Charters security ruling: An administrative law judge rules that the Palm Beach County District must assign security officers to charter schools in order to comply with a state law passed last year. The school board had refused to provide officers for Renaissance Charter School Inc., which operates six schools in the county. “(The law) clearly and unambiguously requires school boards and superintendents — not charter school operators — to ‘establish or assign’ SSOs [safe-school officers], with the assistance of local law enforcement agencies, to every public school within their respective jurisdictions, including charter schools,” wrote Judge John Van Laningham. He did not rule on who is responsible for paying for the officers. News Service of Florida.
Guns at schools: Two bills that widen the ability of people to have guns on the grounds of schools are approved by the House Criminal Justice Committee. H.B. 403 would allow people to carry concealed weapons in churches that also have schools on the same property, and H.B. 6005 would require school districts to allow anyone over 18 years old to store a firearm in their vehicles on school grounds. Both were supported by the National Rifle Association. The current law allows districts to prohibit guns at schools and their parking lots. News Service of Florida. Sun Sentinel. Gradebook. Florida Phoenix. WFSU.
Bible course bill: A bill that would require all Florida public high schools to offer an elective course on the Bible is approved in an 11-3 vote by the House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee. The course would not be mandatory, and it also will be focused solely on the Bible. But the bill sponsor, Rep. Kim Daniels, D-Jacksonville, says it is intended as an “objective study of religion” and is simply a “literacy course.” Some lawmakers question whether the bill could survive a court challenge. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. WKMG. Florida Phoenix. WFSU.
Civics education bill: The House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee also approves a bill that would require middle school students to take a civics education course to advance to high school. The course would be reviewed for effectiveness by the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, a partnership between the University of Florida and University of Central Florida. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Vance Aloupis, R-Miami. Associated Press.
Bullying scholarship verification: The Florida Department of Education is advising school districts not to verify students’ bullying claims before deciding whether to award them Hope Scholarships to attend different public schools or private schools. Doing so would violate state law, the DOE told superintendents in a memo that also warned that “any district that is adding this requirement is in violation of statute and administrative rule and will be dealt with according to law.” The Pasco County School District, which had announced it was considering verifying incidents before offering the scholarship, has abandoned that idea. Gradebook.
Teachers protest: Teachers around the state rallied Monday for more financial support for schools from the Legislature. The “fund our future” events were organized by the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union. The union wants a boost in per-student spending of $743, or about 10 percent, to better fund schools and would allow higher pay to combat the shortage of teachers statewide. The 60-day legislative session begins today, and Gov. Ron DeSantis will deliver his State of the State message at 11 a.m. Orlando Sentinel. Keynoter. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. WKMG. WINK. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Legislative preview: Gov. Ron DeSantis, his fellow Republicans in the Senate and House and the new, more conservative Florida Supreme Court seem poised to overhaul public education by expanding school choice, changing the way schools are funded, adding a new scholarship program and more, beginning Tuesday when the 60-day legislative session begins. Some see it as a continuation of the transformation former Gov. Jeb Bush started 20 years ago, while critics call it a dismantling of the state’s public school system. Tampa Bay Times. The Senate will take up the proposed educational landmark bill, S.B. 7070, on Wednesday. Politico Florida. Other education items on the Legislature’s agenda are the expansion of school choice, arming teachers, accountability for charter and private schools and security in schools. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Sun Sentinel. GateHouse. redefinED. WFSU. Tallahassee Democrat.
Testing in other languages: Bills are filed in the Senate and House that would allow Florida students still learning English to take state assessment tests in their native languages. Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, and Rep. Cindy Polo, also a Democrat from Miami, introduced companion bills SB 1590 and HB 1213. “I think it’s ridiculous that a place like Florida, where we have so many students in this circumstance (learning English), they’re not allowed to take their tests at least in Spanish or Creole, in their native language,” says Taddeo. Florida has resisted offering tests in languages other than English, ignoring federal guidelines urging states to “make every effort” to do so. Gradebook.