Big changes for S.B. 86, $75 million request for technical education, COVID in schools and more

S.B. 86 rewrite: When the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets today to consider S.B. 86, it will be reviewing a significantly different bill. Bowing to criticisms of the proposal to award financial aid, including Bright Futures Scholarships, based on the job prospects of students’ chosen majors, Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, the sponsor, has revised the bill by deleting several of the more controversial provisions. The reduction of aid for majors that “do not lead directly to employment” is gone. So is the proposal to cut scholarships based on how many credits students earn through dual enrollment or AP classes. Added is eligibility for aid for students who earn recognition from the College Board National Recognition program for underrepresented communities. Still in the bill: changing the Bright Futures funding from a fixed percentage of tuition and fees to an amount decided by the Legislature each year. Orlando Sentinel. Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. WWSB. WKMG. WPEC.

Workforce training plan: Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed Monday that the Legislature use $75 million in federal coronavirus aid to speed up access to technical education programs for students and other state residents. DeSantis wants $50 million for a “Get There Faster Technical Prep and Work-Based Learning Initiative” to pay training costs for high school students, and $25 million for a program for adults. “My view is, getting kids in jobs, being able to actually serve as an apprentice, while you’re in school even, you end up being able to learn on the job, and potentially have a pathway to get a full-time job when you graduate from high school,” DeSantis said. WKMG. Florida Today. WPLG. WTXL. WESH. In the Legislature, a House committee approved a bill that would change Florida’s Workforce Development System by broadening access to job placement services, creating training assessments, and asking for a federal waiver to have greater spending flexibility. Florida Politics.

Using test results: Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran suggested Monday that Florida Standards Assessments results may not be used to retain students, grade schools or factor in school funding and teacher pay. Corcoran did say he will talk to school superintendents before announcing a final decision. “When we get that input, we apply for the (federal) waiver, and then we’ll collaboratively figure out what is the best to do,” Corcoran said at a press conference in Melbourne. A bill also has been introduced in the Legislature that would hold students, schools and teachers harmless for test results. WPTV.

Coronavirus in schools: Less than 1 percent of Florida students contracted the coronavirus in schools between Aug. 10 and Dec. 20, 2020, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 25,100 cases were reported by schools in that time, but only 0.89 percent occurred in schools. The median age of students testing positive was 13, and cases were reported in 62 of the state’s 67 districts with an average of 6.3 cases per school. One hundred and one students were hospitalized, but none died. Researchers said the findings added to a  “growing body of evidence suggesting that COVID-19 transmission does not appear to be demonstrably more frequent in schools than in noneducational settings.” WTSP.

Around the state: The U.S. Census is reporting that the number of home-schooled students skyrocketed when schools reopened last fall, Destin High School is asking the state for permission to offer a commercial fishing class when the school opens in August, a judge is expected to rule today whether the Seminole County School Board can move ahead with its decision to hire a new superintendent, mid-year testing shows Sarasota students are behind where they usually are at this time of the school but ahead of other state students, Volusia school officials now say graduating seniors will get four tickets for guests to attend ceremonies, and several Republican legislators are criticizing the University of Florida after it suspended three conservative student groups for breaking COVID rules. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Orange: School district officials said students will continue to be placed 6 feet apart in classrooms, despite last week’s CDC guidance suggesting they can be safely spaced just 3 feet apart. WMFE. Jones High School junior Elv Smith Charles recently retraced the 54-mile walk for civil rights from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., on the 56th anniversary of the 1965 marches. Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: District students from pre-K through 12th grade can receive two free books this week at four locations. The giveaway is a joint project of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association, Florida’s Young Remarkable Educators, the Florida Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association through a nonprofit organization called First Book. WPTV.

Duval: A compilation of video clips from the community meeting to discuss the proposed renaming of Robert E. Lee High School has gone viral and is creating controversy. The clips show a school alumnus aking, “If this high school is having problems, how long has it been predominantly African American,” and accusing groups that favor the renaming of just “stirring up trouble.” WJXT. A 34-year-old woman has been arrested and accused of entering DuPont Middle School and assaulting a 12-year-old student. Edith Riddle has been charged with child abuse. The 12-year-old girl’s mother said she plans on taking legal action. WJAX.

Lee: School officials have announced that they’re changing the location for a proposed K-8 school in Estero. They said the change was made at the request of Estero city officials, who said the proposed location “just wasn’t feasible.” A community meeting is being held Thursday at Estero High School to discuss the change. The school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2023 with up to 1,600 students. WBBH.

Seminole: A Brevard County circuit judge heard arguments Monday in the request for an injunction to stop the Seminole County School Board from hiring a superintendent, and said she would issue her ruling today. An attorney filed the request on behalf of a parent, contending the board violated its own bylaws when it chose Chad Farnsworth to be its next superintendent, then rescinded the offer two weeks later and decided to hire board attorney Serita Beamon. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG.

Volusia: After hearing complaints from parents and students, the school district said Monday that each student will get four tickets for guests to graduation ceremonies instead of the two previously announced. The ceremonies are June 3-6 at the Ocean Center. Masks will be required and social distancing will be observed. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WKMG. WOFL. The school board is asking the Florida Supreme Court to review an appeals court ruling allowing a chart school to open. The board denied the application from the Florida East Coast Charter School. The charter company appealed to the state Charter School Appeal Commission, which recommended the school be approved. The state Board of Education then reversed the school board’s denial of the application, and that decision was upheld in January by an appeals court. News Service of Florida.

Manatee: On the first day back at school after spring break, no district students tested positive for the coronavirus. Bradenton Herald. About 40 percent of school district employees have received at least one coronavirus vaccine shot, school officials announced Monday. About 2,000 employees are waiting for their second shot. Bradenton Herald.

Sarasota: A mid-year snapshot of testing shows that district students are slightly behind where they usually are at this time of year, but are doing better than other state students. In reading assessments, for example, 58 percent of Sarasota 9th-graders and 55 percent of 10th-graders are at or above grade level achievement. Statewide, the figures are 48 percent of 9th-graders and 41 percent of 10th-graders . The school board will review the data at today’s meeting. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Marion: School board members meet today to address a shortage of school bus drivers by raising the pay of temporary drivers from $8.89 an hour to $15.35, which is what new fulltime bus drivers are paid. “What we have right now is what I call a code red,” said board member Kelly King. “We are in crisis mode right now.” Ocala Star-Banner.

Escambia: In a message to parents, school Superintendent Tim Smith called the arrests of an assistant principal and her daughter on charges of casting fraudulent votes in the Tate High School homecoming queen election “devastating.” WEAR. School district officials will meet April 1 with members of the union representing school bus drivers to discuss a pay raise that the district hopes will ease the shortage of drivers. Nearly 100 driving positions are open. “We’re trying to think of ways to fix this issue, to resolve it to improve our situation,” said Smith. “… We’re all concerned about it. So we’ll come together and see what we can do to solve it.” Pensacola News Journal.

Okaloosa: When it opens in August, the charter Destin High School wants to offer a commercial fishing class for credit. It’s asking the state for permission to have a commercial fishing class that would certify students to crew on a charter fishing boat. “If they go through the entire program, they could have their captain’s license right out of high school,” said principal Christine Cruickshank. If the state approves the class, it would be the first of its kind in the state, she said. Destin Log.

Alachua: An 8th-grader at Howard Bishop Middle School has started a company to help stray animals. Daniel Dickrell started Stray Styles to raise money for the North Central Florida Humane Society. He designs logos with the phrase “Ball is Life” on shirts, mugs, masks, mouse pads and more. Gainesville Sun.

Martin: Students’ plans to ignore the school district’s coronavirus safety rules and hold a prom got a boost Monday when state Rep. Toby Overdorf, R-Stuart, threw his support behind the effort. Overdorf said he’d host a “notary event” Thursday so parents and students can sign a county-required waiver to attend the prom. TCPalm.

Colleges and universities: Several Republican lawmakers are criticizing the University of Florida after it suspended three conservative student groups for breaking COVID rules. Politico Florida. E. LaBrent Chrite, who resigned as president of Bethune-Cookman University last week and announced the next day that he would become president of Bentley University in Massachusetts, said on Monday that he was simply accepting another opportunity and downplayed any disagreements with the trustees. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Kerri Donaldson Hanna, a physics professor at the University of Central Florida, is working with NASA to develop a camera that will be used to take photos of the moon’s surface during a landing in 2022. WOFL.

Opinions on schools: Monday, the Census Bureau released a survey showing reported homeschooling rose from 5.4 percent of students in the spring of 2020 to 11.1 percent in the fall of 2020. Wow. Apparently, a large percentage of Americans have decided that if you want education done right, you do it yourself. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Florida private schools have more low-income students than students from well-to-do families. Only about 10 percent of private school students nationwide qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program. But in Florida, 28 percent of private school students come from the lowest income category. Coupled with clear evidence of academic progress for low-income Florida students overall, this represents nothing less than a triumph of public policy. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Let’s bring students back to our public schools with flexible options that allow them to take advantage of public-school offerings. Part-time enrollment offers one more option for parents to consider. John Padget, Florida Politics. Civics literacy is important, but so is studying racism in America’s history. Brandon T. Jett, Fort Myers News-Press. I have used the Gardiner Scholarship’s education savings account to pay for private school tuition, but also to buy laptops for my kids. These days, with so much uncertainty surrounding schools during the pandemic, families need as many options as possible. Sara Pierre, South Florida Times.