Florida schools roundup: Scholarship appeal, ethics, spending and more

florida-roundup-logoScholarship appeal: The Florida Supreme Court is being asked to step into the fight over the state’s tax credit scholarship program. Several groups that think the program is unconstitutional are appealing an appeals court ruling that the groups do not have the legal standing to challenge the program. The state Supreme Court is not obligated to take on the case. The Florida Education Association, NAACP and other groups believe the program resembles a voucher program that the court declared unconstitutional in 2006. The scholarships are funded by tax credits that corporations can make in lieu of tax payments. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarships. Gradebook. redefinED. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Sunshine State News. Associated Press.

Ethics issues: Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho may have broken state law by accepting gifts worth more than $100 and not reporting them, the Florida Commission on Ethics rules. The commission decided not to pursue the case after Carvalho accepted responsibility and later filed the proper forms. Miami Herald. The ethics commission also found probable cause that State Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park, misused his position by implying he would help the Okeechobee County School District only if it retaliated against a district employee. The employee was suspended. Florida Politics. Politico Florida. TCPalm. The ethics case against Flagler County School Board chairwoman Colleen Conklin has been closed, according to the ethics commission. Her 2014 financial disclosure form was filed a year late. Conklin says it was misplaced, and paid a $1,500 fine. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School spending: The St. Johns County School Board approves a $641.2 million budget that school officials call very tight. St. Augustine Record. The Hernando County School Board approves a $173 million budget that, for the first time since 2008, does not include cutbacks of employees or programs. Tampa Bay Times. The Citrus County School Board approves a $215.4 million budget. Citrus County Chronicle.

Teacher shortage: The national teacher shortage is affecting the United States and Florida and will continue to do so unless steps are taken to address attrition, according to a report from the Learning Policy Institute. Florida data show that almost 50 percent of teachers hired in the past 10 years have left the profession. Orlando Sentinel.

Contract negotiations: Teachers and other employees in the Pasco County School District say a proposed 2.65 percent pay hike offered by the district is not enough, and they want the district to dip into its reserves to bring it up. The average pay for Pasco teachers is $43,117, which is the lowest of any surrounding district. Tampa Bay Times. The Hillsborough County teachers union is making an issue of school temperatures. Union leaders say the district’s attempt to save money on cooling costs is leading to overheated classrooms. Tampa Bay Times.

Zoning issues: Dozens of rezoning issues face the Pasco County School District and parents, but one won’t be keeping rising seniors at Mitchell High School even if zoning changes are made. Superintendent Kurt Browning made that assurance as an advisory committee begins working on rezoning. The school board expects to vote on the zoning changes by Feb. 1. Tampa Bay Times.

Superintendent’s goals: Brevard School Superintendent Desmond Blackburn talks about improving background checks and teacher morale at a community meeting. Florida Today.

Makeup days: The Pinellas County School District is still considering its options for making up two days lost when Hurricane Hermine hit Florida earlier this month. Gradebook.

Volunteer checks: The Bay County School Board approves a background check policy for volunteers who work in unsupervised settings with students, such as volunteer coaches and mentors. Panama City News Herald.

Ex-coach, AD sue: The former football coach and athletic director at Arnold High School are suing the Bay County School Board and others, alleging they were defamed with what they call false allegations of recruiting. Former coach James Hale and his wife Julie Hale, the ex-athletic director, are asking for damages of at least $75,000. Panama City News Herald.

Bail request denied: A judge denied bail for a man appealing a three-year prison term for trying to extort $1 million from the Palm Beach County School District. Clarence “Shahid” Freeman was convicted in May. Sun-Sentinel.

Attempted assault: A man attacked and attempted to sexually assault a 16-year-old girl walking to her school bus stop Tuesday in Manatee County. School officials sent an electronic warning to parents and are working with law enforcement officials to boost patrols in the area. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WFLA.

Bus driver resigns: Polk County school bus driver Frederick McClellan resigns a day after being cited for a violation of right-of-way that led to an accident. The driver of the other vehicle and several students were injured. It was the third time this year McClellan has been involved in accidents, and he was cited each time. WFLA.

Opinions on schools: How can you tell if your child is being bullied at school? Julia Schneider, Sun-Sentinel. If the One Mill for Schools initiative passes, the benefits should flow to all schools in Alachua County, including charter schools. Megan Lane, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: Olivia Trader, a fourth-grader at Christa McAuliffe Charter Elementary School in Cape Coral, forms an anti-bullying group called Be Sweet, Not A Bully. Fort Myers News-Press. Weeki Wachee’s Winding Waters K-8 School now offers an environmental science class for 6th- through 8th-graders that emphasizes critical thinking skills. Tampa Bay Times. Students in the Culinary Academy at Anclote High School in Holiday are preparing for their annual soup festival, featuring ethnic recipes. Tampa Bay Times. Viera High School’s marching band will perform at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Jan. 1. Florida Today. Sixteen Collier County and 10 Lee County students are named National Merit Scholar semifinalists. Fort Myers News-Press. Parkside Elementary is the only school in Collier County with a hands-on “zSpace” tech lab that offers a three dimensional virtual reality learning experience. Naples Daily News. Five Bay County high schools will receive $2.6 million over three years as part of the National Math and Science Initiative, funded by the Department of Defense to boost science and math achievement. Panama City News Herald.