Archives for category: Florida

Governor Ron DeSantis has decided to drop standardized testing and replace it with “progress monitoring.”

The devil is in the details. How will the state monitor “progress” without standardized testing? Is he trying to hide the poor performance of charter schools?

Florida blogger Billy Townsend explains what’s happening here. He says Ron is ditching Jeb.

The Washington Post editorial board published a statement condemning Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ fierce opposition to mandates for masks and vaccinations. He wants to run for President as the candidate most like Trump.

It wrote:

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, has descended to a jaw-dropping level of cynicism. At a news conference on Monday, he announced that if local governments in Florida impose vaccine mandates on their employees, he would fine them $5,000 for every worker. Then he stood silently by as Gainesville city employees made false claims about the mRNA vaccines that have saved countless lives during the pandemic.

Although the wave of illness from the delta variant appears to be receding in Florida, the state has suffered a terrible summer toll of hospitalizations and deaths. A governor facing such a cataclysm might naturally be expected to use all methods to keep people safe. Instead, Mr. DeSantis, an ally of former president Donald Trump, has for months been campaigning against mask and vaccine mandates and actively sought to prevent business, government and schools from imposing them. These are vital tools to save lives in the face of a highly transmissible disease, but the governor insists that everyone should have the right to make their own decision. He casts himself as a defender of personal freedom.

This is a favorite argument of Republican governors and others, including Mr. Trump, who last year amid lockdowns was tweeting “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and other states. But personal freedom does not give an individual the right to hurt others. Those not wearing masks and refusing to get vaccinated are spreading the virus and overcrowding the nation’s hospitals. They are the majority of those who are dying. This is not freedom; it is recklessness.

An Appeals Court in Florida overruled a lower court and reinstated Governor Ron DeSantis’ ban on face-mask mandates by school districts. The decision overrides not only public health experts but common sense. At the same time, it guts local control, not permitting school districts to protect the health of their students. DeSantis’s hostility to face mask mandates will cause more cases and more deaths. Unnecessarily. Blood on his hands.

Once again, Governor DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates was overruled, at least for now. Florida has been hard hit by the Delta variant of COVID yet the Governor doesn’t want school districts to require masking. The state will appeal the ruling, since DeSantis is strongly committed to allowing parents—not schools—to decide whether students should wear masks.

The Miami Herald reported:

Tallahassee — A Leon County judge on Wednesday blocked Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration from enforcing a ban on strict mask mandates in schools after vacating a stay on a ruling tied to a parent-led lawsuit.

That means 13 school districts with mask requirements that allow only medical opt-outs can keep enforcing their mandates. Their ability to do so might be short lived, however, as the state is expected to appeal Judge John Cooper’s decision.

The ruling had been paused on Friday when the state appealed to the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

Cooper, however, said he does not believe the state will be harmed if his ruling stays in place through the appeals process. That’s because Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration can still enforce the Parents’ Bill of Rights — which the state invoked to enforce its ban on mask mandates — as long as the state follows it in full. That means the state cannot punish districts that have demonstrated their mask policy “is reasonable” and achieves a “compelling state interest.”

“This case has generated a lot of heat and a lot of light, but the bottom line is this case is about enforcing the law the Legislature passed, and that’s why I think setting aside this stay is appropriate,” Cooper said.

The underlying legal battle has the attention of 13 school districts in Florida — which comprise more than a majority of all public school childrenin the state — that have imposed mask mandates. The state has withheld funds equivalent to monthly salaries of school board members in two of the districts, in Broward and Alachua counties.

The court decision Wednesday is part of an ongoing, broader parent-led lawsuit that contends DeSantis and his administration overstepped their legal authority when issuing a blanket ban on mask mandates with no parent opt-out except for medical reasons.

Cooper concluded, after a four-day trial last month, that DeSantis and his administration acted “without legal authority” when invoking the Parents’ Bill of Rights to enforce the ban on mask mandates.

That law says the state is not allowed to “infringe on the fundamental rights of a parent” to direct the upbringing, education, healthcare, and mental health of a child “without demonstrating that such action is reasonable and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest.”

Cooper noted defendants used the first half of the statute but not the second part when they issued their order. Therefore, their actions were unlawful.

A circuit court judge in Leon County, Florida, ruled that Governor Ron DeSantis had exceeded his authority by preventing local school districts from mandating masks. Governor DeSantis must not interfere with the right of school districts to protect the health and safety of students.

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP) — School districts in Florida may impose mask mandates, a judge said Friday, ruling that Gov. Ron DeSantis overstepped his authority by issuing an executive order banning the mandates.

Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper agreed with a group of parents who claimed in a lawsuit that DeSantis’ order is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. The governor’s order gave parents the sole right to decide if their child wears a mask at school.null

Cooper said DeSantis’ order “is without legal authority.”

His decision came after a three-day virtual hearing, and after at least 10 Florida school boards voted to defy DeSantis and impose mask requirements with no parental opt-out.

Cooper said that while the governor and others have argued that a new Florida law gives parents the ultimate authority to oversee health issues for their children, it also exempts government actions that are needed to protect public health and are reasonable and limited in scope. He said a school district’s decision to require student masking to prevent the spread of the virus falls within that exemption.null

The judge also noted that two Florida Supreme Court decisions from 1914 and 1939 found that individual rights are limited by their impact on the rights of others. For example, he said, adults have the right to drink alcohol but not to drive drunk. There is a right to free speech, but not to harass or threaten others or yell “fire” in a crowded theater, he said.

President Biden announced that the U.S. Department of Education will take legal action against the eight states that do not permit school districts to require students and staff to wear masks. In so doing, these states put students at risk and violate their right to education.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Erica L. Green wrote in the New York Times:

President Biden, escalating his fight with Republican governors who are blocking local school districts from requiring masks to protect against the coronavirus, said Wednesday that his Education Department would use its broad powers — including taking possible legal action — to deter states from barring universal masking in classrooms.

Mr. Biden said he had directed Miguel Cardona, his education secretary, “to take additional steps to protect our children,” including against governors who he said are “setting a dangerous tone” in issuing executive orders banning mask mandates and threatening to penalize school officials who defy them.

“Unfortunately, as you’ve seen throughout this pandemic, some politicians are trying to turn public safety measures — that is, children wearing masks in school — into political disputes for their own political gain,” Mr. Biden said in remarks from the East Room of the White House, adding, “We are not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children.”

Valerie Strauss wrote in the Washington Post about Biden’s announcement:

He did not name any specific governor, but Republican governors Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona, are among those state leaders who have threatened to withhold funding from districts or take other action against those districts that defy them. In Florida, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth largest district in the country, on Wednesday passed a universal masking mandate — with only a medical opt-out — as did Hillsborough County Public Schools.

“I’m directing the secretary of education to take additional steps to protect our children,” Biden said. “This includes using all of his oversight authorities and legal action if appropriate against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local schools officials and educators.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said masking is one of the strongest tools that can be taken to protect the spread of the delta variant, which has caused a rise in pediatric coronavirus cases. The agency this summer, in a shift in guidance, recommended everyone over the age of 2 — even those who are vaccinated — wear masks inside school buildings.

In letters to the governors of Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah, Cardona said bans on school masking mandates are putting students at risk and “may infringe upon a school district’s authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by federal law.”

Cardona, in a Wednesday post on the department’s Homeroom Blog, said the department can investigate any state educational agency whose policies or actions “may infringe on the rights of every student to access public education equally.”

“The department will also receive and respond as appropriate to complaints from the public, including parents, guardians, and others about students who may experience discrimination as a result of states not allowing local school districts to reduce virus transmission risk through masking requirements and other mitigation measures,” he wrote. “As always, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights evaluates allegations of discrimination on a case-by-case basis, looking at the specific facts of each case.

Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order that prohibits school districts from adopting mask mandates for all students and staff, even though Florida hospitals are overflowing withbCOVID patients. DeSantis has presidential aspirations.

The leadership of Miami-Dade County and Broward County have decided to defy DeSantis’ reckless decision and protect their students and staff.

MIAMI – Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said he agrees with recommendations by health experts that Miami-Dade County Public Schools implement a face mask mandate with an opt-out medical accommodation starting Aug. 23.

The School Board of Miami-Dade County will discuss and finalize on the issue when they meet at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools students start the 2021-22 school year in a week. New teachers had to report on Aug. 11 and the first regular teacher planning is on Wednesday.

Given the evidence on vaccine breakthrough cases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status on July 27.

According to the CDC, the level of transmissibility remains high in Miami-Dade. The Aug. 6-12 case positivity rate was 20.3% in Miami-Dade, according to the Florida Department of Health. The Delta variant is the main driver of the ongoing COVID surge.

Broward County Public Schools will begin the new 2021-22 school year on Aug. 18 with a face mask mandate. School Board of Broward County members first approved a universal face mask mandate on July 28.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order on July 30 to protect parents’ freedom to opt-out from school districts’ face mask mandates and tasked the Florida Department of Education with enforcing the order….

As you know, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order barring school districts from adopting mask mandates. Every family should make it’s own decision, he has said. As schools open, the disastrous results of this reckless policy are becoming clear.

AFT President Randi Weingarten tweeted yesterday:

“Just heard….nearly 5600 Hillsborough County students in quarantine…. As a result, Hillsborough is calling an Emergency School Board meeting on Wed. This is the result of the recklessness by DeSantis….why is he banning mass mandates in schools?”

In Tampa Bay, hundreds of cases of coronavirus were reported in the first week of school.

Even though classes just started last week, schools in the greater Tampa Bay region have already seen hundreds of students and staff test positive for coronavirus, and thousands of people are isolating due to exposure or illness.

The numbers were generally between 10 times to 20 higher than the cases that were counted in the first week of school last year, and in Sarasota, school board chair Shirley Brown said the numbers reflected on district dashboards are far below the actual case count.

“It’s actually worse than what our dashboard shows because we are having trouble keeping up with data entry,” Brown said in an email to WUSF Sunday night.

By Sunday, 261 students in Sarasota County schools had tested positive in the first week. According to the school district’s COVID dashboard, 194 students were in isolation on Sunday.

A case count of 261 is already more than 20 times higher than last year, in a district that contains about 45,000 students. The Sarasota Herald Tribune reported there were just 10 cases of COVID in the county’s schools the first two weeks last year. But Brown said that’s not even the full picture

The Florida Education Association is tracking cases statewide, and said 4,148 Florida Pre-K-12 students and staff have tested positive for coronavirus since Aug. 1.

Three children in Florida and 15 educations have died from COVID-19 since July, according to the Southeast’s largest labor union.

The families of those who died should sue those responsible for making it illegal to enact scientifically-based mitigation measures, including masks and vaccinations.

Heather Cox Richardson is an historian whose blog is called “Letters from an American.” She has a free version and a subscription version. She carefully documents whatever she writes.

In her free version yesterday, she wrote about Republican resistance to vaccination, as well as a few Republicans who now regret their resistance, like Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. Just remember, as the COVID death toll rises, who fought against mask mandates and vaccinations. First among them: Ron DeSantis of Florida.

She wrote, in part:

Today seemed to mark a popular backlash against Republican lawmakers who have been downplaying the coronavirus pandemic. The Delta variant of the deadly virus is ripping through unvaccinated populations in the U.S. with an average of 85,000 new cases a day, numbers that rival those of February, before we had accessible vaccines. One in three cases in the nation comes from either Florida or Texas.

Lawmakers in South Carolina, Iowa, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, and Utah have prohibited schools from requiring masks, and South Carolina, Iowa, Florida, Montana, Arizona, South Dakota, Texas, and Tennessee prohibit local governments from doing so.

Yesterday, President Joe Biden called out governors, especially Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, for banning mask mandates and refusing to require the vaccine. At a press conference, Biden said “to these governors, ‘Please, help.’ But if you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives.”

Today DeSantis responded: “I am standing in your way.” After sitting on Biden’s criticism for almost a day, DeSantis could find as a response only an attack on Biden for allegedly ignoring the “border crisis.” DeSantis blamed Florida’s devastating virus numbers on immigrants coming over the nation’s border with Mexico into Texas. 

The recent attention to the methods of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who rose to power by stoking anti-immigrant hatred and who continues to whip up a frenzy over immigration despite the fact that refugees coming into Hungary have dropped to unremarkable levels, shows the Republican fallback on immigrant caravans to distract from their own scandals in a new light. 

In fact, our southern border remains closed because of public health directives put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unaccompanied minors are admitted so that they do not become victims of gangs or sex traffickers, and their numbers likely hit an all-time high of about 19,000 in July. Those children are processed and then transferred to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services, which then finds suitable foster situations for them while they await immigration hearings. 

Interestingly in terms of the timing of DeSantis’s outburst, today the Mexican government sued a number of U.S.-based gun manufacturers for lax controls that permit illegal weapons to flow over the border. A 2016 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office showed that about 70% of the weapons seized in Mexico came from the United States.

Valerie Strauss wrote the following on her blog “The Answer Sheet” at the Washington Post:

Here’s a very short quiz:

The Hillsborough County School Board in Florida met this month to consider a dozen proposals to open new charter schools or extend the operating agreements on others. The board considered data, recommendations of its staff and testimony from community members about the charters, which are funded by public tax dollars but privately operated.

Then it voted to approve four and deny eight (not always accepting the staff’s counsel). Four of those denied were requests from existing schools to keep. The decisions were made by the board made after members learned about poor academic outcomes, violations of federal law and other issues at some of the schools. Those four schools are supposed to now close and their students must find other schools.

What did the charter-school-loving administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) do? Did it let the local school board do its work without state interference? Did it point out what it considered errors in the process and offer to help the board resolve them? Or did it threaten to withhold funding from the district over the four existing charters that were told to close?

It’s Florida, where Republican officials have long since abandoned the pretense that they believe communities should run their own public schools without micromanaging from Tallahassee or that they want to maintain the integrity of traditional public school districts.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran took the last option, sending a letter to the board which said it had violated a state statute by closing down four schools and gave the board a deadline to explain itself and change course or else face the loss of millions of state dollars.

Board lawyers are planning to challenge Corcoran’s interpretation of the statute, but district officials say that isn’t expected to stop Corcoran from trying, somehow, to keep the schools open. School board Chair Lynn Gray said in an interview that the panel was going to fight him, though, she added, “It could cost us.”

The Florida Department of Education did not respond to queries about Corcoran’s threat to Hillsborough.

The Hillsborough episode is the latest in repeated attacks on public education and local control — long a tenet of the Republican Party — by Florida GOP leaders. DeSantis made clear his disdain for traditional public schools in 2019 when he espoused a new definition of “public education,” which was heartily approved by then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

DeSantis said in a tweet, “Look, if it’s public dollars, it’s public education.” That would mean that public education includes private and religious schools that discriminate against LGBTQ and other people that offend them but still receive taxpayer funds through vouchers and similar programs.

Betsy DeVos and her allies are trying to redefine ‘public education.’ Critics call it ‘absurd.’

That is what critics of DeSantis and his “school choice” agenda say is the ultimate goal of the governor and his allies: to privatize public education.

“They are systemically trying to eliminate public education,” Gray said, noting that charter school supporters were trying to open charters in areas where Hillsborough’s very best public schools are located — and in areas where there are not enough traditional public schools to handle the growing population of Hispanic immigrants.

“They are very, very strategic about where they are putting them,” she said. “It’s very well planned.”

DeSantis and other state officials say that parents know best what their children need and that school choice programs are designed to give them options. They say, correctly, that some traditional public schools have failed students, but don’t mention the charter schools that have done the same.

In fact, the charter school sector in Florida has long been troubled. Though Republicans in the state have prevented strict oversight of the sector — even while micromanaging public school districts — Florida has long had one of the highest annual charter school closure rates in the country, involving schools that were closed after financial and other scandals. The state has also poured billions of taxpayer dollars into voucherlike programs despite no concrete evidence that the private and religious schools receiving the money have boosted students’ academic trajectories.

And so attacks on traditional public school districts just keep on coming from the DeSantis administration.

It is worth recalling what the St. Augustine Record newspaper said about Corcoran in an editorial in 2018, which was headlined, “Rest in peace, public education.”Let’s not beat around the political bush: Putting former House Speaker Richard Corcoran in charge of Florida education is like hiring Genghis Khan to head the state Department of Corrections.The charter school fox is heading for the Department of Education hen house and, for public schooling, that’s finger-lickin’ bad.Corcoran is a coercer, a brawler and politician who rewards fealty while marking opponents for payback. Those who know him would say he’d be flattered by the description.

Florida newspaper: ‘Rest in peace, public education’

DeSantis, a close ally of former president Donald Trump, had ordered all school districts to open last fall while most of the country’s districts stayed close despite high coronavirus rates, giving only a few permission to stay shut a little longer than the others.

You might think that Hillsborough is No. 1 on the administration’s list of school districts in which to meddle — but that is only if you didn’t know that DeSantis had his sights set on removing Robert Runcie, the recently departed superintendent of Broward County from the first day he took office as governor in January 2019.

DeSantis pushed for Runcie to be removed by the local school board that hired him, blaming the superintendent in part for poor security at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High School in Parkland, where a mass shooting occurred in February 2018. DeSantis knew he didn’t have the authority to unilaterally remove Runcie and his school board kept supporting him. So the governor called for the creation of a grand jury that indicted Runcie earlier this year on a single count of perjury — the details of which have still not been revealed.

Runcie’s attorneys say that the perjury charge — which stems from an investigation into Parkland shootings and was expanded to include other issues — was politically motivated. So do some of the members of the board, which accepted Runcie’s resignation in the wake of his arrest on the charge in late April.Story continues below advertisement

There was also the incident late last year in which Corcoran — who said publicly in September 2020 he would encourage everyone “never to read” The Washington Post or the New York Times — announced that he had “made sure” that a veteran teacher in Duval County Public Schools had been “terminated” from her position. Education commissioners in Florida don’t actually have the power to fire a teacher.

Amy Conofrio was moved to a nonteaching position by the district after she refused to remove a Black Lives Matter flag above her classroom at Robert E. Lee High School, where 70 percent of the students are Black. District spokesperson Laureen Ricks said at the time in an email that the employee in question (who was not named in county statements) was being investigated for several incidents, none of which were named.

Results of the probe into Donofrio, who had co-founded a student-driven organization called the EVAC Movement which worked to empower Black students to work for positive change, have not yet been released.

Florida’s Republican leaders have been in the national news lately for other education moves, which include:

* A new law that bans critical race theory from being taught in Florida classrooms, though it isn’t clear that any classrooms actually teach it. CRT is an intellectual movement that examines the way policies and laws perpetuate systemic racism. Republican-led legislatures in numerous state are or have already passed legislation to restrict how teachers can address systemic racism — a reaction to the social justice movement that arose out of protests against the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Teachers across the country protest laws restricting lessons on racism

  • A new law that, among other things, requires public universities to assess “viewpoint diversity” on campus each year through a survey developed by the State Board of Education. DeSantis and other conservatives had frequently lamented that conservatives and their views are given short shrift in higher education.

It is worth recalling what the St. Augustine Record newspaper said about Corcoran in an editorial in 2018, which was headlined, “Rest in peace, public education.”Let’s not beat around the political bush: Putting former House Speaker Richard Corcoran in charge of Florida education is like hiring Genghis Khan to head the state Department of Corrections.The charter school fox is heading for the Department of Education hen house and, for public schooling, that’s finger-lickin’ bad.Corcoran is a coercer, a brawler and politician who rewards fealty while marking opponents for payback. Those who know him would say he’d be flattered by the description.

Florida newspaper: ‘Rest in peace, public education’]