Florida teachers grapple with ‘union-busting’ laws

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
The Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association has been leading a petition drive to get the union re-certified to meet new state law requirements.
The Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association has been leading a petition drive to get the union re-certified to meet new state law requirements. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Nov. 20

The big story: When Florida lawmakers placed new restrictions on public sector unions this spring, teachers were among the groups to call the effort “union busting.”

As the provisions take effect, and officials set guidelines to follow, teacher union officials are more convinced than ever the things they’re required to do are aimed at making them go away.

The Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association has turned to a petition drive seeking a recertification vote, after the state said unions had to collect paperwork that they previously didn’t need to have.

“Even though unions are more popular, they’re trying to end it in Florida,” said association president Lee Bryant. “But we’re not going to let them.”

The United Teachers of Dade is further down the road, facing a challenge from an insurgent group if it can’t prove it represents 60% of all eligible members, the Miami Herald reports.

“Paid holidays, merit pay raises, longevity bonuses, and sick-leave benefits are all on the chopping block,” state Sen. Shevrin Jones, a former educator, told the Herald. “This is yet another stark reminder that elections have consequences.”

Meanwhile, in ongoing contract negotiations, the Broward Teachers Union finds itself no closer to a deal with district representatives, WTVJ reports. In Escambia County, teachers reached a tentative agreement for 3% raises, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

And in Polk County, the teachers union accused the district of breaking promises by delaying the distribution of negotiated pay raises. Days later, the district moved up the date for putting the money in employee checks, Lakeland Now reports.

Hot topics

Book bans: The Alachua County School Board removed the graphic novel “Gender Queer” from schools, despite questions over whether the book challenger was a county resident, WUFT reports. • The Duval County School Board silenced residents who attempted to read aloud explicit book passages during a board meeting, Florida Standard reports. The move triggered state law that requires removal of the books in question. • School districts around Florida are banning hundreds of books as they attempt to interpret state law on allowable book content, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Security: The Volusia County school district plans to add more resource officers to campuses despite the county government’s unwillingness to help cover the costs, WKMG reports. • The Glades County school district is preparing to join the state’s school guardian program, WINK reports.

Taxes: Several Brevard County property owners are calling the tax collector to complain about the charges associated with the school district’s new voter-approved tax, Florida Today reports.

Teacher discipline: A Palm Beach County teacher has been placed on administrative leave while the district investigates whether she broke any laws or rules by sending a letter asking the superintendent to publicly recognize the Palestinian community, the Palm Beach Post reports. A Republican state lawmaker had called for the teacher’s removal.

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University applications: As they prepare their university applications, many young women are omitting schools in states including Florida that ban or severely restrict abortion rights, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Other school news

Country star Luke Bryan played a fundraiser for two Palm Beach County schools for the arts. The show raised $300,000, WPTV reports.

The season of giving has hit Florida schools. Sebastian River High in Indian River County is collecting food to share with families who cannot afford Thanksgiving, Sebastian Daily reports.

Some rising fifth graders aren’t ready to go to middle school just yet. The Escambia County school district will launch a pilot program adding sixth grade to two elementary schools, to help with the transition, WEAR reports.

From the police blotter ... A Hillsborough County teen was arrested on accusations of threatening to firebomb every school in the county, WOFL reports. • A security guard at a Miami-Dade County high school was arrested on allegations of inappropriate conduct with a minor student, WTVJ reports.

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

Before you go ... Country legend Dwight Yoakam played Clearwater over the weekend, with a stellar band and a hit-filled set. In addition to playing his own songs, he covered Elvis, Buck Owen and even Queen.

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