Florida schools roundup: Choice lawsuit dismissed, charter law upheld and more

florida-roundup-logoChoice lawsuit dismissed: The Florida Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal by several groups that were challenging the constitutionality of the state’s tax credit scholarship program. The vote was 4-1. The decision upholds an appeals court ruling that the plaintiffs, including the Florida Education Association and the Florida NAACP, did not have standing to file the suit. About 98,000 low-income children are attending private schools with the help of the scholarships, which are funded by a law that permits corporations to donate money to the program and get a tax credit. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarships. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Tallahassee DemocratGradebook. Associated Press. News Service of FloridaPolitico FloridaredefinED. Florida Politics. Sunshine State News. Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association, wonders who can challenge the Legislature on the tax credit scholarship program. “This ruling, and the decisions by the lower court, doesn’t answer that question,” she said in a statement. “We still believe that the tax credit vouchers are unconstitutional, but we haven’t had the opportunity to argue our case in court.” Florida Politics.

Charter law upheld: An appeals court upholds a Florida law that allows the Board of Education to overturn a local district’s denial of a charter school application. The Palm Beach County School claimed in its suit that the law was unconstitutional because it infringed on local boards’ power to approve or deny charter schools. The Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled that the Florida Constitution creates a hierarchy that gives boards local control, but gives the state board supervisory authority. The court also ordered the state’s appeal commission to re-examine the case and send its justification for denial to the state Board of Education for another review. News Service of Florida. Palm Beach Post.

The Trump effect: The Brevard County School District is trying to prepare for the effect President-elect Donald Trump may have on local schools, but say it’s hard to know exactly what it will be. “I’m just very unsure, very, very unsure what the presidential election means to the educational lives of next year’s kindergartners,” says Superintendent Desmond Blackburn. Some of Trump’s stated goals are similar to what the district already does or is moving toward, but few details of how Trump’s plan will be enacted have been released. Florida Today. Teachers unions in Florida and around the country are demonstrating in protests today against the Trump education agenda and the nominated education secretary, Betsy DeVos. Politico Florida.

Metric measurements: Florida high schools will become the first in the United States to use metric measurements for throwing and jumping events in track meets. Metrics have been used for all state high school running events since 1990. The change begins next month, and will be mandatory in 2018, according to the Florida High School Athletic Association. New York Times.

Teachers, others honored: Lois Horn-Diaz, a former school psychologist and now a teacher of gifted students in language arts, humanities and technology at R. Bruce Wagner Elementary in Lakeland, is named Polk County teacher of the year. The school-related employee of the year is Maureen English, a guidance secretary at Dundee Ridge Middle Academy. Lakeland Ledger. Three finalists are chosen for the Santa Rosa School District teacher of the year award. They are: Jennifer Confusione, Bagdad Elementary; Kristen White, East Milton Elementary; and Trish Johnson, Bennett C. Russell Elementary. The winner will be announced Friday. Pensacola News Journal.

Meds at schools: Broward County high school students can now bring select over-the-counter medicines to school without a doctor’s note. The school board approved a change that allows students to carry Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Tums, Midol, Allegra, Lactaid or Claritin with a parent’s permission. Sun-Sentinel.

Rezoning process: The Pasco County School District is looking for ways to make future rezoning of school boundaries less painful for those affected. Tampa Bay Times.

Contract protest: Teachers from at least nine Manatee County teachers hold “walk-ins” to protest the lack of progress being made on their contract with the district. In a walk-in, teachers wear red and congregate in a spot outside a school, then walk in together in a show of solidarity. A magistrate’s hearing on the contract impasse is Jan. 25. Bradenton Herald.

Legislative priorities: The Santa Rosa School District lobbies its legislative delegation for more local autonomy and less testing. Pensacola News Journal.

Superintendent search: The Flagler County School Board meets with the Florida School Boards Association Feb. 1 to discuss the search for a new superintendent. Jacob Oliva is leaving the district at the end of the school year to become vice chancellor of the state’s K-12 public schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School name honors pioneer: A new elementary school in Hillsborough County will be named after Warren Hope Dawson, 77, a lawyer who helped desegregate the county’s schools. The school, in Riverview, is scheduled to open in August. Tampa Bay Times.

Teachers’ message: All the states’ 2016 teachers of the year, in Tampa recently for the college national championship football game, form an organization called #ProtectPublicEd to bring attention to the problems facing public education. WTSP.

Instruments coming: The Broward County School Board votes to push the purchase of all musical instruments promised under an $800 million bond program to this summer. Before the decision, more than 70 schools would have had to wait for the instruments for up to two years. Sun-Sentinel.

Open enrollment: The Okaloosa County School Board amends its attendance waiver rules to comply with the state’s new law on open enrollment. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Out-of-school programs: The Jacksonville Children’s Commission will allow its grant recipients to provide transportation for after-school and summer learning programs, and also decided that schools may not apply to provide a program. Florida Times-Union.

District’s penalty: The Hernando County School District still faces a fine from the state for failing to properly document student attendance at Suncoast Elementary School three years ago. The district mistakenly shredded the records after filing them electronically with the state. But the fine won’t be as much as the original $3.6 million, since the state is accepting alternate forms of proof that about 900 students attended the school in 2013-2014. Tampa Bay Times.

Murgio sentencing: Former Palm Beach County School Board member Michael Murgio in asking a court for leniency when he is sentenced next week for his part in a federal bribery case. Murgio, 66, pleaded guilty of making a false statement to the National Credit Union Administration on behalf of his son. Murgio faces 10 to 16 months in prison and a fine of $3,000 to $30,000. He’s asking a New York district judge for probation and no fine. Sun-Sentinel.

School threat arrest: A teenager is arrested on a misdemeanor charge of disruption of an educational facility and resisting arrest without violence after Astronaut High School in Titusville was closed for hours by a threat. Florida Today.

Opinions on schools: With Betsy DeVos as U.S. education secretary, we will see more private charter schools – probably a lot more. Joe Henderson, SaintPetersburgBlog. Betsy DeVos will cut federal red tape and be a passionate advocate for state and local control of schools. More importantly, she will empower parents with greater choices and a stronger voice over their children’s education. Jeb Bush, Tallahassee Democrat. In Florida, the voucher program is not the enemy. The enemy is state legislators who tie the hands of public school boards, administrators and teachers, and then shout about them not being innovative. John Romano, Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: Thousands of people have sent messages of support through social media to a 12-year-old girl who was being bullied at Shoal River Middle School in Crestview. Pensacola News Journal. Hernando County’s Central High School again has a marching band after two years without one. Tampa Bay Times. About 150 students are expected to compete in the annual CyberThon Friday at the National Naval Aviation Museum and National Flight Academy at Pensacola Naval Air Station. Pensacola News Journal. Austin Nisbett, a Spruce Creek High School senior, is trying to raise $6,000 to buy and install an electric car charger in the school parking lot. Daytona Beach News-Journal.