Colleges spending $34.5M on diversity, presidents vow CRT limits, librarian rules approved, and more

College diversity spending: Florida’s 12 public universities are spending about $34.5 million on diversity, equity and inclusion programs in the 2022-2023 academic year, according to a survey of information requested by Gov. Ron DeSantis. About $20.7 million of the total comes from the state, and helps pay for high-ranking staff positions such as chief diversity officers on university campuses and faculty leading classes on subjects such as “nationality, race, and ethnicity in the United States.” DeSantis demanded the information as part of his targeting of “trendy ideology” on campuses. The state’s flagship university, the University of Florida, reported spending $5.3 million on diversity-related programs and expenses including 43 staff positions, with almost $3.4 million coming from the state. Universities also have been ordered to detail services they provide to people seeking gender-affirming treatment. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Associated Press.

Colleges vow CRT limits: Twenty-eight Florida college presidents vowed in a statement Wednesday to not teach students about critical race theory unless it is presented alongside other concepts, to protect viewpoint diversity and free expression, and to root out discrimination in hiring and other areas by Feb. 1. The statement was welcomed by state leaders, who called it “a repudiation of the progressivist higher education agenda.” Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. said, “Today’s bold statement by the Florida college system presidents shows their commitment to providing students with higher education opportunities that are free from indoctrination and woke ideology. I would like to commend our presidents for ensuring our state colleges are environments where all students can embrace educational freedom and acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for a thriving career.” Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics.

Rules on books, materials: New rules governing the training of school library employees in the selection of books and other materials were approved Wednesday by the Florida Board of Education. Those workers will be instructed to follow new state laws restricting content that could be considered harmful to students. For example, all library books and learning materials must be free of pornography and age-level appropriate for students with access to them. “While there is no statutory definition of pornography in the Florida statutes, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as ‘the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement,’ ” one part of the training said. Other guidelines advise employees to avoid materials containing “unsolicited theories that may lead to student indoctrination.” The training also advises that “media specialists should always err on the side of caution when selecting materials.” News Service of Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Education Week. Florida Phoenix. An AP course on African-American studies launched by the College Board for high school students has been rejected by the Florida Department of Education as being “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and (lacking) educational value.” The course was described as “an evidence-based introduction to African American studies (that) reaches into a variety of fields — literature, the arts and humanities, political science, geography, and science — to explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans.” WESH. National Review.

Teacher raises dispute: Leaders from eight school districts asked to explain to the state Board of Education why they missed the deadline for submitting approved salary distribution plans for teachers to the state largely placed the blame for the delay on teachers unions that have rejected contract offers. “The union is the bargaining agent,” Hillsborough Superintendent Addison Davis told the board Wednesday. “They are the ones we have to go through to negotiate salary packages.” Union officials denied being the problem. “We vehemently disagree with the idea that we are the problem,” said Hillsborough union president Rob Kriete. Florida Education Association president Andrew Spar said that veteran teachers believe the state’s salary plan favors entry level pay, and they’re unhappy earning just slightly more than a first-year educator. Tampa Bay Times. Angered by the impasse in contract negotiations with the district, St. Johns County teachers are planning a “work to contract day” Jan. 25 as a protest and said other days may be added until a deal is reached. WJXT.

Around the state: A panel of the Florida High School Athletics Association is recommending that questions about female student-athletes’ menstrual cycles be made mandatory on registration forms, new Miami-Dade and Broward school board members appointed by Gov. DeSantis are sworn in, Escambia and Flagler school districts announce the winners of their teacher of the year award, a Pinellas teacher is named national special education teacher of the year, two Osceola schools are out of compliance with class size limits, and a public memorial is being planned to honor the 17 victims of the 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Maria Bosque-Blanco, a guidance counselor at a private all-girls Catholic school in Miami, was sworn in Wednesday to the District 7 seat on the school board. She was appointed Tuesday by Gov. DeSantis to complete the two years remaining in the term of Lubby Navarro, the former vice chair who resigned Dec. 30 to comply with a new law banning elected officials from lobbying. Bosque-Blanco, a child of Cuban immigrants who describes herself as a “woman of faith,” said she’ll prioritize parental rights. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WLRN. Ivan Silva, a major of operations in the school district’s police force, has been named interim chief and will be paid a salary between $117,244 and $204,839, according to school records. He replaces Edwin Lopez, who was hired last week as chief of the Doral police force. Miami Herald.

Broward: Another DeSantis appointee, Daniel Foganholi, was sworn in to the Broward school board Wednesday. He assumes the District 1 seat won in the Nov. 8 election by Rod Velez, who wasn’t sworn in within the 30-day window because of questions about his eligibility. Foganholi was previously appointed by the board from April to November to fill the District 5 seat vacated by Rosalind Osgood, who resigned to run for a Florida Senate seat. His appointment is widely expected to give the nine-member school board the votes needed to fire Superintendent Vickie Cartwright at next Tuesday’s board meeting. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WLRN. WPLG. WTVJ. A public memorial is in the planning stages to honor the 17 students and school employees who were killed during a Valentine’s Day 2018 shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The Parkland 17 Memorial Foundation said it has begun fund-raising for the site, which will be located in a “large quiet, serene preserve” less than 2 miles from the school. WFOR. WPLG.

Hillsborough: A 16-year-old student at Blake High School in Tampa was arrested and accused of having a weapon on campus. Officers said they were tipped by another student about the handgun, which was found in the waistband of the student arrested. WFLA.

Pinellas: Kristie Jo Redfering, a teacher at the Nina Harris Exceptional Student Education Center in Pinellas Park, has been selected as the national special education teacher of the year by the Council for Exceptional Children. Redfering, who has been teaching for 18 years and has been at Nina Harris four years, was named the Florida teacher of the year in October by the Florida Council for Exceptional Children. WTVT. WFTS.

Osceola: Two district schools have been singled out by the state for violating the limits on classroom sizes in core subjects. Harmony Community School and Harmony Middle School are out of compliance because of rapid growth and the ongoing shortage of teachers, school officials said in a letter to the state outlining how they will meet the state standards of no more than 18 students in grades K-3, 22 in grades 4-8, and 25 in high schools. Harmony Community School teacher Debbie Mann told school board members, “We’re going to put two teachers in a room. We’re going to do whatever and let this ride for the remainder of the school year.” WFTV.

Manatee: Two children, 17 and 11 years old, were arrested Wednesday and accused of firing pellet guns into two school buses the day before. No children were aboard the buses and no one was injured. Bradenton Herald. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT. WWSB.

Collier: School board members have approved attendance boundaries for Aubrey Rogers High School in Naples, which will open in August. Some students from Gulf Coast High, Barron Collier High and Palmetto Ridge High will move to fill Rogers High and ease overcrowding at Gulf Coast and Palmetto Ridge. Rising juniors and seniors at the three affected schools have the option of staying at their current schools, but won’t be offered transportation. Naples Daily News.

Sarasota: School board chair Bridget Ziegler, who cofounded the activist group Moms for Liberty, also is a director for school board programs at The Leadership Institute, a national nonprofit founded in 1979 that trains conservatives how to campaign for office, organize, raise money and communicate. Last month, about 50 school board and community members from across the country attended a one-day course in Sarasota, taught by Ziegler, to guide newly elected conservative school board members in understanding board procedures, laws governing school operations and open government, and media relations. Another course is planned in April. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

St. Lucie: Port St. Lucie police, school officials and the Florida Department of Children and Family Services are investigating allegations that a preschool teacher abused a 2-year-old boy who wouldn’t stop crying by holding his head under a running faucet. The teacher, who was not named, was fired. TCPalm.

Escambia: Angela McFarland, a business and multimedia teacher at West Florida High School who also teaches at the Escambia Virtual Academy, has been named the school district’s teacher of the year and is now eligible for the state award. The other finalists were Melanie Johnson of Kingsfield Elementary School, Anna Harageones of A.K. Suter Elementary, Gary Horne of Washington High and Allison Roberts of the Success Academy. WEAR.

Citrus: Elizabeth Joyner, who started and ran the school district’s gifted program in the 1970s that was named the best in the state in 1979, died Dec. 2 at the age of 84. Citrus County Chronicle.

Martin: Lisa Davenport, an assistant principal at Somerset College Preparatory Academy in Port St. Lucie, has been named the executive director/principal at Indiantown High School, a workforce and career education charter school operated by Indian State River College. WQCS.

Flagler: Lee Winfree, a math teacher at Matanzas High School, was named the school district’s teacher of the year at a gala on Wednesday. Also honored was Renee Berry, the district’s secretary for custodial services, as employee of the year. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Jackson: School board members approved a plan to close Sneads Elementary School and move its students to the new Grand Ridge School, which is expected to open in two or three years as a K-8 school. Students will remain at Sneads until construction is completed. WJHG. Members of the teachers union have ratified the contract agreement it reached with the school district, and school board members also approved it. Starting teacher pay will increase to slightly more than $42,000 a year and teachers will get raises ranging from $1,500 to $1,800. WMBB.

Wakulla: School board members rejected a proposal this week for the district to participate in a teacher’s exchange program to use international teachers as a way to ease the teacher shortage. The program is used by other districts in the state, but was questioned by parents and teachers. WTXL.

Period questions recommendation: Questions on a national sports registration form about female high school athletes’ menstruation cycles should be made mandatory, a panel of the Florida High School Athletics Association recommended this week. The form, which asks such things as how many weeks female athletes typically go between periods and the date of their most recent menstrual period, are currently optional. If the recommendation is accepted by the organization’s board of directors at their meeting Feb. 26-27, the forms will be kept at schools, which critics say raises privacy issues. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: In every field other than music, the state’s teacher preparation programs are graduating fewer than three-quarters of the individuals needed to fill anticipated vacancies. So the state Board of Education designating eight fields as “high demand teacher needs” won’t solve the problem. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. The imposition last week of a Gov. DeSantis-appointed board of trustees on one of the state’s finest and most free-thinking liberal arts colleges, New College of Florida, demonstrates an effort to inculcate all the hateful and anti-Democratic policies he has conjured to date and institutionalize them nationwide and forevermore. Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff