DeSantis education agenda on the move in Florida Legislature

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
Gov. Ron DeSantis and education commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. came to Tampa on March 8, 2023, to rebut accusations that they have supported censorship in the schools.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and education commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. came to Tampa on March 8, 2023, to rebut accusations that they have supported censorship in the schools. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published March 13|Updated March 13

The big story: After just one week of its 2023 session, the Florida Legislature is making quick work of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education agenda.

The state House put its voucher expansion bill on track for floor debate and a vote as early as this week, while the Senate pushed its version ahead, too, despite having no fiscal analysis to consider.

The chambers brought forth measures aimed at extending the “parental rights in education” laws that restrict the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation. The proposals include added provisions that would limit the use of pronouns not associated with a student’s biological sex at birth.

Another item on the to-do list would end the program that provides in-state university and college tuition for undocumented students who were brought into the country by their parents as young children. U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, who signed that measure into law while governor, criticized the proposed change.

DeSantis also is pushing changes to the way school board members are elected, supporting eight-year term limits and a move to partisan races. Those ideas are gaining traction, WFSU reports. More from Florida Phoenix.

Education commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. appeared on WTVJ over the weekend to discuss the administration’s policies.

Today in Tallahassee ... The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee meets at 3 p.m., where it will consider four bills including HB 999, which follows DeSantis’ request to end diversity, equity and inclusion programs at state colleges and universities, among other hotly debated provisions.

Hot topics

School board politics: A former consultant to two conservative Polk County School Board candidates was charged with seven misdemeanors over accusations he made false claims against an incumbent board member, Lakeland Now reports.

Security: The Lee County school district will begin participation in the state’s school guardian program, which allows some trained district employees to carry concealed weapons on campus, the Fort Myers News-Press reports. Teachers will not be armed, officials said.

Book challenges: Gov. Ron DeSantis said allegations that Florida is banning books are perpetuating a myth. The Daytona Beach News-Journal took a closer look at some of his specific arguments.

New College: The ousted top diversity officer at New College spoke with the Washington Post about the dismissal and what it might mean for the fate of diversity and equity issues in higher education.

Teacher shortages: Two Central Florida Democrats have proposed legislation to extend the state deferred retirement program so teachers could remain in their schools longer, Florida Politics reports.

Bullying: A Broward County family is demanding more accountability from schools after their son was bullied and beaten up at his middle school, WSVN reports.

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Budgeting: Escambia County School Board members held a workshop to ensure their priorities get placed into the annual budget, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

Other school news

A Hillsborough County high school student raised concerns that her U.S. government teacher racially harassed her. A closer look revealed complaints about Todd Harvey’s treatment of students dated back decades, but little was ever done.

The City of St. Petersburg fired its director of education and community engagement. Leah McRae had worked for the city since 2015.

The principal of a Seminole County charter school is on the way out. Her troubles appear to have begun when a board member was not allowed to deliver a tiara to his child during the school day, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The Lee County school district is making plans to rebuilt a hurricane-damaged elementary school about 3.5 miles from its current location. It also will convert the school to the K-8 model, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

From the police blotter ... An Indian River County student was arrested on accusations of having a loaded gun at school, TC Palm reports. • A Hillsborough County charter school teacher was arrested on allegations of engaging in sex with a student, WFLA reports.

Before you go ... Have you figured out your March Madness brackets yet? Who’s in your Final Four? Not sure yet? The highlights from this major matchup over the weekend might help you decide some things.

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