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Court ruling eases way for public money to go to religious schools, desk barriers, masks and more

Court boosts private schools: In a big win for school choice advocates, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that any state choosing to use public money to give scholarships for students to attend private schools cannot exclude religious schools. Writing for the majority in the 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts argued that “a state need not subsidize private education. But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.” The ruling came in a Montana case. After the state started a tax credit scholarship program, its Department of Revenue ruled that religious schools could not participate because of a state constitutional provision prohibiting tax money from being spent on religious purposes. The new high court declared that removing private religious schools violates their right under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. The ruling is not expected to have a significant impact on Florida, which is not one of the dozen or more states that block religious school choice programs. Miami Herald. New York Times. Washington Post. USA Today. NPR. CNN. redefinED. Education Dive. Politico. Associated Press. Education Week. The 74. Chalkbeat.

Reopening schools: The Duval County School Board has unanimously agreed to spend $4 million to install clear, protective shields between students’ desks as a way to lower the risk of spreading the coronavirus. Superintendent Diana Greene called the barriers “a puzzle piece to create a safer environment for students and employees.” Elementary schools will be the first to get the barriers. Greene said that if the city’s requirement to wear face masks is still in place when schools reopen Aug. 10, students also could be wearing coverings in class. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WJAX. WTLV. Broward County students will have to wear personal masks on buses and in hallways when schools restart. They can be removed when students are at their desks, since those will be spaced out. Sun Sentinel. Pasco County School Board members said Tuesday they were leaning toward requiring students to wear masks at school in the fall. Tampa Bay Times. The Osceola, Alachua and Columbia school districts released draft reopening plans that includes the options of in-person classes, and enrollment in either a virtual school or an online program in which students follow their normal classrooms and school days. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV. WESH. Gainesville Sun. WGFL. WJXT. The Polk County School District also is working on offering students in-person learning or one of two remote learning options when schools reopen Aug. 10. Patch. Polk County School District. Parents in Broward and Duval counties protested against their district’s proposed reopening plans. WSVN. WFOR. WJXT. Orange County teachers said the district’s tentative plan to reopen endangers their health. WFTV. The CDC is advising colleges not to test every student before they return to campus this fall, due to limited resources. Instead, health experts said, they should focus their testing on students who have been in close contact with someone who is infected. Politico.

A bill signed, a program killed: Gov. Ron DeSantis has officially signed the bill known as Alyssa’s Law that requires panic alarms in every school. By the start of the 2021-2022 school year, each schools teacher and employee will have an app loaded on their phones that can silently notify law enforcement agencies in case of an emergency. The budget DeSantis signed Monday included $8 million for the project. Sun Sentinel. Florida Politics. WPLG. A casualty of the $1 billion DeSantis cut out of the state budget was $29.4 million for an online education service that provides resources to more than 100 public universities, public colleges and K-12 school districts. The Complete Florida Plus Program has a database of courses and library services that includes access to 17 million books to 1.3 million students, faculty and staff. Ending access also cuts 2,000 adult education students off from their scholarships, and could put 150 people out of work. The governor’s office had no comment, but Tom Messner, executive dean of Library Learning Commons at Florida State College at Jacksonville, said, “This would be one of the biggest negative impacts in higher education in the last couple decades. It just seems like an error.” Politico Florida.

More on the coronavirus: Indoor graduations for Hillsborough seniors have been canceled, school officials announced Tuesday. With the number of coronavirus cases soaring, Superintendent Addison Davis said the chances for transmission were just too high. Virtual graduations are the backup plan. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. WFLA. WTVT. At least one person who attended the Hamilton County High School graduation ceremony on June 26 has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to health officials. WCTV. WTXL. Masks will be optional for summer school students in Brevard County, Superintendent Mark Mullins has announced. Florida Today. Florida students who qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches will get a one-time payment of $313.50 for groceries as part of the federal coronavirus relief aid. Florida Times-Union. Charlotte Sun. WBBH.

Renaming schools: Broward County School Board members said Tuesday that while they support member Rosalind Osgood’s suggestion to change school names that are considered racist, they are reluctant to immediately rename any of the five schools using the word Plantation. Instead, several suggested creating a task force to review school names and make recommendations. Osgood, the only black member of the board, said the word Plantation is comparable to calling African-Americans the “n” word. Sun Sentinel. WPLG.

Education podcasts: Sanford Kenyon, the CEO of California-based BloomBoard, which offers competency-based professional learning programs to education leaders, talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about how the coronavirus pandemic has freed students from the confines of a brick-and-mortar classroom, micro-credentialing and why a student-centered approach is the best way to move education into the future. redefinED.

Notable deaths: Tommy Sabourin, who coached at Florida and Leon high schools for 40 years and also kept statistics at Florida State University athletic events, has died at the age of 64 due to complications from brain cancer. WTXL.

Opinions on schools: As states with Blaine Amendments consider passing new school-choice programs, they might become more ambitious—and less tentative about direct vouchers after the Supreme Court’s decision on public funding for private schools. Wall Street Journal. Forcing taxpayers to pay for private religious education – as Montana’s tax credit voucher program does – is a fundamental violation of their religious freedom. Rachel Laser, Flagler Live. All students and schools will benefit from the addition of anti-racism education. Katherine Perriel, redefinED. For the sake of our grandfamilies, Gov. DeSantis should delay school reopenings while this virus is still active and spreading. Magali Skeldon, Sun Sentinel. Tips to avoid the summer slide and help parents prepare preschool and elementary-age children for the first day of school. Jamie Rossi, Naples Daily News.

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BY NextSteps staff