No mistrial in Parkland trial, lobbying for federal funding, 1,000 job openings in Duval, and more

Around the state: Defense attorneys decline to ask for a mistrial in the sentencing phase of the case against the Parkland school shooter, Hillsborough school officials are lobbying federal officials for money to replace the state recognition funds the district isn’t eligible for this year, Duval’s school district is trying to fill about 1,000 job openings, Osceola’s school board begins the process to close a charter school that has had financial problems, Gov. Ron DeSantis signs a bill to help for homeless students and young adults who remained in foster care when they turned 18, nearly 5,000 struggling readers in grades 3-5 received almost $2.5 million from the state’s Reading Scholarship last year, and the man who drove into and killed two Palm Beach County students waiting for their bus March 22 has been charged with DUI manslaughter. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: The school board is being sued by state Attorney General Ashley Moody, who contends it and five public hospital hospital systems are jeopardizing settlements with pharmaceutical companies over the opioid epidemic. The state has signed six settlements for about $2.4 billion, and Moody wants a judge to let the state “override” subordinate claims by the school board and hospital systems. “Defendants — subdivisions that have brought claims that are subordinate to the attorney general’s action — place the attorney general’s settlements in jeopardy and threaten to immediately devalue the relief available to those who have been impacted by the opioid crisis,” the lawsuit said. News Service of Florida.

Broward: Jury selection resumed Wednesday in the sentencing trial for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz when defense attorneys declined to ask for a mistrial. After 11 jurors were dismissed Tuesday when they said they couldn’t follow the law in deciding whether to give Cruz the death penalty, defense attorneys objected because they wanted to further question them about their reasons and possibly keep them eligible to serve. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer gave defense attorneys until Wednesday morning to ask for a mistrial. They did not, Scherer agreed to stop asking prospective jurors that question, and jury selection continued. Several dozen prospective jurors have now been identified and will return for further questioning. The process resumes Monday and continues three days a week until a jury of 12 and eight alternates is chosen. Sun Sentinel. WFOR. WPTV. A summary of Day 3 of the sentencing trial. Sun Sentinel.

Hillsborough: Superintendent Addison Davis and school board members are lobbying federal officials for funding to replace state recognition money the district is no longer eligible to receive. Hillsborough and 11 other districts were sanctioned by the Legislature in the budget for next year because they defied state rules banning face mask mandates for students. In past years, Hillsborough had received as much as $9 million in recognition funds. Davis told board members, “We’ll try every avenue that we can to be able to bring that funding to our school district.” Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: The man who drove onto a sidewalk March 22 and slammed into a group of students waiting for their school bus, killing two of them and injuring two others, has been arrested. Angel Antonio Lopez, 57, is charged with two counts of DUI manslaughter, two counts of vehicular homicide, driving under the influence causing serious bodily injury, driving under the influence causing property damage or injury, reckless driving causing serious bodily injury, and reckless driving causing injury to person or property. Police said Lopez had more than four times the legal limit of a prescription medicine in his system after the crash. Killed were 15-year-old Royal Palm Community High School students Tiana Johnson and Wazir Chand, and two others were seriously injured. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. WPTV. WPEC. An administrative law judge has ruled in favor of a teacher who was fired by the principal of Logger’s Run Middle School for allegedly planning a Holocaust education fund-raiser during the 2018-2019 school year to benefit her own company. The judge said the school and the Florida Department of Education did not sufficiently prove the charges against Carolina Simon. His recommendation now goes to the state Education Practices Commission for final action. News Service of Florida.

Duval: The school district has more than 1,000 job openings, even as officials make hires, recruit at job fairs, and provide extra training to cut into the number of vacancies. Some progress is being made: the number of teaching openings has gone from 466 at the end of February to 407 today, and Superintendent Diana Greene said the number of paraprofessionals is going up, even though there are still at least 325 openings. WJCT. School board members approved a $1.4 million plan to help improve academic performance at three struggling schools. Susie E. Tolbert, Ramona Boulevard and George Washington Carver elementary schools have all received D or F grades from the state since the 2017-2018 school year, and if they don’t improve when grades come out this summer they could be closed, turned into charter schools or taken over by an educational management company. WJXT.

Lee: A U.S. social sciences and history teacher and assistant lacrosse coach at the Canterbury School in Fort Myers has been arrested and accused of having sexual contact with a minor under the age of 16. Police said Thomas Deane, 30, met the boy on the dating app Grindr in December. He is not a student at Canterbury. School officials said Deane has been fired. WINK. WFTX.

Pasco: Construction has begun on the new Gulf High School in New Port Richey. The $58 million project will replace the current building, which was built in 1971, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2023. Bay News 9.

Osceola: The process to close American Classical Charter Academy in St. Cloud this summer has begun after the school board agreed with Superintendent Debra Pace’s recommendation for termination. Pace said the school is $600,000 in debt, being evicted for failure to pay rent and has training issues, with only 10 of the 28 instructors holding a valid teaching certificate. The charter’s board has filed an appeal. A judge will have 60 days to issue a ruling that could hinge on whether the school can fix its problems. WFTV.

Manatee, Sarasota: Dozens of Manatee and Sarasota high school seniors have been selected as semifinalists or finalists for the National Merit Scholarship program. Program officials began notifying winners this week. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Martin: A charter high school operated by Indian River State College and focusing on career and workforce education is on track to open in August for about 75 students. The school will be temporarily located at the Boys & Girls Club in Indiantown while a permanent, 60,000-square-foot building is under construction. WQCS.

Colleges and universities: USF officials say they think the building of a football stadium on campus will be transformational for the team, the athletic department and the university. The effort got another $5 million pledge this week from philanthropists Jeff and Penny Vinik. Tampa Bay Times. Results of the “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” survey being distributed to public university and college campuses in Florida could be questioned because the surveys can be sent to and filled out by people who are not supposed to be taking it, according to the union representing the state’s university faculty. Florida Phoenix. Students in an Indian River State College criminal justice class solved a 1988 sheriff’s office cold case when they discovered a medical examiner’s handwritten note on the cause of death that never made it into the sheriff’s files. TCPalm. A team of students from Suncoast Technical College is one of just 12 nationwide invited to the 2022 Project MFG technology competitions in Illinois next month. Charlotte Sun.

Help for homeless students: Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill that provides help for homeless students and young adults who remained in foster care when they turned 18. The Department of Health will be required to waive fees for certified birth certificate copies for those students, and provide them greater access to counselors for advice about college and technical school. Florida Politics.

State reading scholarships: Nearly 5,000 struggling readers in grades 3-5 received almost $2.5 million from the state’s Reading Scholarship during the 2020-2021 school year. The report from Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog and helps administer the scholarship, showed that families spent $1.5 million on instructional materials. The program will be renamed the New Worlds Reading Initiative and eligibility will be expanded to students in grades K-2 if Gov. DeSantis signs the bill passed during the legislative session. reimaginED.

Around the nation: Enrollment at many U.S. urban school districts has not rebounded even as the effects of the pandemic have diminished, and education experts predict major layoffs and closures if the decline continues after federal relief funds dry up. “Federal money will run out, and enrollment for some of them isn’t going to come back,” said Marguerite Roza, director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University. “These cost factors are going to just slam down on people.” The 74. Education researchers say stagnant high school scores on NAEP tests over the past 50 years are likely tied directly to declining dropout rates. Chalkbeat.

Opinions on schools: Gov. DeSantis insists the Parental Rights in Education legislation is needed to stop public schools from teaching inappropriate lessons about sexual orientation and gender identity to young students. But if young students need protection, why are the approximately 340,000 children attending charter schools in Florida not apparently affected by the law? Tampa Bay Times. Gov. DeSantis’ oft-stated rationale for the law that bans schools from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity is not quite what a limited number of records that have been made public show. CNN. The youth mental health crisis gives more urgency to the school choice movement. It must be emphasized as much as the need for improved educational outcomes. Jonathan Butcher and Chloe Shoemaker, Daily Signal.

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BY NextSteps staff