Parental rights questions, college makes cuts, study cites savings through choice, and more

Parental rights in school: Parental rights has become a flashpoint in education, driven by feelings of being ignored and such issues as mandatory face masks, LGBTQ rights and the teaching of critical race theory. But as districts and school boards consider how to give parents a greater voice in their children’s education, they’re faced with conflicting agendas and opinions on issues that make creating a shared experience a seemingly impossible goal. “When you say education is a shared responsibility, it doesn’t mean it’s only about what parents do. It doesn’t say it’s only about what schools do,” said Johns Hopkins University education professor Joyce Epstein. “Everyone for themselves doesn’t work in any organization.” Tampa Bay Times.

Around the state: Florida Memorial University, a historically black university in Miami Gardens, is discontinuing 18 undergraduate degree programs, eliminating 15 faculty positions and cutting salaries of higher-paid employees by 10 percent, the University of Florida’s task force reviewing the school’s conflict-of-interest policy has issued its recommendations, information about applicants for university president jobs would be exempt from the public records law under a bill filed Tuesday, a judge dismisses a lawsuit that claimed a Catholic school in Tampa had abandoned the values of the church, and a new study says Florida’s private school choice programs have saved taxpayers more than $2.8 billion since 2000. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Orange: Students in the 2nd through 5th grades at Sunshine Elementary in Orlando can now join a Kindness Club that was started by 2nd-grade teacher Kathleen Daley during the pandemic. “You’re never too young to learn how to be kind to others and how to help others,” Daley said. “I think that especially now more than ever with all of the COVID stuff going on, I think it’s just really important to take a step back and realize we should all be kind to each other and sometimes put others before ourselves.” WKMG.

Hillsborough: A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a couple against a private Tampa school because the school did not adhere to Catholic values. Anthony and Barbara Scarpo filed the suit against the Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa in June, after pledging $1.35 million to the school, because it had “lost its way” by embracing a “woke culture” that prioritized gender identity, sexuality and abortion. WFLA.

Palm Beach: The private Greene School has announced plans to add a 9th grade next fall as it continues to expand into a full pre-K through 12th grade school. The school was started in 2016 by Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene and his wife Mei Sze Greene with 40 students in pre-K through the 4th grade. Today it has 156 students through the 8th grade. The curriculum will include, among other things, high-level courses in English, mathematics, science and social sciences, AP and honors courses, internships and service learning, an artist-in-residence and a student television station. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: Jacksonville City Council members have approved a proposal allowing the school district to sell the shuttered Lake Forest Elementary School for redevelopment as a site for affordable housing. Residents in the area around the school protested the sale, saying they weren’t consulted and that they had hoped the building could be used for some educational purpose. WJCT.

Pinellas: Only 2 percent of the county’s public school teachers are black men, but a new program has been started in an effort to boost that number. Call Me MISTER is a collaboration between the school district and the University of South Florida to develop more male black teachers. MISTER is an acronym for “Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models.” Three USF students are part of the first phase of the program, and five more are lined up to begin next fall. Tampa Bay Times.

Lake: A two-room school in Okahumpka built for black students 91 years ago is now under consideration for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. The Okahumpka Colored School south of Leesburg was one of 5,300 schools built in the segregated South by Jewish businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald and black leader Booker T. Washington for children who were barred from attending classes with white students. Orlando Sentinel.

Sarasota: A staircase at Venice High School has become a meme on TikTok after being used as a backdrop to videos. It’s been used so often that Venice High is now being referred to as “tiktok high.” The hashtag #venicehighschool has been viewed 5.8 million times, and parody videos made by students around the country are springing up. Insider.

Marion: Members of the community are being asked how they think the school district should spend the $127 million it’s getting in federal coronavirus relief aid. The online survey is available until Dec. 3. WCJB.

Citrus: A Citrus Spring Middle School teacher who was arrested in August on various drug charges has been arrested again, this time in Lake County, on a charge of possessing child pornography. Lake deputies said they detained Jeffrey Scott Brake, 52, after child pornography images were found on electronic devices in Brake’s possession. WKMG.

Colleges and universities: Florida Memorial University, a historically black university in Miami Gardens, has announced it is discontinuing 18 undergraduate degree programs, eliminating 15 faculty positions and cutting 10 percent from the salaries of more than 80 employees who make $60,000 or above. Enrollment has declined at FMU, and in June it was placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Miami Herald. A University of Florida task force is recommending that the school’s conflict of interest policy affirm the academic freedom and free speech rights of faculty, establish a “strong presumption” that UF will approve faculty or staff requests to testify as expert witnesses, and create a committee to review proposed denials of requests. Gainesville Sun. Politico Florida. University of Florida. WCJB. University of South Florida officials are asking their legislative delegation for $30 million in the next legislative sessions to begin building an Interdisciplinary Center of Excellence in Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences on the St. Petersburg campus. Tampa Bay Times. Two Florida students are among 32 Americans selected as Rhodes scholars. Aimee Clesi is from Suwannee County and attends the University of Florida, and Shreeya Singh is from Pembroke Pines and attends Yale University. WGFL. Rhodes Trust. St. Pete Catalyst. WUFT.

In the Legislature: Information about applicants for university president jobs would be exempt from the public records law under a bill filed Tuesday by state Rep. Sam Garrison, R-Fleming Island. H.B. 703 is identical to a Senate bill filed last month by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. News Service of Florida. A bill has been filed that would create a civics educator of the year award and a VFW Youth Civics Education Scholarship. H.B. 4181, proposed by state Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, R-DeLand, sets aside $100,000 for the scholarship and the award. Florida Senate.

The savings from choice: Florida’s private school choice programs have saved taxpayers more than $2.8 billion since 2000, according to a new study by the national school choice advocacy group EdChoice. The report analyzed 40 private school scholarship programs in 19 states and Washington, D.C. Three Florida scholarships were studied. The Gardiner Scholarship, now the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities, saved taxpayers $87 million from 2014-2018, the study concluded. The McKay Scholarship saved the state $2.4 billion from 2000-2018, and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship saved the state $330 million between 2002 and 2018. The average scholarship in Florida was worth about 54 percent of what the state spent on public school students. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the state scholarships. reimaginED.

Around the nation: Another study on remote learning during the pandemic has concluded that it led to lower test scores for all students, and especially for minorities. Florida was among the 12 states surveyed by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Daily Caller.

Opinions on schools: It seems unlikely that pods will be a dominant force in American schooling anytime soon. They will likely fade in influence relative to the 2020-2021 school year. Yet many parents and district leaders remain intrigued by the possibilities pods create – enough so that this option will persist in some localities as one schooling choice in a broader set. Michael B. Horn, Education Next. This is the new McCarthyism targeting school boards in Florida: “Do you now, or have you ever, taught critical race theory?” Randy Schultz, Sun Sentinel.

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