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Number of home-school vouchers could double, Broward considers closing eight schools, and more

Vouchers for home-schoolers: The number of home-schooled students who are applying for vouchers under the state’s scholarship programs is on pace to more than double, according to figures provided by Step Up For Students, which helps administer the scholarships and hosts this blog. Last year, the first year of home-schoolers being eligible for vouchers, 19,154 students received funding. Nearly 40,000 applications have been submitted for the coming school year, and 31,991 have been awarded with months left to apply. The state has capped the number for the coming year for home-schoolers to 60,000. News Service of Florida. Step Up For Students.

Around the state: Broward school board members will consider a new proposal today that would close eight schools, St. Johns County School Board members decide to keep four books in high school libraries but add restrictions on which students can check them out, Indian River County voters will be asked in November to renew a half-mill property tax, New College of Florida officials say some students who booed during graduation May 17 will be punished for disruptive conduct, city of Sarasota officials say New College continued to remove trees and plants from Uplands Bayfront Preserve even after it was issued a stop order, and five of the 13 Florida students in the national spelling bee are eliminated on the first day of competition. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Graduation ceremonies began Tuesday, with Coral Gables High School students being the first to receive their diplomas. Forty-two more ceremonies will be held this week, and 26 more are scheduled next Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Many of the graduations will be livestreamed. WSVN. Miami-Dade County School District.

Broward: Superintendent Howard Hepburn will present a plan at today’s school board meeting to close eight schools, either in the fall of 2026 or 2026. No schools are named in the report. “We’re going to present to the board as much information as possible so they can make the best informed decision about what plan they want to execute,” Hepburn said. “This is strictly building the framework of how we’re going to execute getting to name schools, hopefully by the end of the fall.” Sun Sentinel. Broward’s school district has had six superintendents in the past three years. Hepburn, the latest, said he intends to stick around. “Hopefully, I’m the last superintendent for a long time,” he said. “When it comes to changing the trajectory of an entire district, you can’t do that in six months or a year. I’m committed to being here for a long haul to see that through.” Sun Sentinel.

Polk: The Cypress Junction Montessori K-8 charter school in Winter Haven has announced plans to add 100 more students in the fall. The school has just under 200 students enrolled in the K-8 school, and 20 in its preschool. Nearly 500 children are on a waiting list, said principal and CEO Kris Newman-Lake, who added that the school has just been accredited. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: Calvin Robinson, a teacher at a Head Start program in St. Petersburg, was arrested last week and accused of slapping a 4-year-old student several times for “acting out.” There is a video of the incident, which happened in a school bathroom, but it has not been released. WFLA.

Pasco: A program to educate adults with disabilities is ending, leaving students uncertain what’s next for them. School officials said federal funding for the program, housed at Marchman Technical College in New Port Richey, ended in 2012 and the district will no longer cover the costs. Lori Romano, the district’s director of career and technical education, said the program was beneficial for these adults, but had no clear accountability measures. She likened it to a “great day-care” for free, but outside the role of the school system. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to have outcomes to support the services you’re providing,” Romano said. Tampa Bay Times.

St. Johns: School board members decided Tuesday not to remove four books that were challenged for graphic content, but did add restrictions on which students could check them out. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut and A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard are now available only to juniors and seniors. Freedom Writer’s Diary by the Freedom Writers and L8r, G8r by Harry N. Abrams may now be checked out by seniors only. All had been available to any high school student. WJXT. WJAX.

Marion: Students from West Port High School received their diplomas during a graduation ceremony Tuesday. Ocala Star Banner. Florida’s auditor general has issued findings against the school district for failing to report information in a timely manner to the state Department of Education about a former employee who was dismissed and later convicted of an offense in July 2023. District officials said they were unaware that the requirement extended to custodians, and later filed the report. The audit also disclosed that $2.2 million was spent during the 2022-2023 school year on projects not on the approved priority list, including HVAC upgrades at a middle school and electrical upgrades and new roofs at two other elementary schools. District officials said the list was amended after being submitted, but that the updates were not reported to the state because of staff turnover and absences during the pandemic. The Center Square.

St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: Indian River County voters will be asked in November to renew a half-mill property tax for the following four years to pay for recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers with higher salaries, for district technology, and to expand school safety, security and student wellness. The tax was first approved in 2008, and generates $9-$11 million a year. County commissioners still must agree to place it on the Nov. 5 ballot. TCPalm. While Indian River County students seem to have fully recovered from pandemic learning losses, as measured by the state’s standardized test results, St. Lucie and Martin officials report continuing struggles for some students. TCPalm.

Leon: School board members voted Tuesday to hire CSI Contracting to make repairs at Godby High School that were caused by a recent storm. The amount of the contract is $1,748,606. Also approved was an agreement with the sheriff’s office to pay half the costs, or $1,934,011, for 27 school resource officers. The county pays the other half. Tallahassee Reports.

Okaloosa: Students from Fort Walton Beach High School were awarded their diplomas at a recent graduation ceremony. It and other graduations can be viewed here. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Alachua: An end to a federal grant means a success coach for homeless students is out of a job. Dropout prevention specialist Amie Corona provided mentoring and tutoring to homeless and at-risk students in Alachua County, as well as helping them with food, clothing and housing needs. WUFT. The district has joined the federal Summer Food Service Program to provide free breakfasts and lunches to children 18 and under. Meals will be served at 70 locations. Areas where 50 percent or more of the children qualify for free and reduced-price meals during the school year are eligible. Mainstreet Daily News. Magnolia B. Jackson, who worked as a teacher and principal at Shell Elementary School in Hawthorne for more than 40 years, has died in Gainesville at the age of 106. She was the oldest living alumna of Bethune Cookman University and the oldest known resident of Gainesville. WCJB. Mainstreet Daily News.

Hernando: The wife of outgoing Superintendent John Stratton is leaving her job as principal of Westside Elementary School to take the same position at a Pinellas County school. Kristina Stratton is expected to be approved by the Pinellas school board this week as the principal of Sawgrass Lake Elementary School in St. Petersburg, and will begin July 1. Suncoast News.

Sumter: Three administrative changes have been announced for the Villages Charter School. Principal LeAnne Yerk will oversee The Villages Elementary School at the Middleton campus, while vice principal Terri Mattson has been named  principal of VCES at the Buffalo Ridge campus. Cathy Rowan also was promoted to principal from vice principal, and will oversee The Villages Charter Middle School at the Middleton campus. Villages Daily Sun.

Colleges and universities: Some New College of Florida students who booed during graduation May 17 will be punished for disruptive conduct, according to school officials. President Richard Corcoran said degrees could even be withheld from students until they apologize or or take mandatory classes on civil discourse. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. New College continued to remove trees and plants from Uplands Bayfront Preserve even after the city issued a cease-and-desist order, said city officials. College spokesman Nathan March said the school has halted work and intends to meet with the city to determine who has juridiction over the trees. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida Atlantic University will be the home of the state’s newly created Office of Ocean Economy, which will be the center for public and private research, education, technology and business applications involving water. State Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, said the plan is to develop products that are beneficial to medical science or are commercially successful. Sun Sentinel.

National spelling bee: Five of Florida’s 13 students competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee were eliminated Tuesday. Jasmine Perez of Broward tripped on the spelling of pret-a-porter (spelling it pretaporeter), Rylan Wise of Collier on zimocca (spelling it zamaca), and Nathan Crabbendam of Orange on vituperative (spelling it viturperative) in Round 1. In Round 2, Allie Wiser of Leon incorrectly defined zydeco, a type of music from Louisiana (saying it was a spicy lamb stew). In Round 3, Camila Sanchez Izquierdo of Miami-Dade misspelled midinette (spelling it mitinette). Of the 245 students who qualified for the bee, 148 remain. The competition continues today and concludes Thursday. Scripps National Spelling Bee. USA Today. Tallahassee Democrat. WPLG. Associated Press. WJHG.

Choice success and media: An aide to Gov. Ron DeSantis has criticized the mainstream media for trying to turn the “success” of Florida’s school choice programs “into a negative.” Christina Pushaw said, “Here is a story about something positive — Florida families have choices about where to send their children to school — that they worked overtime to twist into a negative.” She was referring to a Politico story pointing out that “tens of thousands more children” are opting for private schools, charter schools or home-schooling and that some districts are considering closing underenrolled schools. Florida’s Voice. Some private school officials say there are still delays in getting payments for students with vouchers from Step Up For Students. The organization said 99 percent of tuition payments have been made, but acknowledged “there will always be some payments that are in the process of being worked on,” said spokesman Scott Kent. WFTS.

Opinions on schools: The public’s preference for private rating education websites and informal networks strikes me as entirely appropriate given the presence of many state rating systems on a three-dimensional spectrum of convoluted, deceptive and/or more difficult to decipher than Mayan hieroglyphics. Matthew Ladner, NextSteps. There is a form of accountability that private schools are subject to that few district schools are: the parents themselves. If parents are unhappy with a school, for whatever reason, they have the freedom to unenroll their child at any time during the school year and take their scholarship dollars to a different school. Stacy Angier, Sun Sentinel. Training materials produced by the Florida Department of Education direct middle and high school teachers to indoctrinate students in the tenets of Christian nationalism, a right-wing effort to merge Christian and American identities. Judd Legum, Popular Information.

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