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Florida becomes hotspot in battle over school, student and parent rights

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
FILE - Florida Sen. Dennis Baxley makes a point during a Senate Community Affairs Committee meeting in a legislative session, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Republican-backed legislation, co-sponsored by Baxley, in Florida that could severely limit discussion of gay and lesbian issues in public schools is being widely condemned as dangerous and discriminatory, with one gay Democratic lawmaker saying it’s an attempt to silence LGBTQ students, families and history. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
FILE - Florida Sen. Dennis Baxley makes a point during a Senate Community Affairs Committee meeting in a legislative session, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Republican-backed legislation, co-sponsored by Baxley, in Florida that could severely limit discussion of gay and lesbian issues in public schools is being widely condemned as dangerous and discriminatory, with one gay Democratic lawmaker saying it’s an attempt to silence LGBTQ students, families and history. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File) [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]
Published Feb. 9

The big story: Florida’s debate over parental rights in their children’s education took another spin through the Legislature on Tuesday.

Senators considered a bill with that title, which included a line that would prevent elementary schools from encouraging student discussion about gender identity and sexual orientation. The bill sponsor argued that the measure would alleviate teachers of the burden of needing to talk about issues that aren’t part of their job, saying they could just say, “ask your parents.”

Bill critics countered that the legislation doesn’t do exactly what the sponsor suggested during his explanation. What’s in the bill? Read more about it here. The Biden White House denounced the measure as it advanced, the Associated Press reports. More on the discussion from the News Service of Florida, Florida Politics.

Over in the House, representatives reviewed a proposal aimed at stopping teachers from attempting to indoctrinate students or persuade them to take a point of view on race-related matters. (Not that many examples of this have been offered.)

Initially, bill proponents said students should not feel guilt or discomfort over their lessons. They altered the language slightly, in a nod to criticism that feelings really can’t be legislated. What else did they discuss? Get the latest here.

All this conversation about parental rights has emboldened many parents to make loud demands about their wishes within the schools. Sometimes, they can interfere with the orderly operations of a school in their push for specific actions. What happens next? Read about how the Pasco County school district reacted to one mom’s actions.

More Tallahassee action

Florida lawmakers want state universities to rotate accreditors every five years. The concept won approval in Senate committee on Tuesday, Florida Politics reports.

A bill advanced to change the service requirement for a Bright Futures scholarship. If approved, the measure would allow paid work to count, Florida Politics reports.

A House committee gave the nod to a proposal that would prevent union dues from being deducted from paychecks. Potentially affected teachers and other government employees criticized the move, the News Service of Florida reports.

Today in Tallahassee ... The House Appropriations Committee meets at 9 a.m., and will discuss its education budget proposal. • The Senate Appropriations Committee meets at 9 a.m. It will review a proposal to revise student scholarships and vouchers, in addition to its general appropriations bills and other measures. • The State Board of Education meets at 9 a.m. at Tallahassee Community College.

Hot topics

Superintendent searches: The Pinellas County School Board firmed up plans to have a new leader selected by May 17. First up: Community input. • The Broward County School board expects to pick one of two finalists for its top job today, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • Orange County will start looking for a new superintendent soon, as Barbara Jenkins announced her plan to retire in December, the Orlando Sentinel reports. • Could Alachua County be next? Three of five School Board members gave superintendent Carlee Simon a poor performance review, and want to discuss her future, Mainstreet Daily News reports. • Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County’s newly selected superintendent is set to begin Friday, but still doesn’t have a signed contract, the Miami Herald reports.

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Charter schools: The Hillsborough County School Board approved four new charter schools, despite misgivings. Members recalled how the district faced state sanctions the last time they attempted to reject and close some charters.

Teacher shortage: The St. Johns County teacher union president says the current reliance on classroom teachers to take up the slack for absent colleagues is a recipe for burnout, the St. Augustine Record reports.

Teacher pay: Gov. Ron DeSantis called for raising the minimum classroom teacher pay to $47,500 a year. Many Florida districts are struggling to reach that level, WFLA reports. • The Manatee County School Board approved a teacher pay raise, boosting its beginning wage to the state goal of $47,500, the Herald-Tribune reports.

Book bans: Floridians are taking note of a Tennessee school district’s removal of Maus from its shelves, WUFT reports. • Polk County’s superintendent updated families on a district review of 16 challenged books, WFLA reports.

Growth: An Alachua County middle school is getting a new wing to handle enrollment growth. Revenue from the district’s local-option sales tax is paying for the project, the Gainesville Sun reports. • St. Johns County School Board members lobbied lawmakers to provide additional funding to help them cope with rapid growth, WJXT reports.

Class size: The Lee County school district reported 23 of its schools were not in compliance in the latest count, WFTX reports.

From the police blotter ... The Clay County school district’s former director of transportation was arrested on allegations that he stole equipment from the district, WJXT reports.

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

Before you go ... Nathan Chen! See the whole performance here.

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