Scholarship funding: In a recent interview, Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis says he wants to direct more funding toward the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program. Ultimately, he said, he’d like the state to give families a stipend for their student’s education that they could use as they wish. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarship. Florida Trend. DeSantis’ education transition team is preparing its final recommendations, which are expected to include increased parental empowerment on educational choices of schools, and expanded school choice options and vocational education. Florida Politics. WJCT. WLRN. New Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran talks about his vision for the future of education in Florida. He starts the job Jan. 8. WTSP. Politico Florida. Outgoing Commissioner Pam Stewart says, “We are, in Florida, at an all-time high,” and says Corcoran needs no advice from her because he already knows enough to do a good job. Gradebook.
School shooting aftermath: The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission is expected to release its report today. WFLA. What’s being done to stop another school shooting? Sun Sentinel. Broward County school resource officers are receiving more rigorous active-shooter training and being given more powerful weapons, according to Sheriff Scott Israel. Associated Press. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. What went right on the second floor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building that was attacked by a gunman Feb. 14. Sun Sentinel. A review of Israel’s performance since the shooting reveals excuses and misstatements. Sun Sentinel.
House tax package: The Florida House is expected to introduce a $332.7 million tax relief package today. About 46 percent of the total – $154 million – would come in the form of credits for companies that contribute to the tax credit and Gardiner scholarship programs. Another $74.5 million would be for a 10-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school purchases of clothes, school supplies and technology, and three separate seven-day periods for buying hurricane supplies. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit and Gardiner programs. News Service of Florida.
Medical marijuana: The Broward County School District is working on a policy to deal with students who are approved to use medical marijuana. Students would not be allowed to carry the drug or store it at school, but parents or a caregiver could come to campus to administer it as long as they have medical clearance. School staff would not be permitted to handle the drug. Palm Beach County allows the drug to be administered by nurses, who are supplied by the county health department, while Miami-Dade prohibits medical marijuana on campus, citing the conflicts in state and federal laws. Sun-Sentinel.
Turnaround schools: Polk County school officials choose a Kentucky company to begin operating six persistently struggling schools this fall if they don’t get a school grade of C or above from the state this year. Educational Directions would charge the district at least $387,500 per school for the first year, then $225,000 to $250,000 per school for each additional year. The school board will vote on the recommendation Feb. 27. Bartow Middle, Garner Elementary, Griffin Elementary, Kathleen Middle, Lake Alfred Polytech Academy and Lake Marion Creek Middle have each received grades of D or F for the past three years, prompting the state to require the district to close them, turn them into charter schools or hire an outside company to operate them. Lakeland Ledger.
Displaced students: More than 2,500 Puerto Rican students have enrolled in schools in Orange and Osceola counties since Hurricane Maria hit the island in September, and many more are expected. School officials are lobbying state lawmakers for more money and waivers from class-size rules and testing requirements, especially at the high school level. The state has yet to respond to the request. State laws don’t provide extra money unless a district’s enrollment is 5 percent or more than expected. Orange and Osceola schools aren’t likely to hit that benchmark, but say they still need financial help. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. Osceola News-Gazette. A displaced teacher is teaching displaced students at Lake Nona Middle School in Orlando. Fewer than 20 percent of Puerto Rico’s schools have reopened since Hurricane Maria swept through. CBS News. Hillsborough County has enrolled 326 students from islands devastated by hurricanes this year, and they’re spread all around the county. Gradebook.
Segregation at lunch: Students at Hudson High School in Pasco County are being segregated at lunch based on grades and attendance. Those who have a 2.0 or better grade point average with fewer than four absences are issued an ID and wristband, and receive special perks like eating lunch outside the cafeteria. School officials say the program is an incentive to get students on-track, but some parents say it’s unnecessarily creating division among students. WTVT.
Bullet-resistant backpack: Florida Christian School, a private school in Olympia Heights, is offering parents the opportunity to buy a $120 bullet-resistant backpack insert. The insert is made by Applied Fiber Concepts. In active shooter drills, students are taught to wear their backpacks on their chests, and the insert could help stop a bullet from a handgun. “We want to protect our students’ center mass,” says George Gulla, the school’s head of security. Miami Herald.