Florida state leaders continue pressure on teacher unions

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
From left: Attorney James Craig for the Hillsborough County School District, Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association executive director Graham Picklesimer, union president Rob Kriete at a bargaining impasse meeting on Dec. 8, 2022.
From left: Attorney James Craig for the Hillsborough County School District, Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association executive director Graham Picklesimer, union president Rob Kriete at a bargaining impasse meeting on Dec. 8, 2022. [ MARLENE SOKOL | Times ]
Published Jan. 19|Updated Jan. 19

The big story: Florida Republican government leaders have not hidden their desire to undermine teachers unions, which have over the years actively opposed GOP candidates.

Late in December, Gov. Ron DeSantis called on lawmakers to prevent teachers from having their union dues taken out of their school district paychecks — another effort that could make it it harder for some of the unions to remain solvent.

The State Board of Education on Wednesday joined in the criticism, during discussions about why some school districts have yet to approve teacher raises covered by an $800 million state allocation for educator salaries. Several of the board members blamed unions for standing in the way, and called for a review of possible ways to remove the unions from the equation.

Union officials, who weren’t asked to speak at the meeting, said the board should be working with them rather than maligning them. Read more here.

The same day, the St. Johns County teachers union announced it would have a work-to-contract day to protest the district’s raise offer, WJXT reports. Jackson County teachers ratified their raise agreement a day earlier, WMBB reports.

In other action, the State Board approved controversial new rules on library book selection that tell media specialists to “err on the side of caution” when it comes to controversial content, the News Service of Florida reports. More from Education Week.

The board also adopted commissioner Manny Diaz’s position that federal Title IX protections do not apply to transgender students, Jacksonville Today reports. That stance aligns with a recent federal appellate court ruling on a lawsuit over St. Johns County school restroom policy.

More DeSantis agenda

In higher education: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ budget office on Wednesday called on state universities to provide information about any services they offer to people seeking gender-affirming treatment, something the governor has railed against. The request comes on the heels of the governor’s office demanding details about university and college spending on diversity and inclusion programs, the News Service of Florida reports. • Presidents of the state’s 28 colleges issued a joint statement supporting the governor’s effort to create a higher education system “free from indoctrination and woke ideology,” WGCU reports. More from Florida Politics. • Some students and faculty members across the state criticized the governor’s attempts to impose an “anti-woke” agenda on colleges and universities, ABC News reports.

Race lessons: The DeSantis administration informed College Board that it would not allow a new AP course on African-American studies to be taught in Florida, National Review reports. “As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value,” the Department of Education wrote to the College Board.

School board politics: The Broward and Miami-Dade school boards swore in new members appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Miami Herald reports. • Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler has become a national leader in the conservative parental rights movement in schools, Bloomberg reports.

Follow what’s happening in Tampa Bay schools

Follow what’s happening in Tampa Bay schools

Subscribe to our free Gradebook newsletter

We’ll break down the local and state education developments you need to know every Thursday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

National implications: DeSantis has become a leader in the Republican Party’s national push to change public education, particularly as it deals with race, gender and sex issues, The Conversation reports.

Other hot topics

Teacher shortages: Wakulla County parents said they worry about meeting their children’s education needs as their district cannot fill all teaching vacancies. The School Board rejected a plan to seek teachers abroad amid community concerns, WTXL reports.

Student privacy: An FHSAA committee recommended changing the rules surrounding the collection of personal medical data of female student-athletes, the Palm Beach Post reports. Information that has been turned over to schools would remain with students’ physicians instead under the proposal.

Security: The Palm Beach County school district is exploring the possibility of allowing employees to be trained as armed guardians, a program the district has resisted, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • State officials are pushing for expansion of the program across Florida, WJXT reports. • The Miami-Dade County school district hired an interim chief for its police department, the Miami Herald reports.

Class size: Two Osceola County schools did not meet the state’s formal class size requirements, with district teachers saying they expect others do not meet the spirit of the law, WFTV reports.

Awards: A Pinellas County teacher was honored as national special education teacher of the year by the Council for Exceptional Children, WTVT reports.

Attendance zones: Three Collier County high schools will get new boundaries to make room for a new school, the Naples Daily News reports. • The Jackson County school district will move forward with closing an elementary school and merging it into a nearby middle school, WJHG reports.

From the police blotter ... A Hillsborough County teenager was arrested on allegations of bringing a loaded gun to a high school, WFLA reports. • Two Manatee County children were arrested on accusations of shooting BB gun pellets at school buses, the Bradenton Herald reports.

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

Before you go ... You know we love a good music mashup. Check out this new one mixing Black Sabbath, Van Halen and ... Wham!

• • •

Sign up for the Gradebook newsletter!

Every Thursday, get the latest updates on what’s happening in Tampa Bay area schools from Times education reporter Jeffrey S. Solochek. Click here to sign up.