Florida schools roundup: Scholarships upheld, retention suit, tax hike and more

florida-roundup-logoScholarships upheld: An appeals court affirms a lower court ruling that the state’s teachers union and other groups do not have legal standing to challenge the program that uses corporate tax credits to issue scholarships to low-income students. The groups claimed the program diverts fund from public schools, but the court ruled there was no evidence of harm. A further appeal is being considered. Step Up For Students, which administers the Tax Credit Scholarship Program, hosts this blog. Associated PressredefinED. Politico. Orlando Sentinel. Pensacola News Journal. Tampa Bay Times. News Service of Florida. WFSUWUSF. Palm Beach Post. Sunshine State News.

Retention lawsuit: A Leon County judge has decided to hold another hearing Monday in the lawsuit against the state’s policy to retain third-graders who do poorly on the Florida Standards Assessments reading test or opt out. A group of parents is suing the state and six school districts, arguing that more factors should be considered if a student doesn’t do well on the test, and that students who are doing well should not need a test score at all. Gradebook.

Sales tax hike: The Osceola County School Board will ask voters on Nov. 8 to approve a half-cent increase in the sales tax to renovate and maintain schools, reduce the number of portable classrooms and upgrade security and technology. The tax would begin in January and is expected to produce about $25 million a year over the next 20 years. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher bonuses: All Bay County School District employees on the instructional salary schedule are now eligible for bonuses under the state’s Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship program. Before the school board approved the change, employees such as guidance counselors, math coaches and media specialists were not eligible. Panama City News Herald.

Pay incentives: The Duval County School Board is considering a plan to pay more to principals who agree to take over struggling schools. In addition to the increased base pay and extra pay for experience, principals would earn more at larger schools and at schools with more low-performing students. Florida Times-Union.

Diversity drive: The Pinellas County School District is developing a plan to recruit and retain minority teachers. Only 8 percent of the teaching staff is black, while 19 percent of the students are. The numbers are even worse for Hispanics: just 3 percent of the district’s teachers, but 16 percent of its students. The district is operating under a 2012 agreement in a federal case, with a stipulation to match the percentage of black teachers in the district to the percentage of black students. The plaintiffs in that case say the district hasn’t fulfilled its obligations to minority students, and is taking the case back to court. Tampa Bay Times.

Desegregation plan: Indian River County School Board members say that enough progress has been made in fulfilling federal desegregation requirements that the order should be partially lifted. They’re asking the NAACP to sign off on the resolution, but got a critical response. “It is extremely disappointing that after 50 years, the notion of partially addressing the court order is the best the Indian River County School Board could come up with,” said Tony Brown, president of the county branch of the NAACP. TCPalm.

Fighting Zika: Bay County school and health officials are collaborating on a plan to inform schools and parents about ways to protect children against the Zika virus and how to deal with any potential cases. Panama City News Herald.

Superintendent accused: Clay County schools Superintendent Charlie Van Zant Jr. is denying accusations of unethical and possible illegal conduct, and is asking for a Florida Commission on Ethics investigation into the principal who made the charges. Van Sant says the attack is politically motivated and also blames two school board members, Carol Studdard and Janice Kerekes. Florida Times-Union.

Superintendent search: Forty-nine people have applied to become Sarasota County’s next school superintendent. Lori White is retiring in February after serving about nine years. The school board expects to select her replacement by Oct. 18. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Applicant rejected: The Broward County School Board rejects Superintendent Robert Runcie’s recommended candidate for the district’s fire chief job. David Herbert, an administrator with Delray Beach Fire-Rescue, hasn’t completed a state course that was listed among the requirements for the job. The runner-up canceled his interview to respond to a fire, so the hiring committee will resume reviewing applicants. Sun-Sentinel.

School construction: Land O’Lakes High School students will remain in the school during a major renovation, according to Pasco School Superintendent Kurt Browning. The decision, which is what parents requested, extends the construction time to two years and increases the costs. Gradebook. Architects are hired to design improvements for three Broward County high schools that have leaking roofs, faulty air-conditioning systems and other problems. The repairs are expected to start by spring 2017, about two years behind the original estimate. Sun-Sentinel.

Charter school sale: Former tennis great Andre Agassi and his partner have sold a second charter school in the past week to the Florida Charter Foundation. The Franklin Academy in Boynton Beach was sold for $22.3 million. Last week, the pair sold the Franklin Academy in Cooper City to the company for $20 million. Real Deal.

Administrators honored: David Williams is named Escambia County’s principal of the year. Williams was cited for increasing the graduation rate at Pensacola High School by 13 percentage points in two years. Catrena Fieg, assistant principal at Hellen Caro Elementary, is the county’s vice principal of the year. Pensacola News Journal.

School elections: Candidates for the Collier County School Board are in agreement that students who don’t speak English should be integrated into the county’s schools. The four candidates appeared at a forum Tuesday in Naples. Naples Daily News.

Notable deaths: David White, an educator in Miami-Dade for 35 years and a community activist, has died at age 85 in Coconut Grove. Miami Herald.

Bus problem: A 5-year-old kindergarten student at Antioch Elementary School is safe after going missing after school. The girl apparently missed her bus and was given a ride home while her parents and the school looked for her when she didn’t get off the bus she should have been on. School officials are investigating. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Lightning injury: A 14-year-old student at the First Academy in Orlando is hospitalized after lightning hit a nearby tree while the student was standing in the school’s parking lot. The incident occurred during lunch hour. Orlando Sentinel.

Guns at school: A Mandarin High School student is arrested after telling school officials he had a gun in his car. Florida Times-Union.

Opinions on schools: The beginning of the new school year seemed the appropriate time for the courts to smack down yet another dubious challenge to a popular and successful scholarship program that benefits Florida’s poorest students. Lakeland Ledger. It is time for the parents to rise up and tell legislators to curb testing and let teachers teach. Tell Gov. Scott and his education department to focus more on students than the department’s latest $220 million testing contract. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. The start of school in Volusia County is earlier this year, and that closes the door on summer unseasonably. Pity the kids who don’t get practice in unstructured time. Mark Lane, Daytona Beach News-Journal.