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Florida prepares to debate education savings accounts

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Kindergarten students from  Southside Christian Academy look at a Barbie book and pick the character they want to be "when they grow up and be fifteen." The school participated in Florida's Tax Credit Scholarship program, which lawmakers have proposed folding into a taxpayer funded education savings account system. [Times | 2011]
Kindergarten students from Southside Christian Academy look at a Barbie book and pick the character they want to be "when they grow up and be fifteen." The school participated in Florida's Tax Credit Scholarship program, which lawmakers have proposed folding into a taxpayer funded education savings account system. [Times | 2011]
Published Jan. 26

For two decades, Florida has been viewed across the nation as the state most willing to push the envelope on what once was referred to as school “reform” — test-based accountability and choice high on the list of initiatives aimed at improving student outcomes. This year, some Republican lawmakers appear poised to take yet another step down that path. They’re billing the proposal as a streamlining of current programs. But as one observer noted, the measure is ‘so much more.’ Read on for that and other Florida education news.

Top state Senate Republicans have made voucher expansion a session priority. As their bill makes the rounds, observers wonder whether now is the right time, given demands created by the pandemic.

‘We never have enough bus drivers.’ The coronavirus pandemic is making a bad situation even worse for Marion County schools, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

Older school employees are getting their vaccinations. The Lee and Collier school districts began providing the shots on Monday, the Naples Daily News reports. • The Bay County school district partnered with a nonprofit health care center to get the vaccines to its workers, the Panama City News Herald reports.

The push continues for other teachers and staff to move up the priority list. Duval County’s School Board chairwoman made such a plea to Gov. Ron DeSantis, WJXT reports. • One Leon County teacher who’s under 65 but has serious health concerns said the treatment is critical to keep schools operating, WCTV reports.

Schools are seeking methods to reach students who have fallen behind online. The Broward County district launched an online afternoon tutoring program to provide academic assistance, WTVJ reports. • About 6,000 Miami-Dade County students returned to in-person classes to begin their third quarter, WPLG reports.

One move is to bring more teachers back to schools as more children arrive. An arbitrator found the Broward County school district was within its rights to make such demands of educators, who fought the change, WSVN reports.

Students who struggled during the pandemic will get a reprieve in their athletic activities. The FHSAA changed its age eligibility requirements to allow older teens to continue playing after they turn 19, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

St. Petersburg quarterback Evan Jacobson (10) works on a passing play during the first quarter of the football game on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. The FHSAA has approved new eligibility rules for student-athletes who might have struggled during the pandemic.
St. Petersburg quarterback Evan Jacobson (10) works on a passing play during the first quarter of the football game on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. The FHSAA has approved new eligibility rules for student-athletes who might have struggled during the pandemic. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Former Sarasota County School Board member Eric Robinson faced election campaign finance complaints. Prosecutors found nothing to charge him over, and now Robinson is considering suing his former challenger, the Herald-Tribune reports.

The chief of the Duval County schools police department resigned. A recent grand jury report accused the department of ‘outright fraud,’ the Florida Times-Union reports.

Palm Beach County’s school inspector general proposed making it harder for the public to find her reports. School Board members aren’t keen on the suggestion, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Lee County school district leaders want an alternative to suspending students. They’ve proposed a district-wide restorative justice model for discipline, WFTX reports.

From the police blotter ... A Polk County teacher was arrested on accusations of driving while intoxicated after smoking marijuana following a rough day at work, the Ledger reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s a link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... Is anyone else a Bee Gees fan? Barry Gibb put out this new album reimagining the band’s hits with Nashville stars. Check out this duet with Allison Krauss.