Florida roundup: Federal vouchers, tutoring oversight, student arrests & more

Federal vouchers. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., proposes what may be the most sweeping school choice legislation in U.S. history – a federal tax credit scholarship program similar to the state program in Florida. redefinED. More from the Miami Herald.

flroundup2Tutoring oversight. In response to a Tampa Bay Times investigation, Education Commissioner Tony Bennett promises to take steps to curb fraud and abuse in the state-mandated tutoring program.

Charter schools. The Pinellas school board votes to continue the closing process for the long-troubled Imagine charter school in St. Petersburg, despite more than 100 students showing their support for the school. Gradebook.

Exposed! The response. EdFly Blog notes what should have been in press reports – that In the Public Interest, the group that launched the latest Jeb Bush-corporate-cabal conspiracy theory, is run by Donald Cohen, the former political director of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO. (Gradebook, at least, did note the group’s labor ties.)

School grades. A House subcommittee bill would extend grading to small schools. SchoolZone.

School spending. The St. Lucie County school board takes the possibility of four-day weeks off the table, reports TCPalm.com. A divided Volusia County school board votes to begin the process of outsourcing custodial and grounds maintenance jobs, reports the Daytona Beach News Journal. The Brevard school board votes to close three of four schools proposed for shuttering, reports Florida Today.

School security. After a principal is attacked in neighboring Polk County, a Hillsborough school board member suggest parts of Superintendent MaryEllen Elia’s safety plan should be revisited, reports the Tampa Bay Times. The News Service of Florida logs in a bill that would put cameras on school buses to catch drivers who blow through school bus stop signs.

School discipline. Central Florida school districts need to “embrace less punitive options” to arresting students for relatively minor incidents, editorializes the Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher discipline. Criminal charges may have been dropped against a Palm Beach County school band director for financial shenanigans, but he still deserves a lengthy suspension without pay, editorializes the Palm Beach Post. In Marion County, a teacher suspended last year for an incident involving a special needs student is placed on unpaid leave for a more recent incident, reports the Ocala Star Banner.

Superintendents. Now the Manatee school board must choose. Bradenton Herald.

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at rmatus@stepupforstudents.org or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at facebook.com/redefinedonline.