State issues rule for parents’ rights law, new book policy in Polk, teacher contract, tax vote and more

Around the state: A proposed rule to implement the Parental Rights in Education law was issued Monday by the Florida Department of Education, Polk Superintendent Frederick Heid announces an “opt-in” policy for 16 books in schools that a conservative group has called pornographic, St. Lucie County teachers reach a tentative contract agreement with the school district, a report concludes that Florida girls under the age of 17 are “in crisis,” jurors in the Parkland school shooting trial get their first look at the gun used to kill 17 and wound 17 others, Orange County voters will be asked in the Aug. 23 primary election to renew a special property tax that has helped pay for teachers’ salaries and for student activities, and a poll shows that Americans’ confidence in U.S. public schools remains low. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Former school superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who now runs the Los Angeles school district, said last weekend at a conference that sex education is vital for students and that he hopes the Miami-Dade School District quickly adopts new textbooks. The school board voted 5-4 last week to reject two proposed textbooks after hearing complaints from the public. WLRN. The leader of County Citizens Defending Freedom, the group whose complaints about the sex education books convinced the school board to reject them, has no children in the school district. That director, Alex Serrano, sends his children to the Centner Academy, a Miami private school that threatened employees with termination last year if they got vaccinated for COVID-19. Miami Herald.

Broward: Jurors got their first look Monday at the AR-15-style rifle Nikolas Cruz used to kill 17 students and employees and wound 17 more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, and hear in graphic detail about the damage it caused. An Uber driver who dropped Cruz off at the school also testified, saying Cruz seemed anxious but told her he was going to a music class. Testimony in the sentencing trial continues today. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. WLRN. WPLG. WFOR. Summarizing what happened Monday in the sentencing trial of Cruz. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. WTVJ. Six school board races are on the Aug. 23 ballot, and a review of campaign finance reports shows where the money is going and who is donating it. Sun-Sentinel.

Orange: Voters will be asked in the Aug. 23 primary election to renew a special property tax that has helped pay for teachers’ salaries and for arts, sports and extracurricular activities for students. Last year the tax, first approved in 2010, generated $148 million. If it’s renewed for four years, it’s expected to raise about $818 million through the 2026-2027 school year. If voters reject it, district officials said they’ll have to cut their 2022-2023 budget by $177 million. Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: The effects of inflation are being felt in many ways on district school campuses this year. Higher prices mean higher costs to build new schools or repair existing ones, it will cost significantly more to fuel school buses, and students will be given fewer options at school meals. Palm Beach Post.

Polk: Superintendent Frederick Heid said he will introduce an “opt-in” policy for 16 books in school libraries that have been deemed “pornographic” or “age-inappropriate” by a conservative group. It will pair with the current “opt-out” policy for every book in each of the district’s 150 schools. He said he would alert the school board about the policy at today’s meeting. It does not require a board vote. Members of the public will have a chance to comment at the end of the meeting. Lakeland Now. The number of times weapons have been confiscated from students at district schools increased by 78 percent last year, according to data from the district. During the 2020-2021 school year, weapons were taken from students 18 times. That jumped to 32 times during the 2021-2022. Lakeland Ledger.

St. Johns: A preschool employee at the Chappell Schools’ Longleaf campus has been arrested and accused of  lewd and lascivious behavior on a victim younger than 12 years old. Deputies said Anthony Guadalupe, 18, inappropriately touched a child at the school on July 18. WJAX. WJXT.

Sarasota, Charlotte, DeSoto: Sarasota County School Board attorney Dan DeLeo talks about a civil lawsuit filed against the district to ban a list of books and force a grand jury investigation into the actions of the superintendent and members of the school board. “This lawsuit raises really important issues for every person who hears the sound of my voice,” said DeLeo, “because our First Amendment is something that, whether you’re on the left or the right, we revere and for good reason.” WUSF. Some southwest Florida school districts continue to struggle to fill open teaching positions. Sarasota County has 149 jobs open, while Charlotte still has 37 and DeSoto 65. Charlotte Sun. A 12-year-old boy from North Port has been arrested for allegedly threatening to commit a mass shooting at a school in Port Charlotte. The boy told Cape Coral police officers that he made the threat because he had been bullied, but had no intention of carrying it out. The threatened school was not identified. WINK. WFTX. WBBH.

Marion: Two educators are competing in the Aug. 23 primary for the District 2 school board seat being vacated by Don Browning. Teacher Lori McKnight Conrad and elementary school dean Joseph Suranni talk about what they would do to end the declining academic standing of the district, increase parental involvement and implement the state’s new student progress monitoring system. Ocala Star-Banner.

St. Lucie: The school district and teachers union have reached a tentative contract agreement that boosts the starting teacher salary from $45,000 to $47,500, provides bonuses of $426.44, and increases minimum pay to $15 an hour. The district would also pay half of the increase in health-insurance premiums. “We are pleased to be able to provide these salary increases for our employees during these difficult financial times,” said Superintendent Jon R. Prince. WPTV.

Okaloosa: School board members have approved the appointments of Allyson Lavictoire as the principal of Riverside Elementary School and Lynda Bush as the district’s director of budgeting. Okaloosa County School District.

Bay: A job fair last Thursday resulted in the hiring of 136 school district employees, including nearly 70 who will step into vacant teaching and maintenance jobs. The district still has openings for 39 teachers and 43 support staff. WMBB. Twenty-two district schools have been approved by the federal government to continue offering free meals to students. WJHG.

Colleges and universities: Florida A&M University is expanding its nursing program by launching three new master’s of science in nursing program tracks. The nursing program began in 2021 with five students, but 30 are expected in the fall. WTXL.

State’s parental rights rule: A proposed rule to implement the Parental Rights in Education law was issued Monday by the Florida Department of Education. The law bars instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity to K-3 students, and such instruction for older students that is not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” according to state standards. Parents may sue if they believe a district has violated the law. The proposed rule offers parents an alternative to take disputes to a special magistrate for resolution. And it lays out the responsibilities of school districts and the state education commissioner. News Service of Florida. The Capitolist.

Report: Girls in crisis: An “alarming numbers of girls in Florida are experiencing sexual victimization, interpersonal violence, unaddressed mental health issues, homelessness,” according to a report issued by the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center in Jacksonville. About 40,000 girls younger than 17 have been arrested in the state in the past five years, according to the report that is issued every five years. “Our work is not done,” said Vicki Basra, center president and CEO. “We have to stop this … We continue to fail our girls.” Florida Times Union.

Around the nation: Americans’ confidence in U.S. public schools remains low, with only 28 percent saying they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the institution, according to a recent poll. Last year the figure was 32 percent, and both are down from the 41 percent in 2020, which reflected a surge in the early days of the pandemic. Support is drawn sharply along partisan lines. Only 14 percent of Republicans said they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in public schools, down from 34 percent in 2020, while Democrats’ has remained fairly high: currently 43 percent versus 48 percent in 2020. Gallup. Increased scrutiny of the ways school districts are spending federal coronavirus relief funds has made some officials cautious about spending the money meant to help students recover learning lost during the pandemic. The 74.

Opinions on schools: Life is too short for dedicated people to have their efforts continually thwarted by bureaucratic nonsense. Teachers today have begun to engage in disintermediation, cutting out the often worse-than-useless middlemen so they can engage directly with families. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. Under Gov. Ron DeSantis, right-wing enthusiasms will take the place of knowledge for students. Diane Roberts, Florida Phoenix.

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BY NextSteps staff