Breakfast bites: Math and reading get boost, a South Florida judicial reshuffle, and an aerospace liability overhaul

by | May 18, 2023

Bite-sized news nuggets to start your day off right…

Reading and math scores targeted, with $158 million to help

Governor Ron DeSantis signed new legislation into law this week (HB 7039) aimed at addressing students’ declining math and reading skills, which were further disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill requires schools to identify students in kindergarten through 4th grade who struggle with math or show signs of dyscalculia. These students will receive individualized education plans or progress monitor plans to target their specific needs. The law was prompted by the release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) measures, which revealed a decline in scores for 4th and 8th-grade students in 2022. To improve reading scores, the law also expands parental notification requirements and mandates the assignment of highly effective teachers and reading coaches in schools. Additionally, Florida joins Arkansas and Louisiana in banning the teaching of 3-cueing, a strategy that de-emphasizes phonics in reading instruction. It is believed to be outdated and ineffective, but still in wide use.

DeSantis appoints four new judges in South Florida

Four lawyers serving in government posts have been appointed to fill judicial vacancies in South Florida by Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ Office. Reid Scott II, the chief homicide prosecutor for Palm Beach County, will serve as a judge in the 15th Judicial Circuit in West Palm Beach. Scott, who has been an Assistant State Attorney since 2006, will fill the vacancy left by the promotion of Judge Paige Kilbane. Scott was involved in the recently resolved “Killer Clown” case. Danielle Sherriff, previously a senior litigation lawyer for the Palm Beach County School District, has been appointed as a judge for the Palm Beach County Court. Kristin Kanner, who once served as an Assistant State Attorney and later became the director of the Sexually Violent Predator Program at the Department of Children and Families, has been appointed as a judge in the 17th Judicial Circuit. Elaine Carbuccia, a law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Raag Singhal, will also join the 17th Judicial Circuit as a judge, filling the vacancy left by the passing of Judge Linda Alley in January.

School board candidate residency rules changed

Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a new law that loosens residency requirements for school board candidates. The legislation, filed by Republican Representative Kevin Steele, changes the requirement from candidates needing to be residents of the district they wish to represent at the time of qualifying, to being residents at the time they take office starting from July 1. Democrats have voiced opposition to the measure, arguing that school board positions are unique and should prioritize candidates focused on local issues such as school bus routes and districting. However, Republican sponsors emphasize the need for consistency in local elected offices.

DeSantis has shown significant interest in reshaping school board governance and has signed several related bills into law. Last week, he signed legislation limiting school board members to eight years of service, following a previous law that limited terms to 12 years. The Legislature has also approved a measure to make school board races partisan, which will be put to a vote on the November 2024 ballot. DeSantis has been the first governor to actively endorse candidates for school board positions, demonstrating an unprecedented level of involvement.

Florida aerospace industry may get liability protections

Florida lawmakers sent a bill to DeSantis this week that would provide liability protections to private aerospace companies in the event of injury or death to crew members during spaceflights. The proposed legislation aims to expand existing laws that already offer such protections to non-crew spaceflight participants who have acknowledged the associated risks. With the state witnessing a growth in private launches, the bill seeks to cover crew members employed by or contracted to private companies like SpaceX, Boeing, and Blue Origin. However, it does not include ground crew members or alter workers’ compensation regulations. The legislation is just one of several space-related proposals on Governor DeSantis’ desk, including road designations honoring figures like Christa McAuliffe and Sally Ride.


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