Pressure on Florida universities turns to faculty unions

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
The State  University System is asking for detailed information about the activities of United Faculty of Florida, led by Andrew Gothard, and other employee unions.
The State University System is asking for detailed information about the activities of United Faculty of Florida, led by Andrew Gothard, and other employee unions. [ Zoom. ]
Published March 16, 2023

The big story: Florida lawmakers have made clear their disdain for public employees unions, including those representing teachers.

Are university professors’ organizations next to get hit by legislation curtailing their operations?

The State University System has requested information from university presidents about their latest collective bargaining sessions, including names of union leaders and costs associated with negotiations. When the administration has made such records demands in past months, limiting legislation has soon followed.

“We can only assume they want to gather this information to smear higher education faculty, to try to undermine unions and try to unfairly paint us as using too many state resources to negotiate our union contracts,” United Faculty of Florida president Andrew Gothard said. Read more here.

His concern comes at a time when lawmakers are considering legislation to overhaul the mission of Florida’s colleges and universities. Critics of the House and Senate bills have argued that the proposed changes will weaken the state’s well regarded system, WPTV reports. A group of historians complained the measures would destroy academic freedom, WUSF reports.

The Senate changed its bill (SB 266) after hearing concerns from some Black student leaders The latest Senate version removed a provision to eliminate majors and minors in subjects such as gender studies and critical race theory, WFSU reports. It also deleted language that would have threatened funding to Black fraternities and sororities.

The Senate Education Postsecondary Committee advanced its bill after hearing from several opponents, Florida Politics reports.

Hot topics

School safety: Parents of a St. Johns County middle schooler are calling for changes in district procedures in the aftermath of their child being bullied and attacked at school, WJXT reports. • The Columbia County school district is considering whether to participate in the state school guardian program, which allows trained employees to carry concealed weapons, WCJB reports.

Superintendents: A Flagler County School Board member said she was attempting to recruit a former district administrator to become the district’s next superintendent, even as she publicly stated she was neutral on renewing the contract of the current district leader, Flagler Liver reports.

Dress code: The Collier Community Foundation is raising money to support students who cannot afford their school uniforms, the Naples Daily News reports.

Dreamers: Bills to overhaul Florida immigration laws do not contain any provision to revoke in-state tuition for undocumented university students who were brought to Florida by their parents while young children, Florida Phoenix reports. Gov. Ron DeSantis has called for ending the “Dreamers” program implemented in 2014.

Diversity programs: Florida’s university educators find an increasingly hostile work environment as their schools try to implement laws, rules and directives aimed at rooting out diversity, equity and inclusion, the Miami Herald reports. • Students at the University of North Florida say they want to keep the programs intact, the Miami Herald reports. • Florida Atlantic University students plan to protest proposed legislation to limit diversity initiatives and eliminate related majors, WPTV reports.

The DeSantis agenda: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ focus on race and education in Florida could play well in a Republican presidential primary, reports.

Book challenges: A Florida House committee amended HB 1069 on sex education to include a requirement that schools remove from circulation any books that are challenged for sexual content, until they can be reviewed, Politico Florida reports. • Florida’s education commissioner launched a new “book of the month” program, and included as one of his first recommendations a book about Roberto Clemente that had been off Duval County school shelves for months during a content review, Florida Phoenix reports.

Today in Tallahassee ... The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee will consider SB 256 on public employee unions when it meets at 8:30 a.m. • The Florida Board of Governors has a scheduled conference call at 9 a.m. • The House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee will take up four bills including HB 733 on school start times when it meets at 9:30 a.m. • The full House is scheduled to convene at noon. HB 1 on vouchers, HB 225 on governance of high school athletics, and HB 477 on school board term limits are on the special order calendar.

From the police blotter ... An Osceola County school district network specialist was arrested on allegations of possessing child pornography, WKMG reports. • A Broward County teen was arrested on accusations of making a threat of violence against a school, WPEC reports. The student said it was a joke.

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

Before you go ... Be honest. Would you watch this show? Or does it seem like too much?

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