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New scholarship, education bills, virtual school, vote on sales tax hike and more

New scholarship bill: The education bill creating a new scholarship that will use public funds to send students to private schools has landed on the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis for his consideration. He is expected to sign it, and has until May 21 to do so. The bill also changes the qualifying requirements for the Best and Brightest educator bonuses, boosts per-student spending by $242 and gives students more money to use for discretionary spending. News Service of Florida. redefinED. The education bill also eliminates the Florida Virtual School Board of Trustees, calls for audits of its operations and turns the school over to the State Board of Education. The board will appoint an executive director, who will be supervised by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. The audits are due to Corcoran by Oct. 1, and he and the department will make recommendations to DeSantis by Nov. 1 on how the school should be run. Orlando Sentinel.

Other education bills: Bills to arm teachers, create a new state-funded scholarship to send student to private schools, and change the specifications for Best and Brightest educator bonuses all were approved by the Legislature and are expected to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. But many other education initiatives fell by the wayside. Among them: bills requiring public schools to offer classes on the Bible, setting term limits for school board members, allowing colleges and universities to authorize charter schools, making it easier for teachers to be certified, and making it easier to challenge textbooks and materials. Gradebook. National Center for Science Education. Miami Herald. News Service of Florida.

Sales tax vote: The Duval County School Board is expected to ask the Jacksonville City Council today to schedule a special election Nov. 5 at which voters will be asked to raise the sales tax a half-cent for school construction. The district says it needs nearly $2 billion to replace, repair and renovate its aging schools, and the 15-year sales tax hike would bring in about $1.2 billion over 15 years. City officials are resisting a special election, citing high costs and low turnout, and would prefer to put the measure on the November 2020 ballot. A complicating factor is that the Legislature just passed a bill requiring votes to increase sales taxes to be held in only in general election years, which would go into effect Jan. 1 if Gov. Ron DeSantis signs it. Florida Times-Union. Florida Politics. WJCT. WJAX. WJXT.

Tax-free holiday: The state officially announces that the back-to-school tax holiday will be held from Aug. 2-6. Clothing, personal computers or tablets costing less than $1,000, backpacks and various school supplies will be sold tax-free for those five days. It’s part of a $121 million tax break for residents. Miami Herald.

Charter schools: The Hillsborough County School Board will decide today whether to approve four charter schools operated by the IDEA charter group of Texas. They are applying under the Schools of Hope state law, which encourages charter schools to open in areas served by persistently low-performing traditional public schools. Gradebook.

Schools opening, closing: Construction on a new elementary school in Viera, in Brevard County, will begin this fall and district officials are planning to open it in August 2020. The school, temporarily named School V, will enroll 500 students in its first year with plans to eventually expand to 970. Florida Today. A preschool in Key Biscayne is closing and a plans have been scrapped for a new elementary charter school, according to leaders at both. The Magic of Learning preschool is closing because of declining enrollment and rent increases. And Crossbridge Church officials say the charter school won’t open because they couldn’t come to an agreement for a lease with Mater Academy Inc., which would have operated it. Key News.

Teaching pipeline: A teaching pipeline from Central Michigan University is continuing to provide teachers for public schools in Immokalee. In seven of the eight past years, aspiring teachers have done internships in one of the schools in this Collier County town. About 20 CMU grads are working today in schools in or around Immokalee and this year, six of the 12 student teachers have signed contracts to take fulltime positions in the fall. Morning Sun.

Transgender dangers: A new study concludes that transgender students who are not permitted to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that match their sexual identity are at a high risk of being sexually assaulted. Nearly 26 percent of all transgender students between the ages of 13 and 17 reported being sexually assaulted, but the rate for students whose access was restricted was 36 percent. The sexual assault rate for nontransgender U.S. teens is 15 percent for girls and 4 percent for boys, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control. The LGBTQ Teen Study was published in the journal Pediatrics. CNN.

Notable deaths: Elmer Tremont, a teacher and high school boys and girls basketball and football coach for more than 50 years in Fort Myers, dies at the age of 89. Fort Myers News-Press.

Three stabbed after school: Two students and another person are hospitalized after being stabbed during an after-school fight in the parking lot at Felix Varela Senior High School in Dade County on Monday afternoon. A Felix Varela student was arrested. WPLG. Miami Herald. WTVJ.

Three hurt in school bus crash: Three Okaloosa County students are hospitalized with minor injuries after their school bus hit a car that turned in front of it. The car’s driver was cited. Northwest Florida Daily News. WEAR.

Officer disciplined: A Kissimmee Police Department officer has been reprimanded for placing handcuffs on several Mater Palms K-8 Charter School students who were serving a lunch detention. The officer said he wanted to show the girls what it felt like to be arrested. WFTV.

Party bus problem: Some Pasco High School students will face disciplinary action after arriving drunk in a party bus at the Land O’Lakes High School prom. About 40 students were turned away at the door. Some were so inebriated that officials called 911 and two students were taken to a hospital. Gradebook.

Opinions on schools: The Legislature’s Lesson 1 in education: Accountability is for public schools; money is for private schools. Diane Roberts, Florida Phoenix. What’s really behind low-performing public schools? Crummy parents. Bob Barnes, Florida Today. Think about it: In Florida, coffee pots, mini-fridges, essential oil diffusers, unfiltered Internet access and over-the-counter medicines are disallowed in most classrooms. Some schools prohibit peanuts in class because of the threat of accidental allergy issues. Handguns? Not so much. St. Augustine Record. It must have come as some news indeed to the Duval County School Board that it does not possess the power to simply ask voters to approve a tax increase. Nate Monroe, Florida Times-Union. The K-12 STEM pipeline in Massachusetts is far superior to those in Florida and Texas for the general population, but all three states are struggling with the issue of underrepresentation of black and Hispanic students at the most advanced high school level. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: More than $530,000 is collected for the Seaside Neighborhood School in Santa Rosa Beach from a half marathon and 5K fund-raiser. Seaside is one of the oldest charter schools in the state. Northwest Florida Daily News. Vance Tomasi, a 13-year-old 7th-grader at Farnell Middle School in Tampa, is one of the top 10 U.S. students named as Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Tomasi and a friend collected and donated more than 90,000 books to families, schools, group homes, hospitals and libraries over the past two years. Prudential. Benjamin Mack-Jackson, a student of the Lake County Virtual School, is named a winner of a Billy Michal Student Leadership Award by the National WWII Museum in New Orleans for his volunteerism. He’s been active in teaching about history and veterans, and created the WWII Veterans History Project. Daily Commercial. Silver Garland awards were handed out to 178 outstanding Polk County high school seniors in 11 categories. Lakeland Ledger.

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BY NextSteps staff