College classes going online, Tampa school closed, school meals, budget, raises, tax breaks and more
Free lunches threatened: Almost 200,000 Florida students could lose automatic access to free or reduced-price school lunches if a new Trump administration proposal to limit the number of people enrolled in the federal food stamps program (SNAP) is enacted, according to the Florida Policy Institute. Hardest hit would be Okeechobee County, where 83 percent of students are now automatically eligible. “Once these SNAP benefits are pulled, it will drastically impact the kids who are accessing free lunches at school, and it will put that much more of a burden on families that are already struggling,” said Paco Vélez, president and CEO of the hunger relief organization Feeding South Florida. Miami Herald. An anonymous donor has given $1,500 to the Leon County School District to help cover $4,000 in unpaid student lunch debts so far this school year. Tallahassee Democrat. About $11,000 in unpaid lunch fees are owed by Monroe County students. Key West Citizen.
Voucher expansion: The House Education Committee approves a bill that would use the state’s general revenue to expand a state scholarship program for students to attend private schools. The Family Empowerment Scholarship would be open to about 28,000 students, twice as many as the Senate is proposing, and students from families of four with incomes up to $77,250 would be eligible. That threshold is about $10,000 higher than the Senate’s, and it would increase each year. By 2023, any family with an income of up to $96,572 would be eligible. Both chambers’ bills are aimed at reducing the 14,000-student waiting list for Florida Tax Credit Scholarships (FTC). Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the FTC program. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Orlando Sentinel. GateHouse. Florida Phoenix. redefinED. Gradebook. Politico Florida. WFSU.
Bright Futures: If history is a guide, the Senate’s proposed bill to raise test scores needed to qualify for Bright Futures scholarships is likely to disproportionately affect minority students. In 2010, Florida began bumping up the standards to qualify for Bright Futures. Between 2013-2014, when the new standards were fully in effect, and 2017-2018, the number of black students qualifying dropped by 53 percent, from 10,587 to 5,582. In that same time period, the number of white and Hispanic students qualifying fell 39 percent. Florida Phoenix.
Scholarships waiting list: Gov. Ron DeSantis is calling on the Legislature to provide more funding for state K-12 tax credit scholarships so the wait-list of 13,000 students can be reduced. DeSantis, speaking on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Piney Grove Boys Academy in Lauderdale Lakes, says eliminating the backlog “will be a priority for me in this next legislative session.” About 100,000 low-income students use the scholarships to attend private schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarship. GateHouse. Florida Politics. redefinED. WPLG. Orlando Weekly. Miami Herald. Florida is one of four states making school choice a priority. The 74.
School shooting book: Forty-three students and teachers who survived the massacre last February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School collaborate on a book that shares their experiences and feelings from that day. Sarah Lerner, a journalism teacher, says writing Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories was a way to fight the tragedy with words and activism. Sun Sentinel. Associated Press.