volusia health departments, called her statements “absurd, unhinged and egregiously wrong.” Flagler Live.

Monroe: Amber Archer Acevedo, who retired as the principal at Key West High School last June, has been hired by Superintendent Theresa Axford as the district’s coordinator of professional development and community relations. Key West Citizen.

Safety in schools: Most Florida school districts have made improvements in school security since the Parkland school shootings in 2018, according to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, though a survey of districts showed that a few don’t have access to law enforcement radios. Some districts also have reported that the Fortify Florida app that’s used to report tips has been deluged with false reports and spam. Capitol News Service. News Service of Florida.

Colleges and universities: Florida State University students will have the option of choosing LGBTQ housing this fall. WFSU. Florida International University’s Board of Trustees is pushing school leaders to get more students back in the classrooms by the start of the summer session in May. Miami Herald. Valencia College’s trustees have approved a four-year contract that will pay new president Kathleen Plinske a base salary of $320,000 a year. She begins the job July 1. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Polytechnic University is planning to increase the number of fulltime faculty by 25, a boost of 36 percent. Lakeland Ledger. A University of Florida professor with chronic health issues who asked under the Americans with Disabilities Act to be allowed to work from home and was denied is filing a suit against the university. Gainesville Sun.

Around the nation: A new study of eight Georgia schools by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes that educators are central to the transmission of the coronavirus in schools, to other adults as well as students. NPR. Florida Phoenix.

Education podcasts: Antonio Pares, the founder of Walnut Hill Workshop, an organization that helps public and private schools develop ways for students to be educated outside the standard 5-day-a-week model, talks about portable education funding as a way to create specialized tutoring and learning pods, public-private education partnerships and more with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill. redefinED.

Opinions in schools: We need to replace the fight over charter schools with the assertion that every child deserves a great school. And we need the political courage and imagination to make that happen. Eve L. Ewing, New York Times. Forgiving student loan debt would add another trillion dollars of national debt for questionable public benefits with inherent unfairness and wouldn’t solve the underlying problem. All in all, a perfect recipe for bad policy. Mac Stipanovich, Tampa Bay Times.

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