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Thousands more Florida students now eligible for vouchers

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seated, celebrates after having signed a bill Tuesday, May 11, 2021, that increases eligibility to attend private schools at public expense, during a ceremony at St. John the Apostle School in Hialeah, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seated, celebrates after having signed a bill Tuesday, May 11, 2021, that increases eligibility to attend private schools at public expense, during a ceremony at St. John the Apostle School in Hialeah, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) [ WILFREDO LEE | AP ]
Published May 12
Updated May 12

More than 20 years ago, Jeb Bush tried to implement taxpayer funded vouchers for Florida schoolchildren. His efforts foundered in the state Supreme Court. On Tuesday, he celebrated the state attaining and expanding on his goal, under Gov. Ron DeSantis. “This is truly a historic and sweeping action to empower more families and ensure more of Florida’s students can succeed,” Bush said after the signing of HB 1045. Read on for the latest on that story and other Florida education news.

DeSantis signed the legislation at a Hialeah private school. He said he will monitor the law’s effect on children with special needs, whose families complained about some of the changes to the scholarships the state has offered them. • Florida is not the only state looking to expand school choice programs. At least 20 others have proposed creating new models or growing existing ones, Center Square reports. • A key question remains of whether states should spend public funds for families to attend private schools, Florida Phoenix reports.

Education commissioner Richard Corcoran attended the bill signing. But his eye was also wandering to new pastures. Around the same time, Florida State University officials put the commissioner on their list to interview for its president job. Support for Corcoran getting the post is gaining momentum, Florida Politics reports.

Coronavirus concerns

Dozens of parents demanded the Pinellas County School Board end its mask mandate immediately. The board stuck with its plan to make the rule optional starting with summer school. • A similar scenario played out in the Polk County school district, the Ledger reports. • Parent pushback also failed to move the Brevard County School Board, Florida Today reports. • The St. Johns County School Board didn’t act on its mask policy after hearing from upset parents, the St. Augustine Record reports.

Some Manatee County parents calling for a stop to their district’s mask rules are taking a different approach. They’re preparing to send their children to school without the face coverings as a protest, the Bradenton Herald reports.

The Bay County School Board decided to make masks optional immediately. The move was met with both support and opposition, WMBB reports.

DeSantis told reporters he doesn’t think kids should have to wear masks anymore. He stopped short of issuing an order impacting the schools, though, WPTV reports. The governor’s main expectation for schools in the fall: Have a “normal year,” the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Many families moved to Florida (and elsewhere) during the pandemic to get in-person schooling. They’re now debating whether to return home as things reopen elsewhere, the Washington Post reports.

Live remote classes are becoming more scarce. Orange County families received word Tuesday the option won’t exist after this semester, WKMG reports.

Vaccinations are becoming more plentiful. Alachua County prepared to offer doses in middle schools with the pending approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, the Gainesville Sun reports.

No school prom? Some seniors in Flagler and Volusia counties are planning their own, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

Other school news

The Hillsborough County School Board approved a financial recovery plan for the district. The discussion revealed divisions among board members.

Six years ago, this Orange County high school had no physics program. Hundreds of students now take the course there, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Indicted Broward County superintendent Robert Runcie has a deal to leave the district. Several on the School Board said it was too generous, the Associated Press reports. • The board set a deadline of May 28 for candidates to apply for the interim superintendency, the Miami Herald reports. More from the Sun-Sentinel.

Florida lawmakers created a financial literacy high school elective two years ago. Some advocates argue the state has fallen short in making the course accessible, WUWF reports.

From the police blotter ... A 28-year-old woman was arrested on allegations of inappropriately entering a Miami-Dade County high school disguised as a student, to promote her Instagram page, WBBH reports. • A Monroe County boy was arrested on accusations of stabbing two classmates with a scissors, the Miami Herald reports.

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

Before you go ... Every year the Pinellas County Education Foundation recognizes the school district’s top musician with one of its Walker’s Rising Stars scholarships. Meet the five impressive finalists for this year’s award.