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.
ESSA plan approved: Florida’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act finally has won the approval of the U.S. Education Department. The state submitted five revisions of the accountability plan, including one this week, before Education Secretary Betsy DeVos gave her approval in a letter to Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. Florida had resisted some ESSA requirements, such as assessments of English language learners and math testing for advanced students in middle schools. Florida’s was the last of the 50 states to have its plan approved. Gradebook. Education Week.
Medical marijuana: School boards in Orange, Volusia and Clay counties are moving forward with policies that will permit students with prescriptions to receive medical marijuana treatments at schools from parents or caregivers, but not school personnel. The Orange County School Board approved the policy this week, and the Clay and Volusia boards will take final vote in October and November, respectively. Broward and Santa Rosa counties have adopted similar policies. Orlando Sentinel. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Clay Today. Orlando Weekly.
ESSA questions: Florida’s latest plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act is drawing questions from the U.S. Education Department. Specifically, federal officials want more details on how the state calculates math achievement and proficiency, how schools that need support for improvement are identified by the state, how schools can get out of the turnaround program, and how schools with a single D grade fit in the requirements for improvement. The state has until Oct. 4 to respond. Florida is the only state whose ESSA plan has not been approved. Gradebook.
Alarming false alarms: False fire alarms and emergency drills are causing trauma to students who were at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the shootings Feb. 14 that left 17 dead, they say. “They’re hearing the same sound that brought them all into the hallway where the shooting really started taking place,” says Dr. Nicole Mavrides, director of the child psychiatry program at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. “It can really bring out symptoms of post-traumatic stress.” The Parkland school has had one active shooter drill, two fire drills and five false alarms since school began Aug. 15. Students are responsible for three of the false alarms. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald.
School security: As the Palm Beach County School District’s police force welcomes a new chief, the previous two chiefs are still on the payroll. Frank Kitzerow was hired as the new chief last week, but the outgoing chief, Lawrence Leon, will remain in the department for at least another year and Jim Kelly, who preceded Leon, has been hired back as a consultant. Also to be sorted is how the district will provide armed officers in all schools. The expanded 160-member police force is at least 75 officers short of covering all schools, and the sheriff has refused to make deputies available on overtime. Palm Beach Post. The mother of one of the students killed in the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is being reassigned to the job of director of school safety and security. April Schentrup, mother of Carmen, has been principal at Pembroke Pines Elementary School. Sun-Sentinel. Sheriff’s officials don’t believe the state mandate requiring an armed officer in all schools applies to summer school, but will provide some coverage. Citrus County Chronicle. The Monroe County School District is proposing to upgrade mental health services to students by hiring two fulltime social workers, expanding a contract with the Guidance Care Center to provide more mental health counselors, and reinstating a Medicaid specialist to seek reimbursements for services. Key West Citizen.
School board elections: School board races are set at districts around the state: Broward County, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Seminole, Orange, Lake, Osceola, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, Brevard, Lee, Sarasota, Manatee, Manatee, Leon, Alachua, Marion, Volusia, Flagler, St. Johns, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Collier, Escambia, Santa Rosa, Walton, Okaloosa, Monroe, Citrus. Duval County School Board chairwoman Paula Wright will challenge incumbent Kim Daniels in the Democratic primary for the District 14 seat in the Florida House. Florida Times-Union.