Voucher demand soaring, criticized parts of black history curriculum were reportedly not backed by majority of its own group members, and more

Demand for vouchers: Thousands of applications for vouchers under the state’s new universal school choice law are being received every day now that income eligibility limits have been dropped. As of mid-July, the number of scholarships awarded totaled 240,000, up 41 percent over the 2022-2023 school year, according to the nonprofit Step Up For Students, which helps the state administer the scholarships and hosts this blog. “There’s a lot of excitement out there,” said Step Up president Doug Tuthill. “We’re still getting a couple thousand applications a day.” The expansion could cost $2.5 billion this year, the Florida Policy Institute estimates. The Legislature set aside up to $3 billion, but critics worry how to finance the program in years when the state’s financial situation is less robust. “You’re using one time money for recurring expenses, and what happens next year?” asked state Rep. Robin Bartleman, D-Weston. Tuthill said the demand is not going to go away. “It’s going to continue to grow,” he said. “At some point it needs to be a normal part of our public education. People need to see it as another option just like magnet schools and charter schools.” Tallahassee Democrat. WFTV.

Black history standards: Most of the members of the work group that developed the state’s standards for teaching black history say they disagreed with the decisions to include sections for middle-schoolers that attached “skills-learning” benefits to slavery and for high-schoolers that stated acts of violence in massacres of blacks were “perpetrated against and by African Americans.” Just two of the group’s 13 members wanted to include those sections, said one member who spoke anonymously for fear of reprisal. “Most of us did not want that language.” NBC News. Members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus called on the state Friday to revise the standards. “To say that the enslaved Americans of our past somehow benefited from their violent exploiters without acknowledging the millions that never knew the freedom of autonomy over their own bodies, lives, and futures is shameful and disgusting,” said the group’s chair, Rep. Dianne Hart, D-Tampa. Black conservatives around the country are also calling for revisions, and say the issue has landed just as they are making inroads with the Republican Party. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida.

Around the state: State officials have given local school officials conflicting accounts of whether an Advanced Placement psychology course from the College Board will be available this fall, girls bathrooms in every Leon County district middle and high school will have dispensers with free tampons and pads this fall, a Palm Beach County high school student arrested in the 2021 sexual assault that led to the arrests of five school administrators for failing to pass along the report to authorities is a relative of one of the suspended administrators, some Pinellas County parents question the logic of new school bus assignments, New College could be violating federal law by offering bonuses for employees who hit enrollment targets, and the University of Florida is planning a $20 million center for artificial intelligence in Hillsborough County. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Vince Zappone, a longtime teacher, football coach and athletic director at the private Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory in Hollywood, died last week at the age of 93. Considered a “Chaminade Lifer,” he was honored in 2003 when the school named its stadium after him. Miami Herald.

Orange: When Cynthia Borgwing watched her daughter, a junior in high school in Lake Nona area, struggle with socializing with her classmates in high school, she decided to act by creating an after-school program that focuses on building students’ self-esteem. The two-year-old nonprofit group Rebuild Yourself now helps about 600 students. “Some of the kids come here because they feel it’s a safe place,” Borgwing said. “They can be who they want, what they want to be called, and be accepted.” WKMG.

Palm Beach: A Palm Beach Central High School student arrested last week and accused of the 2021 sexual assault that led to the arrests of five school administrators for failing to pass along the report to authorities is a relative of one of the suspended administrators. The boy is related to assistant principal Dan Snider, according to authorities. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel. Ten schools will have new principals when classes resume Aug. 10, district officials have announced. Four new district-level administrators have also been named. Rachel Capitano moved into the regional superintendent’s job vacated when Peter Licata was chosen as Broward’s school superintendent, Jamie Wyatt replaces Jay Boggess as chief of staff, Tim Kubrick takes over as chief of human resources from Erica Reger, and Angela Cruz Ledford replaces Claudia Shea as chief officer of strategic communications and engagement. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: Children will have access to books this fall that have been removed from district school libraries through a network of locations established by the Unbanned Book Club, which was started this summer by the Little Free Library. “Our decision to launch in Duval County was simply based on the high number of books being banned and challenged and the national focus on the issue there,” said Greig Metzger, the executive director of the Little Free Library. Florida Times-Union.

Pinellas: Some parents are scrambling to figure out how their children are going to get to school after new school bus assignments were issued last week. Katie Hines said her 11-year-old son Evan “was assigned a bus stop over 4 miles from our house, and the school is just over 5 miles from our house. … I don’t know in whose logic it would make sense to drive your kid 80 percent of the way to school and not just go the whole way,” she said. District officials released a statement that reads, in part: “Pinellas County Schools … developed a multi-faceted plan to increase on-time bus arrival in the morning and afternoon for students and families. The focus areas, shared publicly beginning in February 2023, included a family ridership campaign, driver pay recruitment and retention, routing efficiencies and combinations, and changes to arterial stops. … While some students utilizing arterial stops may have to travel further than in previous years, all arterial stops align with safety guidelines set by law and school board policy 8600.” Spectrum News 9.

Lee: Seven new armed school guardians are finishing their nearly 170 hours of training and are expected to supplement school resource officers in protecting schools this fall. About 200 people applied to become guardians, but only 19 were accepted for training and only seven are left. “That’s testament to we don’t just give anyone a badge and gun,” said Sheriff Carmine Marceno. “Once they go out there, and if there’s an incident, they’re going to revert right back to their training the same way we do.” WFTX.

Brevard: Changes are coming for the school district and its students when classes resume Aug. 10. There’s a new superintendent, new laws that will govern instruction and affect enrollment, an updated dress code, and a new discipline policy is in the works. Florida Today.

Leon: When schools resume next month, girls bathrooms in every district middle and high school will have dispensers with free tampons and pads. The change is the culmination of a campaign started by Amaya Waymon, founder of the Girl Flo Project, which led to the Legislature passing a bill allowing schools to offer menstrual products. “Many people have to deal with choosing should they get lunch or products,” said Waymon, a graduate of Rickards High who will attend Tuskegee University in Alabama this fall. WCJB.

Flagler: Marcus Sanfilippo, the principal at Bunnell Elementary School, has been named the district’s coordinator of special events and will be succeeded by the school’s assistant principal, Donelle Evenson, school officials announced Friday. Sanfilippo was named the district’s principal of the year last fall, and Evenson was chosen as the top assistant principal. Flagler Live.

Colleges and universities: New College of Florida interim president Richard Corcoran reportedly offered $5,000 bonuses to staff members who hit a target of 300 new students enrolled for the fall. Federal law specifically prohibits colleges receiving federal financial aid from offering “any commission, bonus, or other incentive payment based directly or indirectly on success in securing enrollments.” School spokesman Nathan March said, “High achievement deserves a reward, and increased pay will be implemented to recognize the diligent work of the admissions team in assembling this record-breaking class.” Inside Higher EdSarasota Herald-Tribune. A $20 million Center for Applied Artificial Intelligence is being planned by the University of Florida to be located in Wimauma, in eastern Hillsborough County. The 34,000-square-foot facility, proposed by UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, would include “office, research and meeting space” and housing for about 32 graduate students who will study and develop the use of artificial intelligence in agriculture. Tampa Bay Times.

AP psychology course: The next skirmish between the state and College Board could be over an Advanced Placement psychology course. Almost 30,000 Florida students are registered to take the class during the 2023-2024 school year, but it’s still unclear if they will be able to. In June, the College Board said it would not agree to remove material about sexual orientation and gender identity as the state requested. Without the changes, the state responded, the course would not be permitted. But in July, the Board of Education adopted a list of courses approved, and the AP psychology course was among them. School district officials say the conflicting information is confusing, and they are awaiting further guidance from the Department of Education. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: Recent research suggests that “outdated and ineffective” instruction is contributing to the stagnation in the learning recovery since the pandemic, according to the Center on Reinventing Public Education at Arizona State University. Chronic teacher shortages are pushing those educators still in the classroom to have students work in groups without teacher input and use technology unnecessarily, leading to further student disengagement. “Just like we’re hearing about student learning loss, these leaders were seeing that their teachers were also experiencing teaching loss,” said Lydia Rainey, co-author of the last of four American School District Panel reports exploring how schools were responding to the pandemic. The 74.

Opinions on schools: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attempts to weaponize racism are turning Florida into a laughingstock and, at long last, turning fellow Republicans and donors against him. Why did it take so long? Orlando Sentinel and Sun-Sentinel. The new standard for teaching slavery is just the latest in a long line of initiatives that have hurt public education. Palm Beach Post. You don’t have to have a degree in history to recognize that requiring teachers to tell their students that slavery resulted in a “personal benefit” to those enslaved is little more than indoctrination that would have warmed the heart of those charged with shaping minds in the Soviet system. Harry Coverston, Orlando Sentinel. The legacy of enslavement has had a profound and lasting impact on the African American community in the form of economic disparities, health disparities, and educational disparities. Donna R. Austin, Tallahassee Democrat. One man in Clay County hasn’t just decided no child in public schools should be allowed to read 120 Banned Books. He has decided to try to ban hundreds of books from schools, to keep them out of the hands of tens of thousands of other parents’ children. Mark Woods, Florida Times-Union.