Bills for dual enrollment, tax holiday, arrests of children moving, stimulus spending and more

In the Legislature: Dual enrollment would become a state-sponsored expense for eligible public and private schools and home-schooled students under a bill that was approved Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee and now goes before the full Senate. News Service of Florida. The annual back-to-school tax holiday won the approval of the Senate Finance and Tax Committee on Thursday. It would run from July 30 through Aug. 8 and exempt sales taxes on clothes costing $60 or less, school supplies that are $15 or less and computers costing under $1,000. News Service of Florida. A proposal that would ban the arrests of children under the age of 7 for nonforcible felonies was passed Thursday by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee. Orlando Sentinel. A task force would be created to study the academic achievement gap for boys under a proposal that was approved Thursday by the House Early Learning & Elementary Education Subcommittee. It would be led by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. News Service of Florida. A bill has been submitted that would require parents to give written permission for their children to be taught sex education in schools. WFTX. Next Thursday, the full House will consider bills that require a moment of silence in public schools every morning and mandate that colleges and universities conduct annual surveys to measure “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity.” News Service of Florida. Bills that would protect schools, businesses and health-care providers from COVID-19 liability lawsuits have been merged into a single bill that is now headed for the Senate floor. WFSU. Florida Politics.

Florida and the stimulus: Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said Thursday that he wants to use money from the federal stimulus package to boost the unemployment trust fund and seed the economy with local projects. The Legislature to decide how to spend the $10 billion or so it will control from the $17 billion the state will receive. The state faces a budget deficit of more than $2 billion due to a decline in tax revenues from the coronavirus pandemic’s  impact on business and tourism. Florida Politics. Capitol News Service. President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill into law on Thursday, sending billions of dollars to Florida K-12 schools and colleges and universities. Associated Press. Education Week. Politico. Tampa Bay Times. The 74.

Teachers and vaccinations: Florida is one of just six states that hasn’t opened coronavirus vaccinations to teachers of all ages, according to a survey conducted by the trade publication Education Week. Florida and West Virginia have adopted age-based approaches, vaccinating older teachers first. In Florida, only teachers over 50 are currently eligible although all teachers are already eligible at federal vaccination sites and Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that vaccinations could be available for all adults next month; in West Virginia, it’s 40 and over. Missouri, Montana, Indiana and New Hampshire have yet to prioritize teachers to receive shots. Florida Phoenix. Education Week.

Around the state: The Palm Beach County School District isn’t commenting on how a teacher with multiple confirmed allegations of classroom misconduct between 2012 and 2018 was still teaching until June 2020, a new study shows that black girls are disproportionately punished in schools and in the juvenile justice system, the Osceola County School District honors its teacher and school-related employee of the year, the Indian River School District and NAACP are submitting a proposal to a district court that they hope will lead to a resolution of the district’s desegregation order, and a Schools of Hope charter school is approved by the Orange County School Board. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Orange: School board members reluctantly approved the application of a charter school in Apopka under the state’s Schools of Hope program, which encourages high-performing charter companies to put schools in areas with persistently low-performing public schools. Board members had some misgivings about the Mater Academy application, but acknowledged that turning it down would lead to a court case that they would lose. Orlando Sentinel. Many parents of the 43 percent of Orange County School District students still learning remotely, and parents in other central Florida districts, said they will not be sending their students into schools just to take the Florida Standards Assessments tests. “My kids aren’t going to school for this,” said Angie Giurtino, who has a 6th-grader at Legacy Middle School in Orange County. “I’m very upset and we have kept them home all year and I am high risk.” WKMG.

Palm Beach: How did a district teacher who was reported at least 10 times for classroom misconduct between 2012 and 2018, was the subject of three personnel investigations that upheld allegations against her, and was fined by the state’s teacher-licensing board stay in the classroom until she resigned in 2020? District officials are declining to comment about the case of Susan Oyer, a Boca Raton Middle School teacher until a fourth district investigation upheld allegations of verbally abusive behavior and prompted the district to finally decide to fire her. She chose to resign last June. Palm Beach Post. The school district handed out food boxes Thursday to students and their families that will provide meals for eight days. Allison Monbleau, the district’s director of food service, said as many as 80 percent of the district’s families are food insecure. WPTV.

Duval: Black girls are disproportionately punished in schools and in the juvenile justice system, according to a new report from the Deloris Barr Weaver Policy Center in Jacksonville. Although only 21 percent of Florida girls between the ages of 10 and 17 are black, they make up 45 percent of girls arrested, 47 percent of those jailed, 52 percent on probation and 52 percent put into the adult criminal justice system. Black girls also account for 83 percent of girls under 10 who are arrested, and 55 percent of girls under 12 who are arrested. “Black girls do not misbehave more than their white peers, but their behaviors are responded to much more harshly,” said Vicky Basra, the center’s president/CEO. Florida Times-Union.

Polk: Opportunities for coronavirus vaccinations are increasing for district teachers, starting with a clinic Saturday for educators over the age of 50. The state expects to lower the age threshold soon, federal sites now offer vaccinations for any school employee over the age of 18 and Publix is also prioritizing teachers. Lakeland Ledger. Police are looking for a man who broke into a pre-K classroom at Griffin Elementary School last week and caused at least $1,500 in damages. Lakeland Ledger.

Brevard: School officials said that while they expect the next school year to be more normal with almost all students taking classes in-person and some safety protocols being eased out, remote learning won’t disappear but instead will offer more options. “I think the current situation has opened our eyes to possibilities beyond those walls,” said school board chair Misty Belford. “Maybe there’s an opportunity for a student to participate when they’re at home sick.” Florida Today.

Osceola: Alvin Olivo, a digital media and computer science teacher at the Osceola County School for the Arts, has been named the Osceola County School District’s teacher of the year. Kathleen Williams, a school nurse/LPN at Harmony Middle, was chosen as the school-related employee of the year. Positively Osceola. Osceola News-Gazette.

Manatee: Teachers and other school employees will have two chances in the next week to get vaccinated. This weekend, 1,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be administered to school workers 50 and older. Monday and Wednesday, 3,000 first doses of the Moderna vaccine will be offered to district employees by appointment only. Bradenton Herald. WWSB.

St. Lucie: A charter high school is opening in the fall in Port St. Lucie with a curriculum focusing on wellness, innovation, health and science. Tradition Prep High will start with 600 students, all freshmen and sophomores, and add a grade in each of the next two school years. WFLX.

Escambia, Santa Rosa: Six schools in Navarre will be affected by the school boundary rezoning for the new East Bay K-8 school that opens in the fall. All six schools are at 93 percent capacity or higher. Pensacola News Journal. The Santa Rosa County School District is making plans to expand its summer program to all K-12 students, and Superintendent Karen Barber said she expects the next school year to be more normal. WEAR.

Martin: Educators over the age of 50 can receive coronavirus vaccinations Saturday. About 900 shots are available, and a reservation is required. WPTV.

Indian River: The school district and the NAACP are submitting progress reports to a U.S. district court on Monday that are aimed at resolving the decades-long federal desegregation order the district is under. Their objective is to draft a proposal based on 2019 recommendations from the district’s equity committee that would be approved by the school board and implemented by Superintendent David Moore. At the same time, the NAACP is asking for mediation. TCPalm. A newspaper is reporting that the school district withheld the news that Vero Beach High School principal Shawn O’Keefe was hospitalized for COVID-19 for two weeks. O’Keefe had missed work since early February but his diagnosis wasn’t confirmed until Feb. 23. District officials cited federal privacy laws for the nondisclosure. Vero Beach News.

Gadsden: All school employees are eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccination today between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Gadsden Technical Institute Student Center. WTXL. Maggie Bradwell Conyers, a teacher at West Gadsden Middle School in Quincy, died last weekend of complications from the coronavirus. The school held a memorial service for her Thursday. WCTV.

Colleges and universities: The animal research program at the University of Florida is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture after accusations that it was mistreating cats and rats it uses in testing. Orlando Sentinel. Seniors at the University of Tampa said they will stage their own in-person graduation ceremony after school officials announced the official commencement would be held virtually. Axios. WTSP.

Around the nation: A University of Florida study suggests that the spread of the coronavirus in schools can be reduced by testing quarantined students if they return to school before the end of the typical 14-day isolation period. WJXT. More than 79 percent of U.S. parents of K-12 students support in-person learning, according to a Gallup poll. WBBH. The governor of Mississippi has signed a ban on transgender girls competing on girls sports teams, making the state the first to enact such a measure since a federal court blocked a similar Idaho law last year. Associated Press.

Opinions on schools: S.B. 86 is ignorant to the purpose of education, essentially saying that education is only valuable to bring jobs and fill growing industries in the economy. Education is more than that. People who study subjects like anthropology and sociology can understand the way our world works and truly make an impact. Thomas Truong, Orlando Sentinel. S.B. 86 effectively tells hardworking and talented students they can only be successful in certain career fields. If we want our students to contribute positively to their communities, then we need to nurture their ambitions and encourage them to major in everything, even sociology. Kelsey Eelman, Michael McNamara, Rahmat Rashid and Ferah Shaikh, Orlando Sentinel. The “The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” is the Legislature’s latest bigot bait that addresses the imaginary problem of transgender girls unfairly robbing college scholarship opportunities from biologically born high school girls. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff