Charter school funding, year-round schools, COVID mandates, new test for Bright Futures qualification, and more

Charter school funding: A bill that will shift millions of dollars in tax revenues from traditional public schools to charter schools for capital costs was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The switch will be phased in over five years, with nearly $500 million from local districts’ tax revenues going to charter schools in the fifth year. “Public charter school students have received significantly less capital outlay funding per student, averaging less than half as much as (traditional) public school students,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Jennifer Canaday, R-Lakeland. The governor also signed S.B. 891, which sets up a pilot test for year-round schooling in five districts during the 2024-2025 academic year, and 35 other bills. Florida Politics.

Prohibiting COVID mandates: Schools, businesses and government agencies would be prohibited from requiring people to wear masks to gain entry, be vaccinated or tested as a condition of employment, or provide documentation of vaccination or COVID tests to gain entry under one of three medical-related bills signed Thursday by Gov. DeSantis. “Schools can’t mandate COVID jabs, a workplace can’t mandate vax passports, none of that stuff,” DeSantis said. “When the world went crazy, when common sense suddenly became an uncommon virtue, the state of Florida stood as a refuge of sanity, as a citadel of freedom.” News Service of Florida. WKMG. WJHG. Pensacola News Journal. Graduating seniors have gone through all four years of high school under the shadow of the pandemic. Members of the Class of COVID talk about the experience. Treasure Coast Newspapers

Test added for Bright Futures: Florida students now have the option of taking the Classic Learning Test as an alternative to the SAT or ACT for Bright Futures Scholarships eligibility. It’s the first state to use the CLT, which was developed in 2016 as a test focusing on “the greatest and most enduring texts that have informed and shaped society,” for use in statewide programs. Florida will determine what scores on the CLT tests in grammar, English and math will be necessary to qualify for Bright Futures Scholarships. Orlando Sentinel.

Around the state: Brevard’s school board is considering banning “furry attire which emulates nonhuman characteristics” being worn by students, three Florida students are among 161 high school seniors across the country to be chosen for the 59th class of Presidential Scholars, a 4th-grader in Orange County was honored for saving a friend who was choking on a piece of candy at school, an alternative commencement ceremony is being planned May 18 by New College of Florida students unhappy with the school’s decision to have a former adviser to President Trump speak, and new schools are being built in Walton and Okeechobee counties. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Weapons were confiscated from students’ backpacks at three district schools Thursday. An Airsoft pellet gun was found at Sea Castle Elementary in Miramar, and another at Gulfstream Academy K-8 in Hallandale Beach. A dagger also was seized at Falcon Cove Middle school in Weston. District officials said the students “will face disciplinary consequences in accordance with the code book for student conduct.” WTVJ. WSVN.

Orange: A 4th-grader was honored at a school board meeting for saving the life of his friend who was choking on a Jolly Rancher at school April 21. Jake Salas King said he jumped in to help his friend when “I heard something tell me, ‘Go and try to save (him).” Jake dislodged the candy by performing the Heimlich maneuver, which he said he learned by researching it at home. WKMG. A Spanish teacher at Innovation Middle School has been arrested and accused of inappropriately touching and recording his students. Orlando police said Javier Romero-Gonzalez, 45, is charged with lewd or lascivious conduct and soliciting or engaging in lewd contact with a student. He was placed on administrative leave April 12, after school officials learned of the allegations. WKMG. WFTV. WESH.

Pasco: Sunlake High School has parted ways with its head football coach a little more than a week after two assistant coaches got into a fight at a team practice in front of 70 players. Both the assistants were fired, and principal Kara Merlin said she and a district representative met Thursday with BJ Hall and informed him “it would be best if he stepped down as head coach.” Pasco deputies said an arrest is forthcoming after the fight May 1. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: School board members are considering banning “furry attire which emulates nonhuman characteristics” being worn by students. It refers to students wearing animal tails, ears, dog collars or animal costumes, or meowing and barking. District spokesman Russell Bruhn said it’s not causing an issue in the district, but board chair Matt Susin said, “Here’s the bottom line: It’s inappropriate, like utilization of behavior in a school, and we just need to end it.” Colleague Jennifer Jenkins called the board’s conversation “insane” and a “culture war conversation.” Florida Today. WKMG. A physical education teacher at Johnson Middle School in Melbourne is being charged with child neglect, culpable negligence and disrupting a school function after police said he failed to break up a fight in the locker room. Paul Eller, 58, was filmed watching the fight with students, according to police, and encouraging them to continue even after one of the students was injured. He’s been placed on administrative leave. Florida Today. WESH. WKMG.

Walton: District officials are spending $81 million on a new middle school that will replace an aging facility and help ease overcrowding caused by 40 percent growth in student enrollment in the Freeport area over the past five years. Freeport Middle School is scheduled to open in the fall of 2024 to as many as 1,000 students. The current school’s capacity is 700. WMBB.

Okeechobee: Construction has begun on the new Okeechobee High School, which will be built behind the existing high school. The cost is estimated at $83 million, and the school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2024. WPEC.

Colleges and universities: An alternative commencement ceremony is being planned by New College of Florida students unhappy with the school’s decision to have a former adviser to President Trump speak. The event will be May 18, a day before Dr. Scott Atlas addresses graduates. WUSF. A Florida Gulf Coast University trustee said he’d like to see incoming president Aysegul Timur be given a one-year contract. Joe Fogg echoed the sentiment of Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr., who earlier in the week suggested Timur’s contract be short because the decision to hire her was on a 7-6 vote over Henry Mack, a senior chancellor with the Florida Department of Education who works for Diaz. WGCU. Tallahassee Community College is offering new bachelor degree programs this fall in business administration, elementary education and exceptional student education. WTXL. The University of North Florida plans to begin construction early next year on a 520-bed dorm for honors students. Completion is scheduled by the fall of 2025. Jacksonville Daily Record.

Florida’s Presidential Scholars: Three Florida students are among 161 high school seniors across the country to be chosen for the 59th class of Presidential Scholars. Selected from Florida were Ishika Nag of Oviedo High School, Kiran C. Spencer of the American Heritage School in Delray Beach, and Luke Linxiao Yang of Miami Palmetto Senior High School. Students are chosen by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars for their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, and commitment to community service and leadership. U.S. Department of Education.

School lunch heroes: Cafeteria workers in Brevard and Nassau counties were among five around the state to be chosen as a 2023 Florida School Lunch Hero by No Kid Hungry Florida. Honored were Brandy Nahass, the cafeteria manager at John F. Turner Elementary in Palm Bay in Brevard, and Melissa Adkins, the nutrition manager at Fernandina Beach Middle School in Nassau. Florida Today. WJXT.

Opinions on schools: K-12 civic entrepreneurs in America’s communities are creating new learning opportunities for families and their children. These everyday grass-roots entrepreneurs are creating a new unconventional K-12 education sector through permissionless innovation, and K-12 stakeholders and other community leaders should support these ventures and the families that use them. Bruno V. Manno, reimaginED. Civics education is supposed to help students learn how to become good citizens. The George Floyd chapter has a lot to teach, if only Florida would let the lesson be learned. Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff