DeSantis signs 18 education bills into Florida law

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as he signs bills into law during a press conference at Cambridge Christian School, 6101 North Habana Avenue, on Wednesday, May 17, 2023 in Tampa.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as he signs bills into law during a press conference at Cambridge Christian School, 6101 North Habana Avenue, on Wednesday, May 17, 2023 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published May 18, 2023

The big story: Gov. Ron DeSantis framed his big bill signing event Wednesday as “Let Kids Be Kids.”

He declared Florida would remain a “citadel of normalcy” as he enacted measures that would, among other things, bar teachers from asking students about their personal pronouns and require schools to provide restrooms and locker rooms for use according to sex assigned at birth.

Other legislation DeSantis put into law included limitations on gender affirming care, attendance at drag shows, prayer at school events and removal of school books that include mention of sex.

Critics quickly blasted the package as discriminatory and hateful. Read more here. Additional coverage from WUSF.

Separately, the governor also approved several other education-related bills. They are: SB 196 on academic planning guidance services, SB 290 on student progression for students with disabilities, SB 598 on higher education facilities financing, SB 1272 on education grants, SB 7026 on higher education funding, HB 19 on individual education plans, HB 265 on high school equivalency diplomas, HB 389 on menstrual hygiene products in public schools, HB 411 on school board candidate residency requirements, HB 443 on early learning programs, HB 551 on required African American instruction, HB 633 on class size, and HB 7039 on reading instruction. Here’s some coverage from Florida Politics.

Hot topics

Charter schools: A new charter school is headed to west Pasco County. It almost didn’t happen.

College football: University of South Florida trustees got their first look at the price tag for a campus football stadium, along with a proposal of how to pay for it.

Board politics: The Hernando County school board has become engulfed by partisan culture war politics over the past year. Most recently, the sharply divided board tabled a confidence vote in superintendent John Stratton, Suncoast News reports.

Book challenges: The nation’s largest publisher filed suit against the Escambia County school district, contending the district’s book banning efforts are unconstitutional, USA Today reports.

Sex education: The Broward County school district did not provide sex education to students this year, as the district never adopted an approved curriculum, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Social studies textbooks: Florida’s rejection of two textbooks about the Holocaust has drawn international attention, TC Palm reports.

Student discipline: An Escambia County high school has seen student behavior improve with the implementation of a Dads on Duty mentoring program, the Pensacola News-Journal reports. • The Alachua County school board tentatively adopted new rules clarifying expectations for students who see fighting on campus, Main Street Daily News reports.

Superintendents: The Flagler County school board appointed an interim superintendent through January, while it seeks a permanent leader, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. The board did not renew the expiring contract of superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt.

From the police blotter ... A Miami-Dade County teacher was arrested on accusations of sexually harassing a student at his school, WPLG reports. • A Santa Rosa County middle school former bookkeeper was arrested on accusations of stealing money from the school, WEAR reports. • A Martin County charter school guidance counselor was arrested on accusations of stealing $1 million from a nonprofit in Virginia, WPTV reports.

From the court docket ... Five people arrested at a March protest at USF pleaded not guilty to charges that included battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. They had been rallying against DeSantis’ higher education agenda.

Don’t miss a story. Yesterday’s roundup is right here.

Before you go ... Did you miss Eurovision this year? Held in Liverpool because 2022 winner Ukraine couldn’t host, the annual music contest was won by Sweden’s Loreen. Check it out.

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